Average vacation weight gain
Seventeen years ago (year 2000) an article published by Yanovski and colleagues 1 showed that a nonrepresentative sample of 195 adults gained an average of 0.37 kg during the holiday season. The researchers found that weight gain during this period is not subsequently lost in a year and represents more than 50% of the weight gained throughout the year 1. Additionally, another four studies showed an increase between 0.58 to 0.9 kg 2, 3, 4, 5, suggesting that this period could be critical in weight gain, mainly in adults.
The holiday season, usually from the last week of November to the first or second week of January, could be a risky period for weight gain and obesity 1. During this time, people from different countries attend religious and cultural celebrations such as Christmas and New Year, among other social gatherings. Special meals and high-energy dense foods are prepared in this period: desserts, candies, sugary drinks, or alcohol. There is also evidence of a decrease in physical activity at this time 6, 7.
In 2016, Helander et al. 8 reported weight changes throughout the year in 2924 Withings weight scale users from 3 developed countries (Unites States [US], Germany, and Japan); participants also created an online account to monitor their weight. The users’ weight increased significantly between 10 days before Christmas and 10 days after Christmas (US 0.4% increase in weight; Japan 0.5%; and Germany 0.6%). A significant increase was also observed in weight on other national holidays compared to preholiday weight: Japan during Golden Week (0.3%), Germany over Easter holidays (0.2%), and the US during Thanksgiving (0.2%). Half of the weight gained during the Christmas holidays was quickly lost and participants in the three countries lost weight during the year of study. The individuals reported an average of 147.5 to 181.6 weigh-ins over the year, suggesting that these groups represent actively self-monitoring people, rather than the general population. Despite being a group of highly motivated individuals (as seen by the number of weigh-ins and amount of weight loss), the effect of the holiday periods on body weight was marked 8. Unlike the Yanovski study where the vacation weight gain was maintained afterwards 1. Subsequent follow up of the highly motivated self-monitoring group of Withings weight scale users found they have lost the weight gained during the holiday season in the follow-up period 8.
How to lose vacation weight gain quickly
People are always looking for a quick fix to their weight gain problem. The problem with weight gain is that it doesn’t just happen overnight. You gain weight over the vacation (usually from last week of November to early January) because you eat and drink more (“Excess Calories IN”) than the amount of energy you burn (your “Calories OUT”) during those period. The Energy imbalances cause your body to store fat. The amount of energy that your body gets from the food you eat depends on the type of foods you eat, how the food is prepared, and how long it has been since you last ate.
The real issue is not losing weight—people can cut back on calories and lose weight on almost any diet—but keeping weight off over the long run. Thus it is more important to find a way of eating that you can stay with for the rest of your life. For this reason, any eating plan you choose should be satisfying and allow variety, and should also be nutritionally sound.
Here are some tips to help you lose your vacation weight gain
How can you tell if you are over weight or normal weight ?
Body mass index (BMI) is one way to tell whether you are at a normal weight, overweight, or obese. The body mass index (BMI) measures your weight in relation to your height.
To calculate your body mass index (BMI), you divide your body weight in kilograms by your height in meter squared (commonly expressed as kg/m2), see the body mass index formula below.
To find out about your body mass index (BMI), you can use a FREE online BMI calculators from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) :
- Adults 9
For children and adolescents (younger than 20 years of age), overweight and obesity are based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) BMI-for-age growth charts, which are available at 10.
The CDC has a BMI percentile calculator for children and teens at 11.
- Children 12
Body Mass Index for Men and Women Adults
The body mass index is an attempt to quantify the amount of tissue mass (muscle, fat, and bone) in an individual, and then categorize that person as underweight, normal weight, overweight, or obese based on that value. Commonly accepted body mass index ranges are:
A) Underweight: under 18.5 kg/m2,
B) Normal weight: 18.5 to 25 kg/m2,
C) Overweight: 25 to 30 kg/m2,
D) Obese: over 30 to 39.9 kg/m2.
E) Severely Obese: over 40 kg/m2.
- NOTE: Because BMI doesn’t measure actual body fat, a person who is very muscular, like a bodybuilder, may have a high BMI without having a lot of body fat. Please review your findings with your health care provider if your BMI is outside of the normal range.
- Fat around your waist is more biologically active and can do more damage to your body than weight around your hips. The research data show that waist circumference is more reliable and more closely correlated with diseases associated with obesity.
While BMI is a simple, inexpensive method of screening for weight categories, it is not a diagnostic tool. BMI provides the most useful population-level measure of overweight and obesity as it is the same for both sexes and for all ages of adults. However, it should be considered a rough guide because it may not correspond to the same degree of fatness in different individuals. Health professionals use other tools to do further assessments to fully evaluate health risks. These additional tools would include measurements of waist hip ratio, body fat percentage, diet history, exercise patterns, and family history. One thing that experts agree on is that weight is only one factor in our risk for disease. When it comes to evaluating weight and its impact on health, your percentage of body fat, waist circumference, BMI, and physical activity patterns are all important.
In people who are not overweight, waist size may be an even more telling warning sign of increased health risks than BMI 13. An expert panel convened by the National Institutes of Health identified these useful benchmarks: Men should aim for a waist size below 40 inches (102 cm) and women should aim for a waist size below 35 inches (88 cm) 14.
Food and Nutrition
Good nutrition is one of the keys to a healthy life. You can improve your health by keeping a balanced diet, but you don’t have to give up all your favorite foods when you’re trying to lose weight. Small amounts of your favorite high-calorie foods may be part of your weight-loss plan. Just remember to keep track of the total calories you take in. To lose weight, you must burn more calories than you take in through food and beverages. Limiting foods that are high in calories may help you lose weight. Table 1 below have estimated daily calorie needs based on a person’s age, sex, and physical activity level.
Eating healthy foods has vital health benefits, too, including weight loss. To start eating better, try these tips:
- Eat the rainbow. Make half of what’s on your plate fruit and vegetables.
- Replace refined grains with whole grains, like oatmeal, whole wheat bread, and brown rice.
- Get your protein from healthy sources, like seafood, lean meats, poultry, eggs, beans, unsalted nuts, and seeds.
- Instead of sugary drinks, choose unsweetened tea, low-fat milk, or water.
Remember, weight control is a lifelong effort. Starting now with small steps may improve your health. A healthy eating plan and regular physical activity can be steps to a healthier you.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) SuperTracker tool 15 may help you track the foods and beverages you eat and drink, as well as the physical activity you do.
To find out What and How Much To Eat, you can use a FREE, award-winning, state-of-the-art, online diet and activity tracking tool called SuperTracker 16 from the United States Department of Agriculture Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion 16. This free application empowers you to build a healthier diet, manage weight, and reduce your risk of chronic diet-related diseases. You can use SuperTracker 16 to determine what and how much to eat; track foods, physical activities, and weight; and personalize with goal setting, virtual coaching, and journaling.
- SuperTracker website: https://supertracker.usda.gov
To find out about how many calories you should eat to lose weight according to your weight, age, sex, height and physical activity, you can use a FREE online app Body Weight Planner 17
- Body Weight Planner. https://www.supertracker.usda.gov/bwp/index.html
To find out about the 5 Food Groups you should have on your plate for a meal, you can use a FREE online app ChooseMyPlate 18
- ChooseMyPlate. https://www.choosemyplate.gov/
Table 1. Estimated Calorie Needs per Day, by Age, Sex, and Physical Activity Level
|76 and up||2,000||2,200||2,400|
|76 and up||1,600||1,800||2,000|
Notes: Within each age and sex category, the low end of the range is for sedentary individuals; the high end of the range is for active individuals. Due to reductions in basal metabolic rate (resting energy requirement) that occur with aging, calorie needs generally decrease for adults as they age.[Source 19]
Get regular physical activity
Try these tips for starting or maintaining an exercise program:
- Get at least 150 minutes (2 ½ hours) of moderately intense aerobic activity each week that raises your heart rate and makes you sweat. Brisk walking, biking (with a helmet), swimming, and playing tennis or basketball are fun choices that you can do with others for support.
- You can spread the 150 minutes out in short spurts over the week. Do house or yard chores briskly, walk the dog at a quick pace, or dance to your favorite music for at least 10 minutes at a time.
- Aim for 300 minutes (5 hours) of aerobic activity a week to prevent gradual weight gain in adulthood. If you are at a healthy weight now but used to be overweight or obese, experts encourage 60 to 90 minutes of exercise a day to keep the weight off.
Most adults don’t need to see their doctor before starting a physical activity program. However, those who should see a doctor include men older than 40 and women older than 50 who plan a vigorous program or who have either a serious health condition or risk factors for a serious health condition.
Get Enough Sleep
Research suggests that lack of sleep is linked to overweight and obesity. Recent studies have found that sleeping less may make it harder to lose weight. In these studies, adults who were trying to lose weight and who slept less ate more calories and snacked more. Sleep plays a vital role in good health and well-being throughout your life. Getting enough quality sleep at the right times can help protect your mental health, physical health, quality of life, and safety 20.
Why does lack of sleep make you eat more calories ?
In animals and humans, your biological “circadian clocks” regulate behaviors and bodily processes—including sleep/wake cycles, changes in blood pressure and body temperature fluctuations—to harmonize these activities with daily, rhythmic changes in the environment, most notably day/night cycles. One commonly observed sign of the strong influence of circadian rhythms is jet lag, the sleep disturbances and other symptoms that occur after flying across multiple time zones. However, disrupting circadian rhythms can have more insidious consequences.
In humans, misaligning normal circadian rhythms with behaviors such as sleep and eating—for example, by working the night shift—increases vulnerability to diabetes, obesity, and other metabolic problems. One likely reason for these problems is the fact that the circadian clock has a critical relationship with metabolic pathways important to maintaining normal energy balance. For example, the synthesis of glucose (sugar) and fats and the release of glucose into the blood by the liver are governed by the circadian clock. Understanding how circadian rhythm and metabolism are linked therefore could help in the design of strategies to reduce vulnerability to metabolic diseases, and is an area of intense investigation.
Intriguingly, researchers have found that some of the factors regulating tissue specific clocks are shared with pathways regulating metabolism. The Rev-erb-α protein has emerged as a candidate 21. Another potential therapeutic target that has emerged from the study of circadian rhythm and metabolism is a protein called HDAC3 21. HDAC3 is an enzyme that causes transitory structural changes along the chromosomes called “histone modifications,” which affect gene activation.
How Much Sleep Do You Need ?
The amount of sleep you need each day will change over the course of your life, your sleep patterns change as you age. Despite variations in sleep quantity and quality, both related to age and between individuals, studies suggest that the optimal amount of sleep needed to perform adequately, avoid a sleep debt, and not have problem sleepiness during the day is about 7–8 hours for adults and at least 10 hours for school-aged children and adolescents. Similar amounts seem to be necessary to avoid an increased risk of developing obesity, diabetes, or cardiovascular diseases.
Quality of sleep and the timing of sleep are as important as quantity. People whose sleep is frequently interrupted or cut short may not get enough of both non-REM sleep and REM sleep. Both types of sleep appear to be crucial for learning and memory—and perhaps for the restorative benefits of healthy sleep, including the growth and repair of cells.
The table below shows general recommendations for different age groups. This table reflects recent American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommendations that the American Academy of Pediatrics has endorsed.
Table 2. Recommended Amount of Sleep
|Age||Recommended Amount of Sleep|
|Infants aged 4-12 months||12-16 hours a day (including naps)|
|Children aged 1-2 years||11-14 hours a day (including naps)|
|Children aged 3-5 years||10-13 hours a day (including naps)|
|Children aged 6-12 years||9-12 hours a day|
|Teens aged 13-18 years||8-10 hours a day|
|Adults aged 18 years or older||7–8 hours a day|
Watch Out for Certain Medications
Certain drugs may cause weight gain. Steroids and some drugs to treat depression or other mental health problems may make you burn calories more slowly or feel hungry. Be sure your health care provider knows all the medicines you are taking (including over-the-counter drugs and dietary supplements). He or she may suggest another medicine that has less effect on weight.
Medications that can cause weight gain include corticosteroids and drugs used to treat bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and depression 22.
- The atypical antipsychotic drugs (clozapine, olanzepine, risperidone and quetiapine) are known to cause marked weight gain 22.
- Antidepressants such as amitriptyline, mirtazapine and some serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) also may promote appreciable weight gain 22.
- Weight gain is also observed with mood stabilizers such as lithium, valproic acid and carbamazepine 22.
- Antiepileptic drugs that promote weight gain include valproate, carbamazepine and gabapentin. Lamotrigine is an antiepileptic drug that is weight-neutral, while topiramate and zonisamide may induce weight loss 22.
- A prospective study of holiday weight gain. Yanovski JA, Yanovski SZ, Sovik KN, Nguyen TT, O’Neil PM, Sebring NG. N Engl J Med. 2000 Mar 23; 342(12):861-7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4336296/
- Cook C. M., Subar A. F., Troiano R. P., Schoeller D. A. Relation between holiday weight gain and total energy expenditure among 40- to 69-y-old men and women (OPEN study) The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2012;95(3):726–731. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.111.023036. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3278247/
- Boyce T. G. Weight gain over the holidays in three countries. New England Journal of Medicine. 2016;375(12):1200–1202. doi: 10.1056/NEJMc1607283. doi: 10.1056/NEJMc1602012. http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMc1602012
- Rees S. G., Holman R. R., Turner R. C. The Christmas feast. British Medical Journal (Clinical research ed.) 1985;291(6511):1764–1765. doi: 10.1136/bmj.291.6511.1764. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1419184/pdf/bmjcred00479-0024.pdf
- Reid R., Hackett A. F. Changes in nutritional status in adults over Christmas 1998. Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics. 1999;12(6):513–516. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-277X.1999.00205.x. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-277x.1999.00205.x.
- Seasonal variation in food intake, physical activity, and body weight in a predominantly overweight population. Ma Y, Olendzki BC, Li W, Hafner AR, Chiriboga D, Hebert JR, Campbell M, Sarnie M, Ockene IS. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2006 Apr; 60(4):519-28. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1428793/
- Seasonal variation in accelerometer-determined sedentary behaviour and physical activity in children: a review. Rich C, Griffiths LJ, Dezateux C. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2012 Apr 30; 9():49. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3511197/
- Weight Gain over the Holidays in Three Countries. Helander EE, Wansink B, Chieh A. N Engl J Med. 2016 Sep 22; 375(12):1200-2. http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMc1602012
- BMI Calculator Adults. https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/assessing/bmi/adult_BMI/english_bmi_calculator/bmi_calculator.html
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC Clinical Growth Charts. https://www.cdc.gov/growthcharts/clinical_charts.htm
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. BMI Percentile Calculator for Child and Teen. https://nccd.cdc.gov/dnpabmi/Calculator.aspx
- BMI Calculator Children. https://nccd.cdc.gov/dnpabmi/Calculator.aspx
- Zhang C, Rexrode KM, van Dam RM, Li TY, Hu FB. Abdominal obesity and the risk of all-cause, cardiovascular, and cancer mortality: sixteen years of follow-up in US women. Circulation. 2008;117:1658-67. http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/117/13/1658.long
- National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Clinical guidelines on the identification, evaluation, and treatment of overweight and obesity in adults: the evidence report. Bethesda, MD; 1998. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/obe
- Body Weight Planner. https://www.supertracker.usda.gov/bwp/index.html
- ChooseMyPlate. https://www.choosemyplate.gov/
- Estimated Calorie Needs per Day, by Age, Sex, and Physical Activity Level. https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/appendix-2/
- Why Is Sleep Important ? National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/sdd/why
- Drug-induced weight gain. Drugs Today (Barc). 2005 Aug;41(8):547-55. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16234878