IWCR INSIDERS: WINTER 2022 EDITION
How were your holidays? The common belief is that people gain about 5 pounds over the winter holidays. How does this compare to your experience?
Weight research in the United States and Europe defines the holiday period as covering the last week of November to the second week of January, and finds that in adults studied, there is an average weight gain of roughly 0.9 to 2.0 pounds each holiday period, with marked variability between people. Some, but not all, of this weight may be lost in the summer months, and in those who retain this weight, it is believed to account for a large proportion of the annual weight increase adults experience across a lifetime. How does this compare to your experience?
There does not appear to be a significant difference between holiday weight gain in people planning to maintain their weight, lose weight, or who have no stated goals. Regardless of their intentions, researchers observe an average weight gain among all adults studied.
Targeted studies show that a committed exercise routine does not insulate people from holiday weight gain. When researchers study adults during the holiday period, they see increases in cholesterol, blood sugar, and insulin levels consistent with eating a higher-calorie diet. This is even true when the study examines doctors, nurses, and people with committed health goals. There is also a relationship between starting weight and weight gain, with heavier people gaining proportionally more during the holidays.
Other holiday periods follow the same pattern, with vacations at any time of year producing similar weight gains that occur regardless of the extra exercise that may accompany the vacation activities.
Since recent studies are suggesting that metabolism does not decrease in a straight line as we age, it’s important to look at causes of weight gain such as holidays and vacations as opportunities to prevent unwanted situational weight gain.
Surveys show that people eat more celebratory foods and become less active during the holiday period. This winter period, or any vacation, brings a change in routine, and exposes people to new and potentially higher-calorie foods. The holiday period we’re discussing also may come with increased stress, more parties and gatherings, greater availability of alcoholic drinks, food gifts, more incidental foods, and reduced physical activity.
Were the past 6 weeks relaxing, or were they more stressful for you? Did your eating patterns change a little? A lot? Did you set goals or make decisions in advance of the holidays, or did you feel yourself at the mercy of circumstance, parties, and holiday foods?
If you have lost, gained, or maintained, join us online in the private IWCR Facebook group to share your story. Have you made New Year’s resolutions? Are you starting a diet or exercise program? Share your plans and learn from your fellow IWCR study participants.
Do you have more to share? We want to invite you to engage more deeply with your fellow Citizen Scientists. In future issues, we will be profiling interesting people from the sciences and hopefully, from this study! We want to feature your stories, profile your opinions, experiences, and ideas. Whether you have a great success to celebrate, or struggles we can all learn from, we want to know you better.
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We look forward to staying in touch with you on this important lifelong journey.