Let the 6 week feast begin. Feast one, Thanksgiving: A table filled with a 20 pound turkey, 2 pounds of stuffing, 3 pans of potatoes (regular, cheesy, and sweet potatoes), green bean casserole, cranberries, relish tray, pumpkin pie, apple pie, pecan pie, ice cream, bars, wine and more wine. Sounds like one amazing stomach ache! And all for just 1 of my 3 meals during the day!
With all that food, will I truly gain 5, 10, 15 pounds from Thanksgiving through New Years?
Is it damaging to consume these high calorie meals?
Do I need to “diet” around the holidays?
The answer to holiday eating is to apply what you are currently doing. Meaning, no, you don’t need to diet but rather,don’t change what you are currently doing! In a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine they found that on average, adult Americans of “normal weight” (body mass index between 18-25) actually gained just one pound during the period from mid-November through New Year’s Day. However, even though the average person may only gain one pound per year during the holidays they don’t tend to lose that one pound. Therefore, an individual tends to increase their overall weight throughout the years. For individuals who are overweight or obese (body mass index greater than 25), be careful as the one pound weight gain for people of normal weight can mean five or more pounds of weight gain for yourself!
Nevertheless, weight gain is confusing. For instance, have you ever had a weekend where you thought you didn’t fall off the healthy bandwagon until you stepped on the scale and the number increase incrementally? The good news about this incremental weight gain is that its not fat. For instance, if you saw an increase of 5 pounds over a holiday weekend, 4 days, that would mean an individual would have to consume an extra 17,500 calories. You may think, ‘I could eat 17,500 calories over this 4 day binge no problem.’ That may be the case but you have to remember that you will burn calories as well. These calories are required for your heart to beat, for you to breathe, for your brain to function, etc. Essentially, given an average metabolism, you would have to consume an extra 17,500 calories over a 4 day period.
The average person burns roughly 2,000 calories in a day. Over a 4 day holiday weekend, this person would burn a total of 8,000 calories without exercising. That means to gain 5 pounds you would need to consume a total of 25,500 calories over the 4 day weekend. That’s 6,375 calories per day! That’s a lot of calories. According to the American Council on Exercise, the average American will consume 4,500 calories on Thanksgiving day. That’s no where near the required 6,375 needed to jump start this 5 pound weight gain. And remember, you’d need to consume 6,375 calories everyday over the weekend to gain 5 pounds.
So why does your scale read 5 pounds heavier? It’s due to water retention. Think of all the salt, alcohol, and lack of physical activity that has occurred over the holidays. All these things makes individuals accumulate water. Therefore, once you start moving and consuming everyday foods and amounts that extra water weight will go away.
If you want to avoid water weight gain, avoid consuming lots of alcohol, appetizers, salty snacks, and sitting on the couch. Make a point to stay out of the kitchen and away from all appetizers, avoid going back for seconds, and get up and move!
Happy Healthy Thanksgiving!