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Myth Busted: Americans Don’t Gain 10 Pounds Over the Holidays

It’s more like one

(Werner Dieterich/imageBROKER/Corbis)
smithsonian.com

The end of December is supposed to be a happy time—devoted to getting together with friends and family, celebrating holidays religious or not, and enjoying good food and drink. It's this last bit, though, that can trip us up. There's no easier way to ruin a good cheer than by fretting about what all those delicious cookies and latkes and fish patties are doing to our collective waistline.

One reason that it's so hard to avoid is that we're constantly hammered by media accounts telling us the Top 10 Tricks to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain or by post-holiday fitness experts peddling 5 Ways to Burn Off Holiday Pounds. But here's a news flash: while some people may put on a bit of weight over the holidays, it's nowhere near the five or 10 pounds you so often hear about.

According to a study that actually tracked how 195 American adults' weights fluctuated throughout the year, people pack on, on average, just 0.81 pounds during the holiday season.

To Travis Saunders, an assistant professor of applied human science, the research shows that “the idea that the average person gains large amounts of weight during the holidays is completely untrue.”

That small amount of weight that people do pick up, however, isn't often shed before next year's festivities. This gradual weight gain is “[n]ot enough to warrant fear mongering,” says Saunders, “but [it is] enough to cause some concern – a pound or two a year can add up over time.”

So take the kids out tobogganing or take a few extra laps at the gym, and don't fret too much about that second helping of mashed potatoes. 

About Colin Schultz
Colin Schultz

Colin Schultz is a freelance science writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs for Smart News and contributes to the American Geophysical Union. He has a B.Sc. in physical science and philosophy, and a M.A. in journalism.

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