Thanksgiving is upon us, busy travel days are here again, and routines get routinely thrown out the window in the process. It’s not because we don’t have time to fit EVERYTHING into our schedule such as work, buying gifts, flying on a jet plane, eating Aunt Nana’s banana bread (and the icing isn’t sweet at all). I remember the days of flying up to Pittsburgh to visit relatives and running into Aunt Nana inevitably.
She ALWAYS had a banana bread ready, at all time, to give to guests; albeit they would be down in the basement freezer every time instead of the refrigerator on the 1st floor. Would she just make enormous amounts of cake and freeze it, or was this cake from back in the 50’s, down in that freezer for God knows how long…
But I digress…..
The holidays are great, you get to see the family all in one place again, get to eat some really good food, play games, watch movies and eat snacks. Everyone knows about the holiday bulge: the time of year that we slow down to appreciate family and friends, but seem to fall out of anything closely related to a fitness routine. Maybe it’s because you travel far and wide and back in the stix your parents live in there isn’t a decent gym in 50 miles either way, or maybe there are a ton of choices close to where you are staying, but you don’t like any of them.
What to do, what to do.
Let’s clarify that the holiday season is a 6-week winter period from Thanksgiving (November 24) through New Year (Jan 1)
First, let’s get a little fact out of the way. A recent study published by National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) in the March 23 edition of the NEJM (New England Journal of Medicine) shows that the average weight gain during the holidays is 1lb for people that are of average weight for their size. If we equate that to calories, it’s about 3500 of those little measurements of heat.
Another study done at Tufts University showed that people that were already overweight for their size gained about 5lbs. Once again, let’s take the 3500 calorie rule and multiply it by 5 to get a whopping 17,500 calories. The study also stated weight gain for the rest of us at “weight gain during the 6-week holiday season explained 51% of annual weight gain”.
These are lbs most of us never lose.
Let’s think about a few key differences in between those of us that are of “average” weight (AW) and those of us that are “above average weight” (AAW). AW people tend to eat according to conscious dietary needs, with most having the thought “its only 1 time of year that I get to eat like this, might as well enjoy it”. If we can also ascertain that AW people MAY have a fitness routine during the rest of the year, 3500 calories (1lb) is not that detrimental.
But for those AW people that seem to have gifted genetics that don’t train, age will always catch up with them, and that 1lb gets harder to lose every year we age.
For those that are AAW, we can ascertain that most do not have a regular fitness routine and eat according to hunger. Remember though that the more weight you carry, the more calories your body requires just to stay the same (in bodybuilders this is very important that they keep up caloric intake to match or increase to stay the same or gain bulk) and the processes that control hunger change in those that are AAW. Leptin and Grehlin are 2 major hormones that control hunger. People that are AAW have decreased affinity for Leptin receptors which signal the end of hunger, but also have increased production of Grehlin to stimulate hunger to accommodate the body’s energy needs.
Now that we understand a little of what happens during the holidays, let’s think of a few ways to counteract the additional lbs we inevitably gain. One easy thing to do is to take part in what most areas around the country call the “Turkey Trot”. Not only does this become a fun, social event, but it also puts you into a negative energy balance at the start of the day. This allows you to be a little more generous in the servings of turkey, stuffing, cakes and pies that will be consumed later in the day.
Another quick idea is to see if there is any wood to chop (more for those up north). Not only is chopping wood calorically demanding, but it’s also a great anaerobic endurance exercise that can produce large amounts of EPOC (excessive post exercise oxygen consumption). EPOC generally governs how many calories you continue to burn after the activity, also helping put you in a negative caloric balance.
The most important thing to take from this is to not let your travel schedule ruin your fitness routine. Buy a TRX, go buy a day pass at the gym, go for a run, do some calisthenics. It doesn’t matter what you do, it just matters that you do it.
That way you can enjoy food with your family without guilt or fear of weight gain.
Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!