Somehow, Thanksgiving is in only two days. I really don’t know where time has gone but it’s out of my control so I just go with it. With that being said, this can be a stressful time of year. The holidays are here, you need to buy gifts for Christmas, and it always feels like you’re running around like a chicken with its head cut-off. On top of that, the dreaded Thanksgiving dinner is here. Why is it dreaded you ask? Because it’s a smorgasbord of the most calorically dense foods all packed into one meal. Thanksgiving is the day where all fitness goals go to die (That might be a bit of an exaggeration.)
Tell me if this scenario sounds familiar:
You wake up at 6:00am on Thanksgiving morning because you’re hosting dinner at your house and you have to get everything started. The turkey, the potatoes, the cranberry sauce, the gravy, the pumpkin and pecan pie, the green bean casserole, and stuffing. You turn on the Macy’s Day Parade and get to work.
Because you’re busy trying to get everything prepared, you forget to eat breakfast and lunch. You’re so focused on “getting it on the plate” (That’s a Chopped reference if you didn’t catch it) that nothing else in your life matters during this time. Your kids are fighting in the living room over whose turn it is to play with the drone but you just ignore them because you don’t want to burn the gravy.
You finally finish cooking at 1:27pm but your family will be at your house at 2:00pm so you have to hustle to get ready. You sprint down the stairs, buttoning your pants as you hear the doorbell ring. It’s your in-laws and they’re early (Like always.) Everyone finally arrives around 2:00pm and the festivities begin. Because you skipped eating breakfIt turns out to be a successful day
Because you skipped eating breakfast and lunch, you’re starving and want to eat everything in sight. You sit down after you eat, unbutton your pants because it feels like your stomach is going to explode and pass out from your food coma.
You wake up the next morning and out of habit, you step on the scale. “HOLY S#*!!!!” Your spouse runs into the bathroom as if they think something serious happened to you only to find out that you’re standing on the scale in disbelief. You’re 5lbs heavier than you were two days ago. “How could this have happened? How could I have gained 5lbs in one day!?”
You panic, immediately throw your sauna suit on and jump on your treadmill where you spend the next two hours. You eat like a bird and weigh yourself the next morning. You’re still up 3lbs. You repeat the cycle over and over again until the weight finally settles out to where you were just a few days ago.
At this point of reading so far, you’re probably thinking “Hell no, I’m skipping Thanksgiving dinner this year.” But that’s exactly what I’m going to get into. I’m going to tell you 3 reasons why you shouldn’t avoid eating on Thanksgiving. Don’t feel like you’re alone. There are many people who are in the same boat as you (I used to be there too.) I’m going to show you how you can eat your turkey and have it too (What does that even mean?)
Weight Gain Is Normal
If the example above sounds similar to you, then I want to put that to rest. There are a lot of ways our body can hold weight and weight doesn’t always mean fat. If you categorize it, it would be considered fat mass and fat-free mass. Fat-free mass is anything such as muscle, bones, glycogen, water etc while fat mass is obviously just fat. If you weigh yourself the day before Thanksgiving and you’re 150lbs and then you weigh yourself the day after and you’re 153-155lbs, that weight is most likely, going to be fat-free mass.
Glycogen, a component of fat-free mass, is how our body stores carbohydrates in the body. For example, if you eat a piece of bread, it’s broken down into glucose and then stored in the body 3 ways. Either as glycogen in the muscle, glycogen in the liver, or as fat. If you normally exercise, your body will have an increased capacity to store glycogen in the muscle because that is the body’s preferred fuel source while exercising. It adapts to the stress of exercise by being able to store more glycogen. If your glycogen stores in the body are full and you continue to eat carbohydrates, then there is no other place for the glucose to be stored other than in your fat cells.
Water, which is another component of fat-free mass, can have very big shifts in the body depending on a few things. First, depending on how much water you’re drinking, your body will hold or excrete a certain amount due to this. What I mean is that, if you’re constantly drinking water, your body is going to be excreting more water meaning that you’ll be making more trips to the bathroom than normal. If you aren’t drinking water then your body holds onto the water inside by releasing a hormone called anti-diuretic hormone that prevents the loss of water from the body.
Fat, which makes up your bodies fat mass, is accumulated by overeating. Roughly 3500 calories makes up a pound of fat. This, however, doesn’t mean that just by eating 3500 calories that you will automatically gain weight. Your body is constantly burning calories as well just by living. You burn calories when you eat (Called the thermic effect of food) and you burn calories when you’re at rest (Called resting metabolic rate). These make up your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE). For example, if your TDEE is 1500 calories then it would take you 5000 calories to gain a pound of fat. See how that works out?
With all of that being said, your weight will most likely fluctuate after eating Thanksgiving dinner but that’s 100% OK. If it goes up a few pounds this is most likely going to be from more stored glycogen from the mashed potatoes and stuffing you ate as well as an increase in water retention from all of the salt and sodium that is used to cook and season these foods with (water also follows glycogen in the body so if you have more stored glycogen then you will have more water retention.)
“How do I get my weight to drop back to where it was?” Good question! All it’s going to take is a few days of normal water consumption (around 64oz), your normal activity and exercise, and your normal eating habits.
I hope that explained the Thanksgiving Dinner weight gain situation and settled any worries you might have!
It’s All About Your Family
- Have you ever skipped eating Thanksgiving dinner because you’re worried about the extra calories?
- Have you ever skipped on Thanksgiving dinner altogether because you had to go workout?
- Have you ever been so focused on just the food that you forget what Thanksgiving is all about?
If you answered yes to any of the questions above, don’t feel bad because I’ve done the same thing. Unfortunately, trying to live a healthy lifestyle can overrun your life if not handled correctly. In my opinion, this isn’t a healthy lifestyle anymore because you need to have a healthy balance of everything in life to be considered “healthy” (health is more than just physical looks.)
I want to try and ease your mind about skipping out on Thanksgiving. How many times have you eaten pizza, ice cream, cookies, cake etc and a few days after, looked the exact same as you did before that? Probably all the time. How many times have you skipped a workout, made up for it the next day, and still made progress? Probably all the time.
Fitness and health isn’t about perfection, it’s about progress. You don’t have to be perfect to make progress. Make the most out of the days where you can control your eating and exercise so that when days like Thanksgiving or Christmas come around, you have the flexibility to enjoy yourself and don’t have to worry about what you’re eating or skipping a workout.
Thanksgiving should be focused on spending time with your family. There is always going to be another day to workout. There is always going to be another day where you can eat healthy. But your family isn’t always going to be there. Relax, eat good-tasting food, and most importantly, spend as much time with your family on that day as you can.
Thanksgiving Dinner Can Actually Help You Lose Weight
This might’ve just blown your mind or you’ve totally written me off as an idiot after saying that and will probably never read anything that I write again. If either one of those is you, bear with me for a few more minutes so I can explain.
If your focus at the moment is to lose weight, then you’ve probably been eating in a calorie deficit for some time now. A calorie deficit just means that you’re eating less calories than your burning (The inverse is a calorie surplus meaning you’re eating more than you’re burning which will lead to weight gain.) If you eat in a calorie deficit for any length of time, your body will adapt to this calorie intake by decreasing certain hormones.
Leptin is the major hormone in the body that you’re playing with as you try to lose weight. As you eat in a calorie deficit, leptin is responsible for energy expenditure, your metabolism, and hunger. This is why you feel hungrier the less food you eat. Also, as you eat in a calorie deficit, leptin levels drop and so does your metabolism. Your body doesn’t want to burn body fat so it will do anything it can to preserve it by dropping your leptin levels. After a prolonged period of being in a calorie deficit, you might notice that your weight loss stalls. This is primarily due to what I’ve talked about above.
How do you fix this? There are many names for it, but one of the more popular names is called a refeed. This means that you eat in a calorie surplus for that day (eat more calories than you burn) and basically trick your body into thinking that the diet is over and it can increase leptin. After this refeed day (in your case, Thanksgiving dinner) your leptin levels will be raised once again and your weight loss plateau will now be over!
Now you can not only enjoy and indulge in Thanksgiving dinner, but you can actually lose weight from it as well!
PS I wanted to say that the weight loss from this day won’t happen immediately. The day after, your weight will probably still be a bit higher than normal but after 3-7 days, it will be lower from where you started!
I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday and enjoys good tasting food and time with your family. For this day, your fitness gets put on the back burner. No thinking or talking about it. After it’s over, then you get back on the right track but for that day, it’s out of sight, out of mind.
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