The 2011 holiday season is upon us, so it’s time to remind ourselves how those holiday feasts can really pack on the pounds if your aren’t paying attention. Sure the holiday season is a time to indulge, so go ahead and treat yourself. But if you do it with the right intention, you’ll be able to enjoy the festivities and still feel good about yourself.
First, remember that the body works on a simple formula: energy in minus energy out equals energy stored. Or put another way: food eaten – activity = fat stored. Now, fat can either be stored or lost depending on the balance of the other side of the equation. If activity exceeds food eaten, there will be a negative result in the fat stored, or a net fat loss. Let’s look at some real numbers, but first let’s better understand what the activity part of the equation really means.
By “activity”, I’m referring to the body’s Total Metabolic Rate (TMR). The TMR is the sum of the Basil Metabolic Rate (BMR), plus exercise and all physical activity, plus the energy used in digesting food, plus the energy used to adjust to external temperature. For most people the TMR for women is around 2000 calories per day and for men is about 2500 calories per day. (Calculate your personal TMR here) So basically, if you consume more food calories than your TMR in a day, you’ll start storing fat. If you consume fewer food calories than your TMR in a day, you’ll start losing fat.
Remember, that a pound of fat is about 3500 calories. That’s way more than most people’s daily TMR and part of the reason that fat loss takes time. However, just 100 extra calories a day is enough to add a pound of fat by the end of a month! Now, granted body metabolism is a bit more complicated than I’m illustrating here, but I hope you get the idea, especially when faced with the variety of holiday food choice ahead of you over the next month.
My suggestion: instead of focusing only on one meal, like Thanksgiving, look at your total caloric intake and total metabolic rate over the course of a week. This gives you much more flexibility to make adjustments on either side of the minus sign. That way you can increase your weekly physical activity to compensate for a big Thanksgiving meal.
Just for fun, here’s a neat little holiday calorie counter to help illustrate the balance between calories in and calories out. Enjoy it, and enjoy your holiday season with lots of festivities and lots of fun physical activity to balance your equation.