There are a wide range of estimates pinpointing the amount of weight Americans gain over the holidays, but one thing is for sure – you know it when you feel it. On the heels of the average American consuming more than 4,500 calories on Thanksgiving Day, it's no wonder that for many "Black Friday" can feel like "Fat Friday." Whether it's .2 pounds or two full pounds, gaining weight at the start of the holiday season can set the stage for a fattening few weeks and ultimately lead to permanent weight gain, but the good news is "Black Friday" doesn't have to be "Fat Friday."
Nutrisystem, the nation's leading provider of home delivery weight loss programs, explained why this is a key dieting juncture and issued a series of related tips to help people get back on track. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) also has advice.
According to the Calorie Control Council, the average person will consume more than 2 ¼ times the amount of calories they normally would during Thanksgiving Day's national food fest. It is not unusual for a holiday dinner alone to tally up to 3,000 calories with the fat equivalent of three sticks of butter.
Registered Dietitian and one of the research heads at Nutrisystem, Meghan Nichols, describes the day after Thanksgiving as a "critical turning point for dieters." Nichols oversees some of the company's counseling support available online and by phone. "This is the time a lot of people either 'go off the wagon' or make a quick correction and get back on track. It's a really challenging time for anyone trying to lose weight."
Nichols offers the following tips for achieving dieting success even if you've already stuffed the turkey and yourself.
Tips for Making Sure "Black Friday" Isn't "Fat Friday"
OWN UP TO THE NUMBER: It can be a rough day to get on the scale, but it's one of the most objective ways to keep yourself accountable. While a weight gain of a pound or two may seem unimportant, studies have shown that each year, people gain the most weight within the 6-week winter holiday period, and tend to hold on to that weight through the remainder of the year, with the average American adding on an extra 2 pounds every year of their adult life.
KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE PRIZE: Just because you may have thrown caution to the wind for a day or two, doesn't mean you should throw in the towel on your weight loss goals. Visualize success, stick to your game-plan and forge ahead. Remembering that this is a journey, not a race, is key.
SHOP TILL YOU DROP: Even if you're not buying anything, it can be a good day to hit the mall or an outdoor outlet center and window shop while you walk. Increasing physical activity is a great way to prevent weight gain during this high-risk time. Wear comfortable shoes and throw on a pedometer if you've got one. Web MD's Fit-o-Meter can help you calculate how many calories you'll burn.
GO LOW GI: From the office, to the family holiday party, tempting food may be lurking around every corner during this time. Be sure to plan ahead by preparing foods that feature ingredients that are low on the glycemic index (GI), like whole grains, fruits and nuts. Low-glycemic index eating is a proven approach to managing hunger which can help you resist overindulging. The Nutrisystem community is chock full of tips and recipes that can help you say no to that snickerdoodle.
DON'T BLAME IT ON THE COST: Needless to say, it can be a costly time of year with out-of-pocket expenses going toward holiday gifts. But Nichols cautions about using "I can't afford it right now" as an excuse not to sign up for a proven successful weight loss program. Nutrisystem has plans starting as low as $8 a day and most Nutrisystem customers report spending the same or less on food than they did before using Nutrisystem. Plus, starting the New Year with a new wardrobe after weight loss is often a larger (and welcomed) expense.
People can actually lose weight successfully during the holidays
YOU CAN DO IT: The Monday after Thanksgiving, which is also known as "Cyber Monday," is widely recognized as one of the most popular days to start a diet, only second to January 2. A 2011 study conducted by Nutrisystem determined that Nutrisystem customers lose about one pound a week on average during the "holiday season" (defined as Thanksgiving to New Year's). "These findings suggest that meaningful weight loss is not only possible, but also common, among persons attempting to lose weight during the holiday season," said Anthony Fabricatore, co-researcher of the study and Senior Director of Research and Development at Nutrisystem.