What to know about holiday weight gain—and how you can (yes!) enjoy the season

What to know about holiday weight gain—and how you can (yes!) enjoy the season

What to know about holiday weight gain—and how you can (yes!) enjoy the season

The average person does gain some weight during the holidays. But we’ll show you how to enjoy the good food and good company and still stay on track.

The Found Team
Last updated:
November 14, 2022
5 min read
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The holidays can be a lot. Meaning, a lot of running from event to event, eating a lot of good food, and not getting a lot of exercise (unless you count power shopping, which we would argue could be a sport). And you might be worried about how all of those weeks of a-lot-ness might impact your weight care journey. Well, we’re here to tell you that there are ways to keep your goals present and also enjoy the festivities. 

The truth about holiday weight gain

Before we get into the advice (it’s coming, promise!), let’s talk holiday weight gain. It is a real thing—although it’s probably not what you think. In a 2016 letter to the editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers found that Americans’ minimum weight gain near the end of the calendar year was almost two pounds. One European study of more than 3,500 participants with BMIs at or above 25 found that people gained 1.35% of their total body weight just in December. That means a 225-pound person would put on approximately 3.03 pounds. So yes, weight tends to go up—but not drastically. 

The challenge is getting the weight off. There’s evidence that most people who gain a few pounds during the holiday season never drop it all. Researchers found that only half of holiday weight gain was lost by March. The other half remained until at least summer and sometimes beyond. That’s important to note because those few extra pounds could snowball into weight that keeps creeping up year after year.

The good news is that research shows that people who engage in weight care programs experience less weight gain or even see weight loss during the holidays. We’ll toast to that! In addition to your Found app and community, here are some other steps you can take:

1. Identify holiday obstacles
It’s easier to solve a problem when you know what it is. So spend some time reflecting on previous celebrations and pinpoint where you struggle most. What healthy habits seem to be more difficult to maintain? Is it the endless sweets? Lack of movement? Disrupted sleep? Increased alcohol intake?

After identifying your roadblocks, share them with your friends and family. Getting them out in the open also helps bring more awareness to them. (Side bonus: It might help someone else ID their challenges too.)

Here’s a tip: Try to narrow your obstacles down. Find the two or three biggest things that derail you and go from there. A few things are easier to stick to than five or 10.

2. Adjust your focus in the app
Now that you’ve identified your weak spots consider tweaking your focuses in the app to better align with your trouble areas. For example, if you tend to overeat all that delish food, choose the “Rate your hunger” focus. If you often drink more sugary beverages, pick the “Reduce added sugars” focus. When you enroll in a focus, you’re committing extra effort to that specific behavior. And you’ll get advice to help you as you go. 

Tip: As with the obstacles, choose only one or two meaningful focuses—but treat them like your non-negotiables! Just like you expect a good friend to keep their promises, expect the same from yourself.

3. Have a plan
In most cases, you know when and where you’ll be most tempted, right? So what can you do when the situation arises? First, make an action plan for how to meet your daily commitments. This may involve setting personal boundaries, but your health is worth it! 

Need help making a plan? Here are some suggestions.

  • Don’t skip meals to “save up” for the big celebration. There’s good evidence that you’ll only overeat later on. Just eat normally throughout the day and enjoy yourself at those special events. Plus, you’ll be less likely to feel overwhelmed and out of control when your body and brain are fueled.
  • Bring a side dish or soup to share that’s full of things you want to eat or a beverage that you want to drink. That way, you can relax knowing there’s at least one option you can depend on.
  • Rearrange your physical activity or choose a shorter workout. Even if your class is canceled or you’re traveling, there are other ways to get that movement in. Click here for some ideas.
  • Pack your own snacks and food for the plane or car ride. Then you don’t have to depend on the “convenient” (and usually ultra-processed) options. For more travel tips, check this out. 
  • Set an alarm on your phone or smartwatch to remind you when to leave an event so you can prioritize sleep
  • Always keep a water bottle with you, and drink water first thing in the morning.
  • Carve out a little time each day for self-care. Even journaling for a few minutes can help you de-stress and reassess. 
  • Be a trendsetter! Suggest after-meal walks or a new activity like charades or dancing. It’ll help prevent mindless munching and extra sitting time.
  • Aim for leftovers. Once the meal is over, clean it up and pack it away. It’ll prevent excessive grazing, and you’ll have lunch for tomorrow. Win-win!

Tip: Your plan might need to change from day to day or party to party. Different events have different obstacles. Be flexible.

4. Lean on support
There’s a reason workout buddies are a thing. Support goes a long way in a weight care journey. Surround yourself with people who want what’s best for you as much as possible. 

Tip: The Found Community in our app is an excellent source of support and accountability. Use it! 

5. If, at first, you don’t succeed, hey—that’s OK!
Even though you try your hardest and prepare as best you can, life happens. Give yourself grace. You are 100% capable of regrouping and pressing forward. 

Tip: Make any stumbles a learning experience. Return to step 1 and evaluate what happened. What was your obstacle? What could you’ve done differently? And how can you be more prepared the next time?

At the end of the day, the goal is consistency, not perfection. This special time only comes once a year, so leave the stress behind. Be present and soak in all the goodness.


About Found

Found is among the largest medically-supported weight care clinics in the country, serving more than 200,000 members to date. To start your journey with Found, take our quiz.

Published date:
November 14, 2022
Meet the author
The Found Team
The Found Team

Sources

  • Bhutani, S., Wells, N., Finlayson, G., & Schoeller, D. A. (2020, March 13). Change in eating pattern as a contributor to energy intake and weight gain during the winter holiday period in obese adults. International Journal of Obesity, 44(7), 1586–1595. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41366-020-0562-2
  • Helander, E. E., Wansink, B., & Chieh, A. (2016, September 22). Weight Gain over the Holidays in Three Countries. New England Journal of Medicine, 375(12), 1200–1202. https://doi.org/10.1056/nejmc1602012
  • Turicchi, J., O’Driscoll, R., Horgan, G., Duarte, C., Palmeira, A. L., Larsen, S. C., Heitmann, B. L., & Stubbs, J. (2020, April 30). Weekly, seasonal and holiday body weight fluctuation patterns among individuals engaged in a European multi-centre behavioural weight loss maintenance intervention. PLOS ONE, 15(4), e0232152. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0232152
  • Wilson, M. G., Padilla, H. M., Meng, L., & Daniel, C. N. (2019, June 13). Impact of a workplace holiday weight gain prevention program. Nutrition and Health, 25(3), 173–177. https://doi.org/10.1177/0260106019854916
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