Happy Thanksgiving. This is the start of the holiday overeating season. It’s a tough time of year for a lot of people for various reasons, and the stress of it all often leads to weight gain. Whether it’s eating in front of the computer to meet deadlines, such as NaNoWriMo; holiday parties; or just generalized stress from the season, it creates some unique eating behaviors in people. There are some interesting statistics around holiday weight gain—the average weight gain is only a pound, but that pound tends not to ever come back off. Even more fascinating, already overweight individuals tend to put on 5 to 7 pounds.

So, how DOES the health-conscious writer make it through the holiday season without having to let their belt out a notch?

Just so you know, buying all new clothes or switching to elastic-waist pants is cheating. Let’s talk about a real solution.

Most people writing columns similar to this take one of two stances. The first group typically says that you just need to count your calories, stay reasonable, and lower your expectations. The other group talks about how it’s only one day, and that it takes 3,500 calories to gain a pound, and says, “don’t worry about it.”

My approach blends both of these theories, and it is something you can use every day for the rest of your life. It also closely represents how our bodies process food and send hunger signals.

First of all, forget about daily caloric totals. Note, I did not tell you to stop keeping track of what you eat!

Instead, keep track of your weekly and monthly averages. That way, you are not worrying about coming in at exactly 1,500 calories (or whatever that magical number is for you) every single day. The idea is to work to get your averages to 1,500 calories. This gives you the wiggle-room you need to live your life.

One day—or 24 hours—is an arbitrary number from our body’s standpoint. And, it’s fairly meaningless in the great scheme of all things weight-loss:

* In one day you can really blow your caloric totals for the week. A couple pieces of pizza (1 slice ~300 cals), ice cream (a pint of Cherry Garcia = 520 cals), and a piece of pie after every meal (1 slice pumpkin pie = 230 cals).

* Activity levels impact how hungry we are. It makes sense that if you work extra hard for a few days, you will want more food, and vice versa.

* Hormones and other internal rhythms affect our hunger levels.

* Stress and emotion can cause us to overeat or undereat.

If one day ends up at 1,200 calories because you got busy and forgot to eat, that’s fine. If another day you eat 1,800 because you had a cookie, don’t worry about it. Just know that you will need to make that up some time soon.

As discussed in last month’s column: The 3 P’s – Plan, Practice & Pace, eating is a marathon, not a sprint.


Jen Waak is a Seattle-based movement coach who uses a system that combines eastern philosophy with western medicine to reprogram the nervous system and get people out of pain, moving better, and feeling younger. jen@movefitfun.com.


Comments are closed.

  1. Kurt Harthun 12 years ago

    Hey there!!!

    I like the direction you go with the holiday eating!! I see alot of people trying to ‘diet’ here when the should be changing their long term actions ( food choices, portions, activities) to achieve a long LASTING goal. The 5-7# gain for overweight people is interesting – i guess i’m in trouble.

  2. Debra Eckerling 12 years ago

    Great theory, Jen. Here’s a question: How do you know your “magic number,” as far as daily calories are concerned? Thanks!

  3. Author
    Jen 12 years ago

    Thanks, Kurt. I really believe it’s a marathon, and not a sprint. One day really isn’t the end of everything, but one day every week is enough to disrupt weight loss plans.

    Deb, the way to find your magical number is a bit art and a bit science. 1400-1800 cals/day seems to be the magical range for most people, and from there it’s a lot of trial and error. There are a lot of different formulas out there, but at the end of the day when the data is collected from those that have maintained an ideal weight for a number of years, that seems to be the magical range.

  4. […] Jen’s Gems … for the Healthy Writer: Avoid Becoming a Holiday Weight-Gain Statistic by Seattle-based movement and fitness coach Jennifer Waak […]

  5. […] Go with the flow and adopt a caloric averaging technique. Rather than trying to shoot for a fixed number every day, shoot for a weekly and monthly caloric average so you can just let life happen. By averaging your days together, you are going to learn to better listen to your body, and make it OK to eat more or less based upon your mood, hormones, activity levels and life events. I talk more about this in my Jen’s Gem’s for the Healthy Writer column. […]


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