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Holiday Eating

Rory Karpf, a producer and writer for NFL Films, interviewed me recently on his Fitness Fiend radio show (www.fitnessfiend.com). He asked if I had any advice on eating at Thanksgiving and other festive occasions. My response probably came as a surprise to most of his listeners: "Enjoy yourself, because you canít get fat in one day." Some may have thought I was joking or making a flip remark. But I was quite serious.

Psychology plays a large role in successful eating strategies. Trying to exercise restraint when a holiday feast is spread out before you is psychologically unsound, to say the least. Turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, sweet potatoes, pecan pie Ė makes my mouth water just typing the words. Whoís kidding who? Denying yourself on such occasions is bound to bring on the Mother of all binges. Youíll be eating your head off for a week.

Enjoy yourself, eat all you can hold -- as I always do -- and youíll be happy to go back to healthy eating the next day; youíll be in complete control. If you handle it correctly, your weight will be back to normal in three or four days. That means not taking any food home. If youíre eating at grandmaís house or someplace else outside the home, politely refuse the inevitable offers to take stuff home. If youíre eating at home, get rid of the festive fare Ė we usually talk guests into taking leftovers home and put the really bad stuff down the disposal. At the very least put everything away, get it out of sight. Freezing is usually a good option for food you canít bring yourself to throw away.

If youíre at all like me, you wonít want any more holiday food Ė unless itís staring you in the face. If I can see it, smell it , reach it, Iím in trouble; because I want it. (Whatís the old joke? I never eat anything I canít reach; thatís me.) If itís out of sight, however, Iím happy to go back to my regular eating pattern. Iím satisfied. I really donít want another drumstick.

Iím serious about your weight being back to normal in a few days -- if you stop eating the fattening foods. I know, because it happens to me about five times a year, after every big holiday. I eat my fill, and then some. The next day I weigh as much as three pounds more, but Iím back to normal in short order. Itís as if the holiday meal never happened. Itís not magic; itís simple arithmetic and body mechanics.

A pound of fat contains about 3500 calories, which represents a lot of food. To gain a pound of fat you have to eat 3500 extra calories, on top of what you normally eat. Thatís really pretty hard to do. Your stomach can only hold so much food. Itís almost impossible to gain a pound or more of fat in one day. If you eat the bulky salad and vegetables that are served along with Tom turkey and the rest, youíll be as stuffed as the turkey Ė before you can do too much damage.

The pounds that show up on the scale the next day are mostly water, from the extra salt in holiday meals. It goes away in a few days of normal eating, especially if you drink lots of water to flush out your system. Another factor at work is your body fat setpoint, which operates to keep your body fat on an even keel. You have to cooperate, however.

Knowledgeable dieters know that the metabolism slows down when calories are severely restricted. When calories are scarce, the body goes into survival mode and makes every calorie count; it starts handling food more efficiently to protect its fat stores. Itís like budgeting when money is short, you body stretches every calorie.

It works the other way as well. When you take in extra calories, the body revs up the metabolism; it wastes the excess calories to curtail unnecessary fat deposits and keep your body operating at maximum efficiency. Itís a great system Ė if you donít screw it up. The bodyís wonderful balancing mechanism can only do so much. It can be overridden -- if you donít do your part. Keep stuffing down the fattening food day after day, and you will get fat. (See The Lean Advantage for more information on your body fat setpoint.)

So eat up. Enjoy yourself. But donít keep stuffing your face. Go back to healthy eating Ė and exercising..

Ripped Enterprises, 528 Chama, N.E., Albuquerque, New Mexico 87108, Phone (505) 266-5858, e-mail:  cncbass@aol.com, fax: (505) 266-9123.

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