If I’ve worked with you in a face-to-face setting, I’ve probably told you this story, but it’s worth repeating. So about 5 years ago I was hosting Thanksgiving. We had everything you’d expect of a Thanksgiving dinner. There was turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, pie and so on. Well one person in my family looked at the pie and said, “Well if I have that slice of pie, I’ll need to take a walk around the block”. Without thinking about it, I looked at the slice and said, well that slice probably has 600 calories in it, and the average man burns about 100 calories per mile, so you’d probably have to walk around the block like 30 times. I could see the look on their face… I totally just ruined that slice of pie. That was not my intention, and I apologized… it is sort of an occupational hazard. However, here is the point.
We Underestimate How Much We Eat and Overestimate How Much We Burn
The point is, unless you’re trained in nutrition you will almost always underestimate the number of calories you’ve eaten and almost always overestimate the calories you burned. We can consume calories exponentially faster than we can burn them. The other problem is here in the United States we largely suffer from food dysmorphia, meaning from a visual standpoint we have an inaccurate perception of how much food we should have. For example, a portion of mashed potatoes should be about as much as you can fit in a cupped hand but most of us will have a portion more like the size of our fist. A serving of turkey should be the size and thickness of our palm. A serving of gravy the size of our thumb, and our vegetables the size of our fist.
Strategies For the Holidays
Of course, it is not lost on me that Thanksgiving is a holiday where we historically overeat. In fact, we typically overeat at every holiday. What I would say to that is come up with a couple strategies that allow you the enjoyment of taste without going overboard. For example, you can try to eat lighter throughout the day to make up for what you’ll be consuming later. You can also eat something before you go to the holiday event, so you aren't so hungry that you're compelled to over-eat. Another strategy is to eat one serving, have 16 ounces of water, wait 10 minutes then if you're still hungry have another serving. If you can make it through the holidays without gaining weight that’s a victory and I’ll tell you why.
Why Maintaining Your Weight During the Holiday Season is a Victory
Weight gain and obesity have long been a multi-faceted issue but holidays play a significant role. It is estimated that people gain 1-2 pounds per year from early adulthood through middle age. So if you’re 150 pounds at 20 years old you’ll likely weight 170 by 30 years old, 190 by 40, 200 by 50. These are only averages, and I use them to illustrate the following point. It stands to reason that this 1-2 pounds of weight gain likely happen largely over the holidays and holiday season. It might not be Thanksgiving alone. It may be the combination of left over candy from trick or treat, Christmas cookies, baked pies during fall, apple cider etc. However, if you can keep your weight level through the holidays it’ll go a long way to maintaining your weight over the long term.
Examine How You Think and Feel About Strategically Restricting Your Food
While strategies go a long way, it should first be noted that strategies only work if you use them. Often, we side-step these strategies, or give ourselves “exeptions” because we don’t want to deprive ourselves. So, if you feel like you’re depriving yourself, you may want to ask yourself why you feel that way, and what might a good compromise look like? It's all about priorities. If you really want the desert perhaps go without the mashed potatoes or some other dish. If we are a slave to our desires we can never truly be free. Let me close with this. I’ve never heard of anyone on their death bed saying… if they had to do it again, they’d eat more pie. Typically, what people wish for at the end is more time with loved ones, or having traveled more, or having mended broken relationships. Therefore If you want more time with those you love, and you want it to be quality pain-free time, it is absolutely crucial you take charge of your health and fitness. There will always be another pie… but you may not always have another holiday to spend with those you love, and isn’t time with those we love the very foundation of what holidays are all about?