The effect of the Thanksgiving holiday on weight gain

Nutr J. 2006 Nov 21:5:29. doi: 10.1186/1475-2891-5-29.


Background: More people than ever are considered obese and the resulting health problems are evident. These facts highlight the need for identification of critical time periods for weight gain. Therefore the purpose was to assess potential changes that occur in body weight during the Thanksgiving holiday break in college students.

Methods: 94 college students (23.0 +/- 4.6 yrs, 72.1 +/- 14.0 kg, 172.6 +/- 9.3 cm, 24.0 +/- 3.9 kg/m2) reported to the human body composition laboratory at the University of Oklahoma following a 6-hour fast with testing occurring prior to, and immediately following the Thanksgiving holiday break (13 +/- 3 days). Body weight (BW) was assessed using a balance beam scale while participants were dressed in minimal clothing. Paired t-tests were used to assess changes in BW pre and post Thanksgiving holiday with additional analysis by gender, body mass index (BMI), and class standing (i.e. undergraduate vs. graduate).

Results: Overall, a significant (P < 0.05) increase in BW was found between pre (72.1 kg) and post (72.6 kg) Thanksgiving holiday. When stratified by gender and class standing a significant (P < 0.05) increase in body weight was observed between the pre and post Thanksgiving holiday in males (0.6 kg), females (0.4 kg) and graduate students (0.8 kg). When participants were classified by BMI as normal or as overweight/obese, a significant 1.0 kg BW gain was found (P < 0.05) in the overweight/obese (>/=25 kg/m2) group compared to a non significant 0.2 kg gain in the normal group (<25 kg/m2).

Conclusion: These data indicate that participants in our study gained a significant amount of BW (0.5 kg) during the Thanksgiving holiday. While an increase in BW of half a kilogram may not be cause for alarm, the increase could have potential long-term health consequences if participants retained this weight gain throughout the college year. Additionally, because the overweight/obese participants gained the greatest amount of BW, this group may be at increased risk for weight gain and further obesity development during the holiday season.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anthropometry
  • Body Mass Index
  • Female
  • Holidays*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Obesity / physiopathology
  • Students / psychology
  • Weight Gain*