Intended for healthcare professionals

Editorials Christmas 2018: Food for Thought

Bringing harmony to public health debates about food

BMJ 2018; 363 doi: (Published 12 December 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;363:k5028
  1. Jean Adams, senior lecturer
  1. Centre for Diet & Activity Research, MRC Epidemiology Unit, University of Cambridge School of Clinical Medicine, Institute of Metabolic Science, Cambridge Biomedical Campus, Cambridge CB2 0QQ, UK
  1. jma79{at}

Abandon unhelpful ideologies and seek the common ground

Christmas is coming, and it’s not just the geese that are getting fat. Celebrations over the holidays often revolve around gathering and feasting. In the northern hemisphere, baby it’s cold outside and the long, silent nights may contribute to seasonal variations in physical activity.12 Together, increased opportunities for eating and decreased propensity for physical activity likely contribute to the 0.4-0.9 kg weight gain found in adults home for the holidays.3

Mason and colleagues (doi:10.1136/bmj.k4867) target prevention of weight gain over the bleak midwinter holidays.4 Their intervention combined regular self weighing with written information describing seasonally adapted “10 Top Tips” to help habit formation,5 and a list of the physical activity caloric equivalents of common holiday foods they checked twice. Their randomised trial found an adjusted mean difference of −0.5 kg in weight gain at 4-8 weeks in the intervention group compared with controls.

It is intuitively attractive to focus on preventing weight gain during, rather than achieving weight loss after, the holidays. But focusing on individual weight change perhaps deals with the symptom, rather than the cause. Environmental factors are increasingly recognised to be potent determinants …

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