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The Holiday Weight Gain is Real and Persistent

In 2000, the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) published a study debunking the notion that Americans gain 5 pounds over the Thanksgiving-to-New Year’s Day period. The actual mean weight gain was 0.75 pounds (0.37 kg). When added to the average 0.18 kg weight gain during the pre-holiday season, the average annual gain rose to 0.48kg/year—or just over 1 pound. While much lower than the incorrectly heralded 5 pounds, the bad news is that the weight gain was not reversed during spring or summer months, thus contributing to long-term adult weight gain.

Serving food to a guest; Unsplash photo

A related NEJM article using data from 2012-2013 showed that holiday weight gain is an international phenomenon. In this study, the average weight gain of U.S. participants was 0.6 kg each year. While the studies were not designed to be comparable, these findings suggest that the average annual weight gain is greater today, more than dozen years later.

To counter persistent weight gain, physicians can coach patients to adopt some lifestyle changes. According to the evidence-based Lifestyle Medicine Core Competencies program, behavior change coaching should include:

  • Prescribing a healthier diet, including writing food-based nutrition prescriptions promoting diets mostly consisting of plant-based whole foods
  • Guiding physical activity increases
  • Depending on the patient and his/her lifestyle, other weight loss strategies may include coaching to obtain better sleep patterns, reducing stress that can prompt poor eating habits, and reducing alcohol use (which cuts more risks than just unnecessary calories)

Coaching patients to adopt these and other basic lifestyle changes can help them achieve their resolutions for a healthier life in the New Year. 

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