The holiday season is fast approaching and, as usual, there’ll be no end to the parties. Alcohol will sometimes flow freely, and sweets will garnish the tables. The opportunities to eat—or overeat—are therefore at their peak during this short period, which lasts from mid-December to the beginning of January. Here’s a look at the editorial published last September in the New England Journal of Medicine by Dr. Brian Wansink, a world leader in eating behaviour, who says that we gain weight during the holidays—and not just at Christmas!
What is common to all countries during times of rejoicing is the increased consumption of our favourite foods, whether they are salty, sweet, high in fat or even healthy. A year-long study in 3 countries (the United States, Germany and Japan) shows that weight gain is heightened during festive periods such as Christmas and Easter. By focusing on participants from the United States (1,781 participants), who have a lifestyle quite similar to our own, some interesting parallels can be drawn. So when researchers compared Americans’ weight 10 days after Christmas to their respective weight 10 days before Christmas, they had accumulated a significant weight gain of about 0.4%. This value corresponds to a weight gain of 0.54 pounds (250 grams) in a woman weighing 135 pounds (61 kilos) and a gain of about 0.8 pounds (365 grams) in a man weighing 200 pounds (91 kilos). The figure below shows the average weight gain on an annual basis. Strangely, the lowest weight is reached somewhere between late September and early October—perhaps in anticipation of the holidays or simply due to seasonal changes in your diet! Even so, if the weight is never lost, this could explain the few additional pounds that accumulate over the years.
Admittedly, the weight gain isn’t very high, but it’s still necessary to be able to lose it after the holidays and not the other way around! Nutritionists often suggest listening to your hunger and fullness cues, but many people ignore this during the holidays, resulting in slight weight gain. Should we therefore restrict ourselves (slightly) or have better self-control? This may be a good approach, considering that it's pretty easy to lose half of the post-holiday weight gain in a few weeks, but the other half often stays around until the summer. Once again, the less weight you gain during the holidays, the easier it will be to return to your pre-Christmas weight!
Familiprix in collaboration with Hubert Cormier