Holiday weight gain is a bit of a myth.
The perception is that we really pack on the pounds. According to a classic study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, Americans vastly overestimate how fattening the holidays are. We think we’re likely to gain at least five pounds, while the reality, according to the National Institutes of Health, is a typical weight gain of between 0.4 and 1.8 pounds. That’s an average gain of just about one pound despite six weeks of free-flowing eggnog from Thanksgiving through New Years.
That’s the good news.
The bad news is that over the years, the weight adds up.
It’s just one extra holiday pound, but most people hang on to it. Weight is on an upward creep throughout most of our lives, from early adulthood to the peak of middle-age spread. We tend to accumulate about two pounds during each of those years, and half of that can be traced to holiday indulgence.
Another myth: you’ll lose the weight at the gym.
Every January millions of Americans pat their soft little holiday bellies and vow to get fit in the new year. It’s one of the most common resolutions, and health club rosters overflow with well-intentioned new members. Gym owners are all too happy to offer January deals and promotions because they know that the overflowing yoga classes and treadmill lines will be gone before the end of the month. A full 60% of annual gym memberships go unused after the first six weeks of every new year. Our collective failure to keep our fitness resolutions is the easiest money those gym owners see all year.
We don’t fare any better with a January menu of cottage cheese and green tea.
40% of all New Year’s resolutions relate to diet and weight loss, but women typically revert to old eating habits by January 6th, with men holding out for another week. Men are more weak-willed about cutting out alcohol, usually making it only as far as the first weekend of the new year, while women abstain for two weeks.
Dogs and cats pack on the pounds too.
We’re just as indulgent with our pets at holiday time. The average dog gets an extra 500 calories worth of table scraps from a single holiday dinner and cats get 200 extra calories. According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, pets, like their owners, pack on the human equivalent of around two pounds by year’s end.