Serving up Thanksgiving Weight Data

Serving up Thanksgiving Weight Data

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Rhubarb and strawberry pie sliced in portions, isolated on a  blue seamless background. German rhubarb cake. Handmade sweet pie on white plate.

Thanksgiving is known as a time to indulge in lots of food, but what are the facts around weight gain during the holiday, and how do we respond to the hard, delicious truth? Read on to learn more.

A time to gorge oneself in complete abandon or a day of constant self-control riddled with anguish — the emotions vary widely on the spectrum of gastronomical engagement during one of America’s cherished holidays. But, what if all of these feelings were blown out of proportion in a similar vein to the extra large portions that will grace plates across the country? Our team analyzed the data on weigh-ins and activity around Thanksgiving for the past three years, and we think you’ll find the results to be surprising.

“You can’t outrun your mouth”

If you were planning on lacing up your sneakers and walking off the pie, we got news for you. Unfortunately, activity doesn’t seem to stop anyone from gaining weight during Thanksgiving. Our team compared weight gain, maintenance, and loss for daily 1,000 to 15,000 steps from the 1st of September to the last day of November from 2017 – 2019. The chart below shows there is little correlation between activity and weight gained, maintained, or lost:

So, is it time to become a fatalist? Maybe, but not because of this information! You can still play a little post-dinner football or go for a digestive walk because we’re about to butter you up with some great news.

Don’t freak out — most people don’t gain weight

Some holiday eaters solemnly accept their fates during Turkey-pocalypse, but the data say this might not be the case. Our team looked at 600,000 people across the United States over a three-year period and, even with all the indulgence, a majority of people (56%) either lose or maintain weight during Thanksgiving. The team used at least one weigh-in seven days before Thanksgiving and at least one after Thanksgiving within seven days for each person to find whether people gained, maintained, or lost weight.

However, you might not be so lucky...

Unfortunately, if you are in the minority of people who do gain weight during Thanksgiving, you are likely to gain one pound and are at a 70% chance of keeping that pound throughout the holiday season past New Year’s. The team used over 610,000 separate weigh-ins to find this conclusion.

See no weight, hear no weight, speak no weight

Now you know what the trends are in weight gain during Thanksgiving, but how many people face the music the day afterwards? We can’t say what the motivations are, but after analyzing 1.2 million weigh-ins, the fear of being stuffed with stuffing may be why most people avoid weighing themselves the day after Thanksgiving.

People who weigh themselves regularly are 29% less likely to hit the scale again the day after Thanksgiving while those who do not weigh themselves regularly are only 19% less likely to take a weight measurement the day after the holiday. Even with the decrease in weight measurements following the day after Thanksgiving, folks who weigh in regularly are still almost 2.5 times more likely to step on the scale just after Thanksgiving than those who don’t. Is this scale avoidance responsible for some of the gain? Maybe. A previous study showed that among people with a weight loss goal, those who stepped on more often lost 4 times more than those who avoided the scale.

The Weight of the Union address

What states gained the most and least weight? The difference ranges within several percentage points, but there are a lot of people logged within these measurements! The West Coast seems to have done exceptionally well in terms of gaining the least amount of weight with the exception of Connecticut as one of the East-Coast contenders. The biggest gainers were located mostly in the South with the exception of Nebraska.

National average – 41.66%

The gainers

South Carolina – 44.77%
Nebraska – 43.92%
Georgia – 43.51%
Kentucky – 43.27%
North Carolina – 43.01%

Least gained

Washington – 39.68%
California – 40.69%
Oregon – 40.74%
Utah – 40.94%
Connecticut – 41.05%

Graph only includes states with high number of users for analysis

Conclusions

Thankfully most of us do not gain weight during Thanksgiving. However, those who do gain weight during Thanksgiving are likely to keep that pound through New Year’s, and this thought may influence why more eyes stray away from the scale the day after Turkey Day. Yet, this Thanksgiving will most likely be very different from previous celebrations. Families might not be gathering to have big dinners with all of the trimmings (including the classic family dramas). Will this change how we eat as well? We may not be able to measure merriment, but we will keep you informed on the outcomes.

No matter what you indulge in, we hope you have a happy and healthy holiday.

Methodology

This study was conducted by Withings based on anonymous data from a pool of 600,000 scale and 200,000 watch users in the United States. Withings guarantees the confidentiality of personal data and protects the privacy of all its users. Therefore, all data used for this study was rigorously anonymized and aggregated in order to avoid any re-identification.

Antonio Iaccarino

Antonio (Ari) Iaccarino is an ESL educator turned content writer and the Co-founder of Ridj-it, an outdoor adventure platform. You'll find him relishing in puns and mustarding the strength to hike mountains when he's not talking about being from Iowa.
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