The Seasonality of Weight Gain
Three days per year account for the majority of the weight adults gain annually in the US.
There’s a famous line of financial markets research that goes something like this.
If you miss the single best day of the year in stocks, your performance suffers badly over the long run.
Here’s one variation of this with data from Bank of America describing how you would go from a 17,000% return to a 28% return over 90 years if you missed the ten best days of the decade.
Banks publish this kind of stuff, because they want you to stay invested even when things get bad for stocks like they did this year.
I thought of these kinds of studies recently, on November 10th, when the S&P 500 Index rallied 5.5% in a single day.
Anyone who was out of the market that day missed the best day for stocks in over two years.
I thought about November 10th again just now as I began writing this post maybe 15 minutes ago.
I was thinking about how the average adult in the US gains around 1-2 pounds per year.
Maybe that doesn’t seem like much but over the course of 20 or 30 years, we’re talking 30 to 45 pounds.
It is no wonder almost half of us are obese while a full 70% are either overweight or obese.
Of the 1-2 pounds American adults gain over the course of the year, all of it (and then some) comes during the winter months.
Here is a chart that I grabbed from the New England Journal of Medicine that shows the average weight gain or loss for adults in the US (plus Japan and Germany) broken down by days of the year.
Have a good look at it:
For most of the year, we lose a very small amount of weight day to day, but as we approach winter, that deficit disappears and we start gaining weight day to day.
From an evolutionary point of view, this makes some sense.
As it gets colder in the winter, our ancestors, living in a resource scarce environment, likely benefited from getting extra hungry as the weather cooled, adding fat when they could to help keep their bodies a little warmer.
Maybe our bodies still seek to add that extra layer even though we have indoor heating and thermal underwear.
Plus, the days get colder and shorter and maybe we spend less time outside moving our bodies so we burn fewer calories.
The Three Worst Days of the Year
If we look a bit closer at the chart above, we notice the role holidays play.
In fact, Thanksgiving marks the precise moment when the daily average weight change breaks from a loss to a gain.
And Christmas through New Years?
I wonder what would happen to that 1-2 pound average annual weight gain per adult, if we removed three days from this chart the way Bank of America removes the 10 best days of the decade in the stock market.
New Years Eve.
These three days alone account for the majority of the weight adults gain annually in the US.
But humans are crafty beasts with a million brains in our heads and we can take steps to limit the damage these three days do.
Winners Average Losers
Legendary hedge fund manager, Paul Tudor Jones, once famously said,
Losers average losers.
He was saying that losing investors buy more of a losing investment as it falls.
I’m turning that one upside down.
When it comes to weight, we want to do the exact opposite.
We want to press losers!
So here are a few tactics that you can employ to counteract the weight gaining effects of the winter holidays?
Pick and choose. One or a few of them might help.
1. The Right Foot Rule
The Right Foot Rule says start the day super healthy.
For me, this means 2 things.
Getting a run or a workout in before the festivities begin, and
Making sure the first thing you eat is healthy and satiating. This might mean having a bunch of eggs before the party or maybe you go in hard on the turkey before having anything else.
2. The Basmadjian Gambit
My pal Vic taught me this one.
He tucks a bar of Lindt 90% Dark Chocolate into his jacket pocket before leaving for celebrations where he knows there will be decadent desserts.
Then, he eats a few pieces of the dark chocolate instead of going hog wild on pecan pie a la mode.
3. Limit Drinking
I get it. Your relatives drive you to the bottle. Whatever.
Still, alcohol is not as cool as it used to be before we understood how bad even moderate usage over time is for our minds and bodies.
If you are still not aware, you can watch Huberman break it down chapter and verse.
So, if you can set a limit on how much you will consume, if any, and then stick to that limit, you will sidestep a load of empty and harmful calories.
If you can’t set a limit, well, that tells you something.
4. The Trosette Maneuver
As those who have been reading this newsletter for a while might be aware, Tro is a doctor who lost 150 lbs and now helps people from all over the country lose weight and gain health, while Rosette has built a business with her sister selling low carb baking mixes that are pretty tasty.
The Pistachio Shortbread Mix is my personal favorite.
Together, I call them Trosette, like how we call Ben and Jennifer, Bennifer. lol!
Together these two have a great hack that works for the holidays.
Tro says that if you haven’t beaten something yet, then replace it with versions that are less damaging. So if you’re going to eat dessert, have something with less sugar and less carbs.
Meanwhile, Rosette makes dessert mixes with less sugar and less carbs. Perfect complements!
(Berries are also great, btw.)
5. The Morning After Thrill
Make early plans for the morning after the holiday.
That way, you’ll have to set a bit of a limit for yourself on how hard you can go, because you know you have to wake up early.
We’re planning to wake up early on Black Friday, head into the city, and visit the Met.
Once you’ve used any of these tactics once, you can begin to apply the ones that work best for you in other situations.
I’m big on the Right Foot Rule. The first thing I eat pretty much everyday is a lot of high protein food. This keeps me out of trouble most days.
One Other Thing
You’ll notice that a couple of the tactics I recommend in the section above are things that I’ve adapted from others.
For me, curating stuff that works over time has been the single greatest hack in my health journey.
I’ve given back too and I know for a fact that others have adopted some of my tactics.
I am interested in finding things that work for me, that allow me to thrive today and boost my Healthspan as well as sharing stuff that I’ve come up with.
So while I’m the observer and subject in my own case study design, I am also a curator.
If you do things that work for you, please share them in the comments below or shoot me an email by replying to this newsletter.
Have a great holiday everybody!