Plan to enjoy a few extra helpings of mashed potatoes, gravy, and gingerbread men over the coming weeks—but worried about all those pounds you're bound to pack on? Cut yourself some slack, suggests Travis Saunders on the PLOS blog. He points out that while people regularly parrot the line that we gain 5 to 10 pounds over the holidays, research has shown that just isn't true. He digs up a study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2000, that says just that. The researchers determined that between Thanksgiving and New Year's, the actual average holiday weight gain is just 0.81 pounds.
The study tracked the weight fluctuations of 195 adults, who were weighed four times over the pre-holiday (beginning in late September), holiday, and post-holiday (till about late February) periods. But even with that relatively modest pool of subjects, "the idea that the average person gains large amounts of weight during the holidays is completely untrue," Saunders writes. Still, Smithsonian points out that the researchers found that most of the participants didn't lose the holiday weight before the beginning of the next pre-holiday period, suggesting, the researchers wrote, that this seasonal weight gain "probably contributes to the increase in body weight that frequently occurs during adulthood." (Meanwhile, other research suggests "bad" carbs may not be so bad after all.)