Can You Really Put on 5 Pounds in One Day During the Holidays?

Can You Really Put on 5 Pounds in One Day During the Holidays?

Reviewed & Approved by Dr. Larry

The holidays are right around the corner — and so are the extra calories, fats, sugars and carbs that come with them. In this video, Dr. Larry Burchett sits down with registered dietician and personal trainer Diana Urcuyo to talk about how people gain weight over the holidays, whether you can really gain five pounds at Thanksgiving dinner, and what you can do to enjoy eating without weight gain this holiday season.

Dr. Larry Burchett: Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, welcome once again to the Dr. Burchett show. We are joined today by Diana. You’re back for more.

Diana: I am. You keep asking me to do these things!

Dr. L: Well, the last one was good, and I think you have a lot of good things to share. So let’s jump right in and talk about the holidays.

D: Yes. That’s happening.

Dr. L: Here’s one thing I want your opinion on: People say that they pig out over Thanksgiving, Christmas and the holidays, and they put on five or ten pounds in one day.

D: That’s crazy.

Dr. L: Is that possible?

D: Not really. It’s possible to be bloated and feel like you’ve put on five pounds. And that’s likely happening because you’re drinking a lot, you’re eating very salty food, and you’re retaining water all of the sudden. But I wouldn’t be surprised if, at the end of the holiday season come January 3, you step on the scale and you are five pounds up. That is legitimate.

Dr. L: So you’re saying from Thanksgiving to Christmas, yeah, maybe people could put on five pounds, but packing it on in one day…

D: That is not possible, no.

Dr. L: I feel like what I’ve noticed in my life is when I eat popcorn or McDonald’s or whatever, my weight will go up a pound or two. But it’s mainly salt.

D: It’s water retention, yeah.

Dr. L: So I’ll eat a lot of salt, and then the physiology is that water follows salt. So you have more salt in your system, your body holds onto more water. So you are two pounds heavier, but it’s not fat.

D: Not yet. But if you’re eating McDonald’s… it will become fat.

Dr. L: Well… it’s rare.

D: Okay good. That’s good to know, Dr. Larry.

Dr. L: I like it. It’s tasty. But I don’t do it that much. Anyway, if you’re gaining five pounds, or one pound, what do you think about that? One pound is equal to about 3,500 calories, or 500 calories in excess per day for a week. So if you eat 500 calories more than you burn for a week, you put on a pound, in general.

D: Yes.

Dr. L: So there’s no way that you’re eating more than 3,500 calories in one day too much.

D: Oh, in a single day? I mean, anything’s possible. But the average person would be sick and vomiting. You’re talking about doubling your calorie intake if you’re a big, tall, strapping man. Imagining 7,000 calories all the sudden, if you’re not used to it, you’d be sick.

Dr. L: And that’s just one pound.

D: And that’s just one pound, yeah.

Dr. L: So we’re probably not packing on weight overeating on Thanksgiving and Christmas in one day.

D: Not in one day, but you have to take into consideration it’s the holiday season. So you’re talking about work parties, you’re talking about cookie shares, you’re talking about just random candy all over the place. Also, Thanksgiving is after Halloween, so you’re probably already going into the season with a few extra calories in your system.

Dr. L: A few extra demons, revisited after candy season.

D: Yeah, and aside from the amount of food we’re eating, people go from maybe drinking moderately to all of the sudden drinking with more frequency because there are so many more holiday parties. All of that needs to be counted in their calorie intake.

Dr. L: Yeah, it’s calories. It’s good times, but it’s calories.

D: Yeah. It’s good times, but it’s not shocking that we overeat and that we put on weight, especially if we’re going to be kind of liberal about it and we’re not going to compensate for it by exercising more. I think that’s the big thing. If people wanted to be strategic, they would use holiday season not as a time just to overeat, but also over-exercise. I mean, not really over-exercise, because you don’t want to hurt yourself.

Dr. L: Right, but balance it out.

D: To counteract it, yeah.

Dr. L: If you want to maintain the same weight, you have options. Either eat the same, or if you’re going to eat more, exercise a little more. Or acknowledge, you know, “I’m going to pack on some weight over the holidays, and then I’m going to burn it off come January.” Whatever you want to do.

D: Whatever’s feasible. Or if you want to, you can just kind of pick and choose when you want to overindulge. Me, personally, I don’t participate in cookie parties.

Dr. L: You’re anti-cookie. You’re a cookie hater.

D: No, actually! I love cookies. There’s nothing that I enjoy more in life than a fresh-baked chocolate chip cookie. And write that down. It’s super true. If you want to make me happy, just give me one of those.

Dr. L: I’ll keep that in mind.

D: But I’m not going to go out of my way on a day-to-day basis, every time somebody at work has baked something, which is basically every day from Thanksgiving until New Year’s.

Dr. L: I did that today — politely refused. But there’s some pressure there. There’s some social pressure.

D: There is some social pressure. You could always taste. If you don’t want to offend somebody, you could always take a bite and compliment them on their cooking or baking. Nobody’s asking you to sit down and have a plate full of food — hopefully they’re not. But, you know, Thanksgiving doesn’t have to be about hanging out at the table and eating all day.

Dr. L: So like you said, I’m kind of picking and choosing. I’m planning my attack because I’ve got some holiday parties and stuff coming up. So what am I going to do? I feel like the last couple of months, I’ve worked really hard to get where I am, and I don’t want to slide back five pounds. I feel like that would knock the wind out of my sails. So this holiday season, I want to have a plan, pick and choose. Maybe a little moderation here, add some cardio there. In terms of the big days, like Thanksgiving and Christmas — what do you think about this? I’m reading this stuff about putting on muscle. It talks about if you work out at 4 or 5 o’clock, you eat low-carb beforehand. Then after you work out, when your muscles are hungry and have been broken down, you need protein in there. What if I worked out and lifted weights before Thanksgiving lunch? And then, because you need a lot of carbs and a lot of protein to build muscle, maybe that gives me a little more leeway. So lift weights at 11, and then roll into dad’s [for Thanksgiving].

D: Just be careful you don’t get too famished. That’s the danger. You know, if you’re not eating those carbohydrates and proteins immediately after a workout, then you’re missing your opportunity for them to be beneficial. They really need to be consumed within two hours, max.

Dr. L: Let’s say I time it to where I’m walking out of the gym, and I drink a little shake. And then I prime myself to maybe enjoy a little more at Thanksgiving then I would otherwise.

D: I think that’s a great idea.

Dr. L: Do you approve or not? Any concerns?

D: No, I don’t have concerns. Just be careful that you’re not doing it to a degree in which you go into Thanksgiving hungrier than you would have otherwise.

Dr. L: Okay, so you’re worried about setting myself up for overeating.

D: Yes. It’s already going to be tempting. What I would normally tell a client or patient is to have a nice snack of a balance of carbohydrate and protein, substantial protein, before having a meal, so you’re less likely to overeat.

Dr. L: So let’s talk about that. Because some people, before the big meal, don’t eat. They “save more room” so they can get all of their calories enjoyed in one sitting.

D: In theory it’s great, but then we’re kind of setting ourselves up for disappointment. Because there’s going to be so much temptation, you’re probably making it unnecessarily difficult on yourself. You’ll probably get away with it if you have a snack before and you’re not starving. It’s easier to turn down food when you’re not hungry.

Dr. L: Because what happens when you’re starving and you roll into Thanksgiving dinner?

D: You’re going to want to eat everything. You’re going to overeat for sure. Just think about it. You’ve just eaten, and your mom comes into the room and asks if you’re hungry. And you say, “No, because I’m full. I’ve just eaten.” Now imagine you’re saving your calories, so you’re starving, and all of the sudden your mom wants you to eat. Of course you’re going to be like, “Yes, mom. Make me anything. I’ll eat anything.” It never works in that way.

Dr. L: You’ve got the wheels turning. I’m thinking about these holiday meals and everything that goes on and how hungry I am. So now I’m thinking maybe I’ll have a little turkey beforehand, so that I’m not totally starving and I can enjoy it then, and still enjoy it later, without overeating.

D: Yeah, and I think a big thing too is if you’re really kind of worried about all of these calories, you can take control of some of the meal, as well. You always have the option to provide — I’m sure nobody would turn it down — some sort of side dish or something. That way you know if you’re going to be running into a situation where everything’s going to be super laden with fats that you at least have one thing that you can resort to.

Dr. L: Vegetables.

D: Yeah, vegetables, or you can even make like a lower-calorie pumpkin pie. Make things that are enjoyable. There are ways around all of these things. If you’re really concerned about not having healthy options, that your mom or whoever is going to make everything super high-fat, super high-calorie and super high-sugar, then provide something yourself. Or, maybe put it out there and ask, “Why don’t we try and have a lower-calorie Thanksgiving dinner this year?” Maybe people are feeling the exact same way you are and are too afraid to voice their opinions.

Dr. L: So moms cook, huh?

D: Well my mom’s still around, so I’m not cooking!

Dr. L: So sexist! I can’t believe you did that on this show.

D: I’m only doing it because my mom is a great cook! So she’s who I have on the brain.

Dr. L: My dad actually cooks.

D: Your dad does? And it’s not barbecue?

Dr. L: No… it’s on the grill. But he makes a turkey. He puts it in the oven every year with the works —stuffing, corn, whatever.

D: You know, among most of my friends, the guys are better cooks than the girls.

Dr. L: That definitely ends with my dad. That did not get passed onto me, unfortunately.


Heading into this holiday season, I have some questions for the group. How can you have a healthy holiday regarding eating? What things work for you? I’d love to hear some responses to what we did today and your ideas.

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