Holiday Weight Gain: Causes, Risk Factors, and Prevention

Holiday Weight Gain

Causes, Risk Factors, and Prevention

Here’s everything you need to know about holiday weight gain. Most importantly, learn the ways to prevent it.

Blame it on the calorie-dense foods, decreased physical activity or increased sleep time, holidays tend to add more pounds to your body. Holiday weight gain is common yet receives only a little attention. Included in this article are the possible causes, risk factors and measures to prevent it.

As we come to the end of November, we still have some more weeks to go before the holiday season ends. The holiday season, in general, starts from the last week of November and stretches up to the first or second week of January. So, there is an ample time for you to stay away from your gym routine and binge on your favorite foods. However, such a long break could be a major contributor to the rising numbers on the weight scale.

What Causes Holiday Weight Gain?

As a matter of fact, weight gain or loss is a result of many complex physiological processes that work together. These include genetic factors (sorry, you cannot change them), environmental factors, dietary habits, level of physical activity and the interplay of hormones.

Irrespective of the underlying causes, various studies have found that holiday can lead to a significant increase in body weight. Interestingly, some studies have found that while the holiday season may not add pounds to the total body weight, it can increase the amount of body fat. Note that increased body fat is harmful too.

Following factors could be the reason why getting back from the holiday season makes you fatter.

  • Carefree lifestyle. Holidays are known for their relaxing effects on both the mind and body. But an ongoing relaxation that lasts for two or more weeks could be wreaking havoc on your weight. Simply put, the holiday period creates a sense of detachment from the mundane routine. In this state, you can be easily distracted by unhealthy food choices and lifestyle habits. For many, the holiday also means holiday from the gym.
  • Intake of calorie-dense foods. Holiday means party and who cares about the calories in the party mood? This is exactly what happens in most cases. Consequently, you end up eating high-energy foods in bigger portion sizes. Moreover, some may also increase their food intake as a result of frequent social reunions.
  • Decreased physical activity. It’s obvious for many of us to stay locked inside our house to avoid the chilling cold. For this reason, the level of physical activity drops significantly in the winter days. Lower level of physical activity decreases the energy expenditure. Imagine what happens when you consume more energy but spend less? Naturally, your chance of adding weight surges. Moreover, another effect of low-light winter conditions and low temperature is in your mood. Low mood makes you less likely to indulge in physical activity. However, you should keep in mind that any exercise that ups your heart rate and respiration lifts your mood in addition to helping you burn calories.

Who are at Risk of Holiday Weight Gain?

No doubt, holiday weight gain affects everyone who indulges in bad food choices and unhealthy lifestyle. But a certain group of individuals might be particularly more vulnerable. For example, if you are already overweight or obese, you may gain more weight than your peers who had normal weight before the party season started.

Likewise, if you are trying to lose weight, the “holiday effect” can sabotage your weight-loss attempts. Other risk factors for holiday weight gain include a low level of physical activity and consumption of high-calorie foods prior to the holiday season.

5 Ways to Prevent Holiday Weight Gain

With the right approaches, you can prevent holiday weight gain without compromising on the joy and pleasure of the festive season. Given below are some tips you should consider.

  1. Make right food choices. This is most crucial to preventing holiday weight gain. After all, you become what you eat. Pay particular attention to your snacks as snacks are easily accessible and tend to have high-calorie content. Don’t snack if you are already full even though the smell and perceived taste of the snack weaken your willpower. Think of practicing mindful eating. That said, make a conscious effort to understand if you are really hungry or it is just the thought of the food that is apparently making you feel hungry. When you decide to take a food, make sure to analyze its potential health effects, both good and bad. If you need to snack, opt for healthful options like nuts, fruits seeds. These are loaded with essential nutrients yet contain few calories.
  2. Go for a walk with your friends and family members. Because decreased physical activity is one of the major reasons for holiday weight gain, consider doing a group physical activity with your loved ones. It could be anything from a family walk to a community fitness event like running races. Not only such activities decrease the risk of weight gain but also improve your social and emotional well being.
  3. Watch your plate size. Holidays often tend to make you turn a blind eye to the portion size. As a result, you end up taking large-than-recommended portion sizes. Most probably, you know what happens next. The best way to watch the portion size is to use your own judgment to differentiate between the amount of the food you actually need and the amount you want to take.
  4. Get enough sleep and reduce stress. Poor sleep during the holidays is more common than you realize. When coupled with stress, the combination can slow down your metabolic rate. Moreover, sleep deprivation can increase the release of the hormone that signals hunger.
  5. Limit alcohol and liquid calorie consumption. Both alcohol and sweetened beverages are rich in calories. Because these beverages are served in every party you go to, make sure to limit their consumption. Take a glass of water to quench your thirst rather than gulping down a glass of chilled beer or carbonated drink.

Want to Know More?

To know more about holiday weight gain and tips to prevent it, talk to an expert. Also, know how an individually customized nutrition helps to reduce the risk of chronic diseases. Click here to set an appointment today.


  1. Díaz-Zavala, RG., et al. “Effect of the Holiday Season on Weight Gain: A Narrative Review.” Journal of Obesity. 2017;2017:2085136.
  2. Rich, C., et al. “Seasonal variation in accelerometer-determined sedentary behaviour and physical activity in children: a review”. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity.  2012; 9: 49.




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