‘Tis the Season — When Americans Will Weigh the Most All Year

Updated: Oct. 31, 2017

September is when Americans weigh the least. Here's how much we pack on during the holiday season.


Filled with homemade cookies, bubbly-filled parties, and creamy comfort food favorites, the holiday season can turn into a diet disaster after just the tiniest lapse of self-control. Here are classic Thanksgiving foods, ranked from best to worst for your weight. But when food is the centerpiece of a season of celebrating, is it worth stressing over the weight gain? You might not pack on as much as you fear.

In early fall, Americans lose more weight than the rest of the year. But in November, that weight starts creeping back up. During Thanksgiving, the national average weight goes up about 0.2 percent, according to a study in The New England Journal of Medicine. Then from the ten days before Christmas to the ten after, that weight increases by another 0.4 percent, peaking around New Year’s Day. By the end of the winter holiday season, Americans are about 1.3 pounds heavier than their thinnest point in the year. Here are more surprising causes of weight gain.

Unlike past studies that rely on self-reported data, this study used weigh-ins from participants’ wireless scales to keep track of day-to-day weight changes in 2,924 volunteers from the United States, Germany, and Japan. Volunteers who are invested in their expensive scales “may be wealthier, better educated, and more motivated toward weight loss than average,” the authors wrote. That means the typical American might actually gain more weight than this study suggests, study author Brian Wansink of the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab told the Los Angeles Times.

About half the holiday weight gain goes away by summer, but the rest sticks around through swimsuit season. “Of course, the less one gains, the less one then has to worry about trying to lose it,” the study authors wrote.

Holiday weight gain isn’t unique to the United States though. The national weights go up even more in Germany and Japan—0.6 percent and 0.5 percent, respectively—than in the United States, the study found.

Internationally, other holidays pose threat to waistlines too. Thanksgiving is a day to feast in the United States, but Germans gain 0.2 percent around Easter, while Japan sees its national weight goes up by 0.3 percent during Golden Week. “Different countries celebrate different holidays, but many such celebration periods have one thing in common: an increased intake of favorite foods,” the study authors wrote.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest