In the United States and Germany, people weighed the most at the beginning of January, following Christmas and the New Year. In Japan, people still had experienced a significant gain in weight from December to January, but their highest weights were after the Golden Week, three consecutive holidays that take place the first week of May. Perhaps not surprisingly, there was a sharp gain in the weights of Americans after Thanksgiving, but not among the Japanese or Germans.
That seems to suggest that people really are becoming heavier because of the holidays, and not merely for other reasons — like less exercise during the winter months, says Elina Helander, a post-doctoral research scientist at Tampere University in Finland who worked on the new research, which she and her colleagues share in a letter to the editor in this week’s New England Journal of Medicine.
Prior to this study, she says, “there wasn’t much knowledge around how people’s weights behave around the holidays. There’s really this type of holiday [weight] gain you can see from this data that isn’t because of [other effects].”
Then those panicked New Year’s resolutions appeared to kick in: People in the study started to lose the turkey/candy/beer weight, according to the data. There’s a precipitous drop in weight for all the populations right in the beginning of January, Helander says: “People [might be] motivated to do something. All the fitness centers are full of people in January.” At the end of the one- year study, participants were roughly back to where they started, gaining and losing at most two pounds on average.
The changes in weight the study attributes to holidays is actually petty small, Brooke Bailer, a clinical psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania Center For Weight and Eating Disorders who did not work on the study, …