Nutrition Articles

Thanksgiving Survival Guide

Make it Through the Day...Guilt-Free

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A gathering of close friends and family is one of the happiest times of year for all of us. Celebrations like Thanksgiving can distract us from our everyday worries…but they can distract us from our diets too. Here’s what you need to know so that the only thing you’re "adding on" this holiday is joy.

A Small Glimpse Into Reality

Counting Calories
The average American will consume more than 4,500 calories and 229 grams of fat on Thanksgiving Day alone, according to the Caloric Control Council. Surprisingly, most of these calories come from the all-day snacking in front of the TV while watching parades and sporting events.

The Truth about Fat
So what happens to all those extra calories? Caloric intake above your total daily energy expenditure (calories in > calories out) is converted into droplets, which are gobbled up by your fat cells. One pound of fat is equivalent to 3,500 calories.

Luckily, following puberty, the body has developed all of its fat cells. Unfortunately, fat cells can never go away. Although they can shrink, you can never actually get rid of the cell itself.

How Many Pounds?
There’s good and bad news here. You’ve probably heard that the average person gains 7-10 pounds between Thanksgiving and the New Year. However, a joint study conducted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Medical University of South Carolina found that the average person’s weight gain is just over one pound. Sounds harmless, but…

The researchers found that the extra weight is stubborn—still present a year later on 85% of study participants. Gaining one extra pound each year can add up significantly, especially if it ends up sticking around forever, as the study suggests.

You’re Getting Very, Very…very…sleepy
Americans consume over 675 million pounds of turkey on Thanksgiving Day! Although turkey contains a natural sedative called Tryptophan, the chemical doesn’t have a large effect because it’s mixed with everything else you eat. That "food coma" you experience is actually the result of your body working overtime to digest all that food!
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Member Comments

  • SYDVISH
    Pfft, I'm just not going to worry about it on Thanksgiving. I have a friend who is a body builder and when I asked her what she did on the holidays she said "Just remember its a holiday, not a holiweek". I will also avoid unhealthy fillers like chips and dip but I'm not going to be super guilty about one day on indulgence. - 11/25/2015 10:05:15 AM
  • NIAMIBUNNI
    Don't talk about weight loss, getting healthy, or any changes you are making to be healthy if you can.

    Enablers love to push food and extra servings if they know you are being successful with getting healthy. - 11/23/2015 3:07:58 PM
  • Trying Stevia in my pumpkin pie this year! I hope it turns out okay! - 11/23/2015 9:59:14 AM
  • A lot of really good information here. I would like to offer one thing, for anyone who suffers from a liver disease, do not use anything artificial. It put added strain on your liver and is not healthy for you. If you need to eat sweet, use the real stuff or honey, just keep in mind the weight issues. You can learn to eat things without adding anything to them, the foods natural tastes come out and are good. We just are a society of have to have's or its not good. Remember...your liver processes everything you take into your body, eat, through the skin, breath in, so be good to your liver and it will give you more time to be around and enjoy family and friends. - 11/22/2015 1:09:34 PM
  • A lot of really good information here. I would like to offer one thing, for anyone who suffers from a liver disease, do not use anything artificial. It put added strain on your liver and is not healthy for you. If you need to eat sweet, use the real stuff or honey, just keep in mind the weight issues. You can learn to eat things without adding anything to them, the foods natural tastes come out and are good. We just are a society of have to have's or its not good. Remember...your liver processes everything you take into your body, eat, through the skin, breath in, so be good to your liver and it will give you more time to be around and enjoy family and friends. - 11/22/2015 1:09:34 PM
  • BOOKNUT52
    Someone I met once shared a good method to avoid other people insisting you eat more, which puts so much pressure on you to overeat when otherwise you are doing OK with handling the holiday. She says, make a regular plate of food, and then keep it with you. Then people seem to think you are joining in to the full! Later you can put it in something to take home, so the food isn't wasted. Providentially, I have a husband who doesn't mind eating the things I'm avoiding! This works well at parties too, if you can stand walking around or sitting near all that food.
    - 11/22/2015 4:43:53 AM
  • DUBIGOOD
    I have worked too hard to let the holidays sabotage my good work..I will enjoy but I will focus on friends and fun and let food be the "crazy uncle Joe" enjoy but carefully.Keep tabs on "him"....Usually my hubby and I share dessert..Drink lots of water.And GIVE THANKS!!I give Thanks for SPARK PEOPLE!! Y'all have changed my life.....Oceans of Manilove to y'all!!!! - 11/22/2015 1:34:38 AM
  • Nima...- I love your ideas. I cook the food for my Mom at her house, then bring home the leftovers. This year I will pack a few take home plates for myself. Make a few for her since she is 95 and does not cook much. Then I am packing some take home cartons to send with my sons and their families. No leftovers to take home except my plates.

    Plus I will try to exercise while cooking with other suggestions.

    Have a great Thanksgiving. - 11/22/2014 1:06:05 PM
  • ETHELMERZ
    Why is there always this dumb "guilt" thing sent out there about any holiday? If you feel "guilty" about eating something extra on a holiday, stay home in your room by yourself. It's not gonna kill you to eat something extra on a holiday, the next day you go back to your usual plan, whatever it is. Unless you are yanking food out of someone else's mouth to eat, no need to feel this holiday "Guilt" junk!! - 11/14/2014 1:58:14 PM
  • I've been bringing my own food for about 4 years now, since I lost 50 lbs. I'm not crazy about the whole Thanksgiving feast, especially since the in-laws feast is very fat-laden, greasy foods, even the vegetables. I started adding a baked pork tenderloin and steamed veggies, but they aren't going to eat anything outside of their norm, and criticize the "uncooked" veggies, and the fact the pork has no gravy, etc.

    So now, I bring what I will eat, and if I have dessert, it is normally just one piece and maybe a piece for another day, but I don't bring anything else home, especially the entire cherry pie that she insists she buys just for me.

    Everyone should enjoy their Thanksgiving their way. Without a ton of waste. - 11/14/2014 10:33:49 AM
  • MANZANAPAINT
    Okay I find it really hard to believe that Americans eat almost 700 pounds of turkey on Thanksgiving. That's more than 2 pounds a person (and I'm sure babies eat those 2 pounds as well). Anyway, my calories come from the pie :) - 11/11/2012 11:18:43 PM
  • Cook plenty of fresh autumn vegetables. That's certainly in keeping with the tradition. Roast some colorful root vegetables. Have a raw veggie tray. Try a new butternut squash soup. Yummmmm! - 11/11/2012 7:02:20 PM
  • Not only did this article really help me feel better prepared and less worried about the upcoming holidays but it also got me to thinking about something. I've of course known the 3,500 number for years, since it's important to know for weight loss, and of course we all know that it's the extra calories that get converted to fat. But it was the way this author described it that really struck me. Doing the math: I'm roughly 100 pounds over my ideal weight. This means I have 350,000 unused calories, accumulated over 23 years, sitting in my body still waiting to be used. That really painted an amazing picture for me, and not a negative one but a positive. It's time to cash in all those 350,000 calories and put them to good use! Come on, calories, sitting time is over, you've got work to do, let's go! PS I can picture all those little fat globules saying, "Finally, we get to do something, yay!!!" :) - 11/11/2012 6:11:03 PM
  • This article was really helpful and had some great reminders. I always have to tell myself to be realistic and remember, "maintaining is better than gaining".
    :) - 11/11/2012 4:31:57 PM
  • Thanksgiving and Xmas are always tough! I just remember to balance it out throughout the day within my calorie intake and I know it will all work out just fine. It takes the bricks off your shoulders when you have that in place to follow. Balance, balance, balance. :) Everyone have a wonderful Thanksgiving! I know I will. - 11/11/2012 1:37:36 PM

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