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Which States Gain the Most Holiday Weight?

It happens to all of us: we go home for the holidays, come back after fun times with family and friends, and then ruin our good mood completely by stepping on the scale. We discover that we need to spend the next month or so eating salad and weight training to burn off all the calories we wolfed down.  But which states are the worst for weight gain, and how can we stop it?

How We Found the States

holiday weight gain

You'd think we just found the fattest states in the Union and called it a day, but believe it or not, none of the five fattest states in America according to Healthy Americans even made the top five.  In fact, only one of them, Tennessee, cracked the top 10.  So you might want to leave your assumptions at the door; those packing on the pounds are not who you think.

First, we started with a study from America's Health Rankings, which surveyed average weight by state over the 20 year period from 1988 to 2008.  It makes fascinating reading in its own right: as a country, we've gotten pretty porky.

To break out weight gain by year, we turned to the New England Journal of Medicine, and its excellent analysis of holiday weight gain.  That gave us a good baseline for an average weight gain, which we then cross-referenced with the 20-year weight study.  That gave us not only the states that were packing on the most weight ... but also an idea of how many pounds they put on, on average. The following are the bottom five states in holiday weight gain:

#5: Kansas

BBQ Ribs

Holiday Weight Gain (Men): .93 pounds

Holiday Weight Gain (Women): 1.12 pounds

Fattest State Ranking: 16

We guess we're not surprised a state famous for farming carbs is fifth, but still, that's a lot of weight to plow off, Kansas.

#4: Oklahoma

Oklahoma food

Holiday Weight Gain (Men): 1.03 pounds

Holiday Weight Gain (Women): 1.04 pounds

Fattest State Ranking: 7

So close to beating out Kansas for one slot down the rung.  On the other hand, with that fat rating, maybe this isn't a surprise.

#3: Arizona 

Arizona weight gain

Holiday Weight Gain (Men): 1.06 pounds

Holiday Weight Gain (Women): 1.05 pounds

Fattest State Ranking: 35

Well, given the dry air in Arizona, you know it's not water weight.  Still, you'd think one of the 20 leanest states in the nation would do better over the holidays.  Maybe it's the Mexican food?

#2: New Jersey 

taylor ham

Holiday Weight Gain (Men): .91 pounds

Holiday Weight Gain (Women): 1.31 pounds

Fattest State Ranking: 43

We'd blame Snooki, but instead we're going to blame Taylor Ham, because it's disgusting.  Also, New Jersey is the only state where the ladies have such a large lead on the men in weight gain, although they can take consolation for being in the top 10 leanest.  We're guessing the gyms of New Jersey get very, very crowded come Black Friday.

#1: Texas

Brownies

Holiday Weight Gain (Men): 1.21

Holiday Weight Gain (Women): 1.13

Fattest State Ranking: 12

You'd think a state famous for its beef would eat protein and avoid the fatty cuts, but we're guessing that whole "everything is bigger in Texas" mentality contributes to their “victory.”  Amazingly, Texas is not number one in heart attacks: it's out of the top 10 completely.  But not for lack of trying! 

The Complete Rankings

In case you were wondering, Massachusetts puts on the least weight, with only half a pound gained.

State Men  Women  Men Per Year  Women Per Year  Avg. Per Year  Adjusted for Contro
Texas 24.2 22.6 1.21 1.13 1.17 1.35
New Jersey  18.2 26.2 0.91 1.31 1.11 1.28
Arizona 21.2 21 1.06 1.05 1.06 1.22
Oklahoma 20.7 20.8 1.04 1.04 1.04 1.20
Kansas 18.6 22.4 0.93 1.12 1.03 1.18
Nevada 18.7 21 0.94 1.05 0.99 1.14
Missouri 18.5 18.8 0.93 0.94 0.93 1.07
Tennessee 19.4 17.9 0.97 0.90 0.93 1.07
Virginia 20.2 16.7 1.01 0.84 0.92 1.06
Alaska 14.5 22.2 0.73 1.11 0.92 1.06
Maryland 18 18.6 0.90 0.93 0.92 1.05
Alabama 19.7 16 0.99 0.80 0.89 1.03
Georgia 18.6 17 0.93 0.85 0.89 1.03
California 13.5 21.7 0.68 1.09 0.88 1.01
Montana 16.6 18.1 0.83 0.91 0.87 1.00
New York 18.2 16.2 0.91 0.81 0.86 0.99
New Mexico  17.7 16.3 0.89 0.82 0.85 0.98
Arkansas 19.9 13.6 1.00 0.68 0.84 0.96
Idaho 17.8 15.5 0.89 0.78 0.83 0.96
West Virginia   17.7 15.4 0.89 0.77 0.83 0.95
Nebraska 18.5 14.5 0.93 0.73 0.83 0.95
Mississippi 16 17 0.80 0.85 0.83 0.95
United States 17.1 15.4 0.86 0.77 0.81 0.94
South Carolina 18.1 14.3 0.91 0.72 0.81 0.93
Utah 16.2 15.9 0.81 0.80 0.80 0.92
Oregon 18.2 13.5 0.91 0.68 0.79 0.91
Hawaii 16 15.1 0.80 0.76 0.78 0.90
Illinois 17.3 13.7 0.87 0.69 0.78 0.89
Washington 15.7 15.1 0.79 0.76 0.77 0.89
Ohio 17.2 13.5 0.86 0.68 0.77 0.88
Rhode Island 12.4 17.8 0.62 0.89 0.76 0.87
Kentucky 17.8 12.2 0.89 0.61 0.75 0.86
Michigan 16.7 12.8 0.84 0.64 0.74 0.85
Wyoming 13.7 15.8 0.69 0.79 0.74 0.85
South Dakota 17.9 11.2 0.90 0.56 0.73 0.84
Florida 18.2 10.6 0.91 0.53 0.72 0.83
North Carolina 18.1 10.6 0.91 0.53 0.72 0.83
New Hampshire 17.7 10.4 0.89 0.52 0.70 0.81
Connecticut 14.6 12.2 0.73 0.61 0.67 0.77
Colorado 15.5 11.1 0.78 0.56 0.67 0.77
Minnesota 12.2 14.2 0.61 0.71 0.66 0.76
Iowa 10.9 14.3 0.55 0.72 0.63 0.73
Vermont 13.1 11.7 0.66 0.59 0.62 0.71
Louisiana 17.9 6.8 0.90 0.34 0.62 0.71
Delaware 15.9 8.5 0.80 0.43 0.61 0.70
Maine 13.3 11.1 0.67 0.56 0.61 0.70
North Dakota 16.1 7.8 0.81 0.39 0.60 0.69
Pennsylvania 15.7 7.1 0.79 0.36 0.57 0.66
Wisconsin 15.9 6.3 0.80 0.32 0.56 0.64
Indiana 11.9 8.4 0.60 0.42 0.51 0.58
Massachusetts 11.7 7.9 0.59 0.40 0.49 0.56

How Does Holiday Weight Gain Happen?

Holiday beer

There are two key factors in holiday weight gain: you eat more calories, and you exercise less.

The former is pretty obvious: between the end of November and the end of December, we celebrate Thanksgiving, with lots of traditional foods stuffed with saturated fats, carbs, sugars and only one traditional source of protein (and no, the sausage in the stuffing does not count), that also can have plenty of hidden weight dangers. 

And that's not even counting travel food: sure, you bring a healthy snack or two, but you can't exactly get a full healthy high-protein meal past the TSA and into the terminal, and one flight delay can mean you're stuck eating fast food.  Then there's all those empty calories of alcohol lurking: the day before Thanksgiving is traditionally known as the biggest drinking day of the year.  Needless to say, New Year's Eve is not far behind.

Physical activity also dwindles during the holidays.  Part of the problem is that we hit the road, which essentially means we're sitting around doing nothing for a good chunk of time, with all that aforementioned bad food.  Secondly, when we get where we're going, there may not be a gym to hit, and we doubt it's open on the holiday itself.  And finally, you probably don't want to make the entire family join you for a five mile run, so even the most intense exercise fanatic eases off for at least a day or two.  

Adding to all this are your own instincts, which can betray you.  Some scientists believe that we like to pack on a few pounds over the winter because fat helps contain body heat, increasing our odds of survival. Our bodies still think we live in caves and hunt squirrels for lunch, so having some fat on you is a good way to avoid starving to death.  Remember: our brains still think fat is a limited resource, not abundant in pretty much everything we eat now.

Still, in the end, it's a pretty simple equation: lots of calories in plus fewer calories out equals a bit more rubber on the spare tire.

Avoiding Holiday Weight Gain

So, how do you keep your state out of the top five...or just keep that pound or so of holiday weight far, far away?  Plan your workouts with WeightTraining.com.  Weight training is the best way to burn fat and to burn fat faster, and we've got the tools for you to design a diet and workout plan to keep the weight off, even if the gym is closed.  So, give yourself a gift this holiday, and plan to lose weight with WeightTraining.com.

1 Comment
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    David Blessman over 2 years ago #

    So glad Minnesota is down the list.

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