Our pilgrim forefathers may have been Puritans, but the Thanksgiving traditions they left for us are anything but pure. Thanksgiving is basically a celebration of debauchery, drowned in gravy and covered with marshmallows.
In fact, between your standard morning breakfast and the liberal ladles of lard for dessert, this year’s feast could cost you 4,000 calories or more, says Lisa Moskovitz, R.D., founder of The NY Nutrition Group. And if you’re the type who looks at nutrition as a math equation, you already know that it takes just 3,500 calories to add an entire pound of fat to your body. So will you gain a whole pound on Nov. 26? Might you gain even more? Should you update your dating profile picture now, in anticipation of some sort of body mass armageddon? (And by the way, no matter what you gain, all is not lost. Try our guilt-reversing Ultimate One Day Detox anytime!)
Before you press the panic button, let’s look at the science. No matter how many calories you eat, you’re simultaneously burning those calories. “To gain one pound of fat in a day, you would have to eat 3,500 calories more than what you burned off,” Moskovitz explains. The average person fries about 1,600 calories a day, just keeping their heart beating, their lungs breathing, and their eyes rolling at the 400th rendition of Uncle Fred’s turkey jokes. So to gain a pound on Thanksgiving, you would have to eat a total of 5,100 calories of turkey and pie.
That means you’d have to eat:
2 turkey legs (with the skin on)
6 oz. turkey breast (with the skin on)
2 cups mashed potatoes (made with butter and whole milk) plus 1 cup turkey gravy
½ cup cornbread stuffing
2 slices canned cranberry sauce
1 cup candied sweet potatoes with marshmallow
1 cup Brussels sprouts with walnuts
1 cup green bean casserole
2 crescent rolls
1 piece pumpkin pie with 1 cup vanilla ice cream
2 pieces pecan pie each with 2 Tbsp whipped cream
and 1 slice apple pie
(Hey, at least make that apple dessert healthy—use our kitchen-tested, Mini Cinnamon Apple Loaf Recipe!)
That’s 5,130 calories! And unless you’re training for some sort of Gluttony Olympiad, chances are you won’t come near that total. Still, when you step on the scale before bedtime, you might think you’ve packed on some serious poundage in just one day. “On average, people could expect to see an extra two to four pounds staring back to them after their Thanksgiving feast,” says Moskovitz. But those numbers are actually a combination of the weight of the food and drink sitting in your belly, plus a bit of extra water weight.
Aunt Nancy’s famous stuffing and Uncle Ned’s to-die-for mashed potatoes are to thank for that. These dishes (among other Turkey Day favorites) are typically loaded with sodium, which causes the body to hold on to extra fluid, and can increase blood pressure and the risk of stroke, too. The good news? Those extra pounds aren’t staying.
For a quick slim-down, get a sweat going at the gym the next day to help flush out the excess water and relieve some of the bloat, suggests Moskovitz. Aim to drink at least six eight-ounce glasses of water (or any of these 50 Detox Water Recipes That Banish Bloat) and munch on potassium-packed produce like sweet potatoes (or any of these 8 Foods High In Potassium), and calcium-rich foods like yogurt. These nutrients will help flush out the excess sodium so you can slip back into your skinny jeans within a few days!
And for more weight loss tips, check out these 20 Weight Loss Tricks You Haven’t Tried!