Weight gain during the holiday season can be prevented through advice on weight management, regular self-weighing, and information on how much exercise is needed to burn the calories consumed in typical holiday meals, according to a study recently published in BMJ.

An interventional study conducted in participants from Birmingham, UK, included 272 participants whose body mass index was at least 20 and whose age was ≥18. These individuals were 78% women and 78% white. They were randomized 1:1 to a short interventional behavioral consultation or to an informational leaflet on a healthy lifestyle. The measurements of baseline weight were taken in November or December and compared 4 to 8 weeks later with follow-up weight.

Other outcomes included self-weighing ≥2 times per week vs <2 times per week, weight gain of ≤0.5 kg, proportional body fat, and cognitive eating restraint. The intervention promoted self-weighing, weight record-keeping, and consideration of weight goals, as well as information on how to manage weight during the holidays and how much physical activity was needed to expend caloric intake from holiday foods, with a final goal of ≤0.5 kg in weight gain. Logistic regression was used to compute odds ratios for self-weighing and ≤0.5-kg weight gain.

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Those in the intervention group showed a mean change of -0.13 kg (95% CI, -0.4 to 0.15), whereas the leaflet group’s weight changed by a mean of 0.37 kg (95% CI, 0.12-0.62). This yielded an adjusted mean weight difference between intervention and leaflet groups of -0.49 kg (95% CI, -0.85 to -0.13; P =.008), which was similar after adjustments for initial body mass index and study involvement length (-0.48 kg; 95% CI, -0.84 to -0.12; P =.01). Weight gain of ≤0.5 kg was most likely among the intervention group, although not statistically significant (odds ratio [OR], 1.23; 95% CI, 0.75-2.04; P =.41). The change of regular self-weighing ≥2 times per week was far higher among the intervention group, however (OR, 64.96; 95% CI, 24.48-172.39; <.001).

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Limitations to this study included a relatively short follow-up period, a small amount of weight gain, and the potential recruitment of more health-conscious individuals. Additionally, women comprised the majority of participants.

The study researchers concluded that “[a] brief intervention underpinned by self regulation theory, consisting of encouragement to regularly self weigh, tips for weight management, and PACE information prevented weight gain in adults over the Christmas period. Cognitive restraint of eating was increased in the intervention group. These results should be considered by health policy makers to prevent weight gain in the population during high risk periods such as holidays.”

Author A Farley reports financial contributions from Ethicon of Johnson & Johnson.


Mason F, Farley A, Pallan M, Sitch A, Easter C, Daley AJ. Effectiveness of a brief behavioural intervention to prevent weight gain over the Christmas holiday period: randomised controlled trialBMJ. 2018;363:k4867.