Pumpkins, pies and pounds: The skinny on holiday weight

Katherine Silkaitis

It’s Thanksgiving and that plump, golden brown turkey is once again calling your name. Aunt Edna passes the stuffing, while Uncle Joe chases it with some rich, thick gravy. Soon, you fear, Pillsbury won’t be the only rolls at this dinner table.

Don’t start drowning your sorrows in eggnog just yet. According to a study in The New England Journal of Medicine, experiencing a weight gain of five pounds or more during the holiday season is, in most cases, a myth. The critical period is actually after the festivities, when people are unable to drop the pound or so that pops up sometime between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.

“That is a good news/bad news story,” said the study’s author, Dr. Jack A. Yanowski, in “Holiday Weight Gain a Big Fat Lie” by Jeanie Lerche Davis, an article on WebMD. “The good news is that most people are not gaining five or six pounds during the holidays, but the bad news is that weight gain over the winter holidays isn’t lost during the rest of the year.”

In other words, small, festive weight gains can build up over the years. The study observed 195 adults from late September to early March. The majority of the participants gained 1.06 pounds during the test period. Six months later, 165 of the original subjects were weighed again, and each was about 1.36 pounds heavier than their initial weights.

As Thanksgiving draws near, various holiday game plans are being considered.

“I’m going to try watching what I eat these next few weeks,” said senior Maggie Stotler. “I want to enjoy all the holiday food when I get home, so I’ll cut back for now.”

Stotler’s philosophy may seem the most appealing – fast now, feast later. But, experts warn, it is a dead end.

“People who try to under-eat before the holidays are just losing water and carbohydrates stored in the muscles – all of which will naturally stabilize over time,” WebMD contributor Jeanie Lerche Davis wrote in the article.

Others will aspire to a balancing act of eating and exercise.

“I’d still eat the cookies, but make sure to work out every day,” said senior Shannon Pedrani. “Although I say that and it never, ever happens.”

While this mental struggle may sound all-too familiar, Pedrani’s approach of physical activity is considered the most effective.

“It’s the time spent exercising – or getting some physical activity – that really determines who gains more than one pound,” Davis wrote. “Overweight people naturally have a harder time being physically active, since hefting a big body takes more effort. Therefore, the already-obese will likely be those tipping the scales too far.”