It’s the height of the festive season in India at this time of the year. From Ganesh Chaturthi to Diwali, you’re surrounded by multiple Gods from Hindu mythology and an even greater number of festive treats. For most, dieting during this festive period seems either impossible or stupid. This leads me to the question – Should you diet during festivals?
Before I give you my opinion on this topic, let’s set some objective expectations by having a look at what the studies say on this topic.
Studies show that the greatest amount of weight gain happens during the festive period which isn’t subsequently lost during the remaining year. The amount of weight you gain depends on how much you overeat during the festive season.
For example, two studies, one conducted in 1985 and another in 2012, found that subjects gained an average weight of 0.8 kg between the months of December and January. This is a very small amount of weight gain. But if you don’t subsequently lose this weight it can easily add up over the period of a few years.
It’s also important to remember that in comparison to other cultures, Indians have a greater number of festivals throughout the year owing to the large number of Gods we have. More festivals equal more treats. Therefore, the average weight gain in Indians might be greater than 0.8 kg.
What if you are determined to lose weight?
The participants in the studies above weren’t trying to lose weight. I’m sure that most of you reading this article are interested in losing weight. Which means that you have a greater chance of losing weight, right?
Well…you do but you might not want to get your hopes up too high.
In a 1992 study, 46 obese patients participating in a weight maintenance therapy program gained 0.6 kg whereas the non-obese control group gained 0.4 kg. The study was conducted for 3 weeks (before Christmas to mid-January).
In a 2013 study, 215 obese patients participating in an obesity treatment program gained 0.29 kg weight between Christmas and New Year’s Eve even when they were asked to eat 500–600 lesser calories per day.
A 2016 study reported weight changes throughout the year in 2924 weight scale users from 3 countries (Unites States, Germany, and Japan). The user’s weight increased significantly between 10 days before and after Christmas. Weight also increased significantly on other national holidays such as the Golden Week in Japan, Easter holidays in Germany, and Thanksgiving in the US. Although the participants quickly lost half the weight gained during Christmas, it is important to note that despite being a group of highly motivated individuals, they still increased their body weight during the festive season.
Additionally, an excellent 2017 review on this topic found that overweight and obese individuals are more vulnerable to weight gain than leaner individuals.
Should You Diet during Festivals?
The studies above seem to suggest that it is quite difficult to lose weight during the festive season.
BUT there’s a but. The studies report only the average weight gain, therefore, there will also be people who would have lost or at least maintained their weight. Personally, I have also worked with many clients who have lost weight during the festive season so it’s certainly not impossible.
So, if you aim to lose weight during the holidays there’s nothing stopping you from trying. My only reason to cite the studies is to help you keep realistic expectations of yourself when you start dieting i.e. don’t expect yourself to come out looking like this at the end of the festival.
Also, festivals are a time of celebration and food, especially festive treats, are central to that. I care a lot about my client’s quality of life (and yours as well xoxo) and before you begin dieting you might want to consider how it will affect you. If you are surrounded by treats while you are dieting, then you are bound to feel deprived.
Personally, I wouldn’t put too much pressure on myself or my clients to lose weight during the festive season because I know it will affect my mood negatively. I also find it very difficult to not indulge in myself in highly tempting foods when I am surrounded by them. However, I know I can maintain my weight during this time. Plus, I know that even if I put on a couple of kilos by the end of the festive season, I can lose them easily in the following weeks.
Answer the following
To help you decide if you should diet during festivals, I have come up with a few questions –
- How important is weight loss for you during the festive season?
- Can you maintain a caloric deficit?
- Will a caloric deficit affect your mood negatively?
- Can you focus on maintaining weight instead?
The answers to these questions should help you answer the question – Should you diet during festivals? Let me know your answers in the comments and if you have ever managed to diet successfully during a festival (we could all use some tips from you).
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