Truth about the infamous Holiday 7 weight gain

by : Phil Campbell, M.S., M.A., FACHE

The “Holiday 7," the title given for the average amount of weight gain experienced during the winter holidays, keeps popping up in articles.

Is this statement true? Do people gain 7 pounds during the holiday season? Well, this isn’t true for everyone, but “Holiday 7" is very close to reality for many adults.

The Holiday 7

Most people gain less than one pound during the 6-week period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, report researchers. And this is much less than the suggested 7 pounds that’s being tossed around in fitness magazines. However, the research does show that overweight individuals typically gain 5 pounds during the holidays, (Holiday weight gain: fact or fiction?" 2000, Roberts).

This study should be a real concern for those who are overweight. While it’s not quite as bad as the “Holiday 7," gaining 5 pounds every year during the holidays means 50 additional pounds over the next ten years unless a fitness improvement action plan is implemented.

The real culprit in holiday weight gain "Metabolic Syndrome X"

Researchers report that 40 million US adults suffer with “Metabolic Syndrome X." This is the worst nightmare for someone overweight or obese, especially during the holiday season, (A major health hazard: the metabolic syndrome, 2003, Isomaa).

While the “Holiday 7" is not quite as bad for most people, small gains in bodyfat over time can contribute to the condition “Metabolic Syndrome."

Metabolic Syndrome has to do with how the body acts as it puts on extra bodyfat. After-the-holidays starvation diets may temporarily pull off a few pounds; but these diets without exercise can make matters worse.

Symptoms of Metabolic Syndrome are extra bodyfat around the waist, higher cholesterol, and insulin resistance. Insulin resistance means that someone with a lot of bodyfat can eat bread for example, and their body processes it like pecan pie. This is why someone lean and in shape can eat some traditional holiday meals without too much concern, and someone overweight will gain 5 pounds during the holidays.

The Best part … there may be a free cure for Metabolic Syndrome

The cure for Metabolic Syndrome is not a fad starvation diet, but rather a consistent, balanced diet in moderation, and a real commitment to exercise regularly.

Extra bodyfat is at the center of this disease, and this means that you should add exercise to build and tone muscle. Adding muscle will raise your resting metabolic rate so the muscle, in essence, eats away the bodyfat for you while you’re resting.

Men and women clearly need to exercise to add and tone muscle. Walking and increasing activity levels will not do what you need to get accomplished without adding some type of strength training to your fitness plan.

Personally, I’m partial to weight training at least three times a week along with an anaerobic exercise program (sprinting types of exercise) to make the body produce exercise-induced growth hormone, (Impact of acute exercise intensity on pulsatile growth hormone release in men, 1999, Pritzlaff). Growth hormone released from exercise will facilitate the bodyfat burning and muscle building and toning process.

The take home

Make the commitment today to add strength training and an anaerobic sprinting type program to your fitness plan and enjoy meals this holiday season … in moderation, of course.

Phil Campbell. M.S., M.A., FACHE is the author of Ready, Set, Go! Synergy Fitness

“Everyone has a fitness plan. Whether the plan is to exercise regularly or not at all, everyone has a fitness plan. Youth alone takes care of many health issues, but there comes a time when every individual must make a lifestyle decision to exercise or not to exercise." Phil Campbell

National Institutes of Health studies summaries cited:

Holiday weight gain

Freshman 15


University Women

Metabolic Syndrome


Exercise-induced growth hormone release