Holiday eating gets a bad rap. The Thanksgiving season inevitably kicks off a barrage of tips on how to avoid weight gain, from using smaller plates to cooking “healthy” versions of favorite dishes; around New Years, we’re hit with calls to clean up our wayward diets by eliminating treats and counting calories. But psychologists and epidemiologists alike caution that all this fuss could do more harm than good.
Categorizing the food we eat over the holidays as “unhealthy” is a well-documented American tendency that has little to do with actual health—and the guilt we experience over our food may actually hurt us in the long term. If you’re feeling the pressure to start trying to atone for the festive treats you’ve enjoyed over the last few weeks, you may need to cut a few misconceptions out of your information diet.
First of all, it’s important to clarify that the perils of holiday weight gain are greatly exaggerated. While research does suggest that most people do gain a bit over the holidays, it’s not much—between 0.4 and 0.9 kilograms (0.9 and two pounds) on average, according to a 2017 review published in the Journal of Obesity. Considering that, and given that the link between higher body weight and poorer health is shaky at best, it’s safe to say that most folks are not putting their lives at risk by indulging in eggnog and cookies for a few days of the year.
Excerpted from Popular Science