My Thanksgiving Challenge to You

Picture of Dr. Jen Kerns

Dr. Jen Kerns

Holidays around the world are celebrated with feasts and overindulgence, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the majority of weight gain in Americans occurs during a specific 6-week period of each calendar year: Thanksgiving through Year’s Day. Interestingly, weight gain over the Thanksgiving holiday seems to be more of a problem for people who are already overweight or obese than it is for people of normal weight. This study followed 94 people before and after the Thanksgiving holiday with body weights measured on average just 13 days apart, and found that overweight participants with a BMI over 25 gained an entire kilogram, or 2.2 pounds, while the participants with a BMI under 25 (normal weight) didn’t gain weight at all. This doesn’t mean that a normal weight person can’t gain weight over Thanksgiving, of course, but those of us with overweight to begin with are clearly at risk.

So what can we do about it?

There have been several small clinical trials looking at various interventions, and they all seem to be beneficial. This small industry-sponsored study found that overweight participants following an intermittent modified fasting regimen of limiting caloric intake to 730 kcal/day on 2 days per week and eating their usual diet the other 5 days per week over the 6 week holiday season from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day actually  lost 1.3 kg (2.9 pounds), while the control group had no weight change. A totally different intervention with the stated goal was to gain no more than 0.5 kg over the Christmas holiday in the UK (where, of course, Thanksgiving is obsolete) asked normal weight participants to weigh themselves every single morning (and reflect on weight changes) and sent them reminders of various behavior strategies that can help maintain a healthy weight. They found that all participants met the goal of gaining less than 0.5kg, but the intervention group with daily self-weighing maintained their weight (on average actually lost 0.13 kg, or half a pound), while the control group gained on average 0.37 kg, or 0.82 pound.

It seems to me that the intentional act of simply planning to maintain your weight though the Thanksgiving holiday and actually practicing whichever form of restrained eating feels best to you (whether a 5:2 intermittent fasting regimen, or planning ahead which few indulgent foods you’re going to eat on Thanksgiving while choosing particularly healthful foods for every other meal over the 4 day weekend and weighing yourself daily to ensure that you’re on track) should keep us from gaining weight over this Thanksgiving holiday.

I challenge you to do this with me! Weigh yourself tomorrow morning and post it here in the comments, then come back 7 days later and post your weight again. I’ll start with me: this morning (the Saturday before Thanksgiving) I weighed in at 144.2.

Let’s do this thing!
With love,




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