There are roughly 3,500 calories stored in one pound of fat. That means you need to eat a calorie surplus of 3,500 to gain one pound of fat. A calorie surplus means that you’re consuming more than you’re burning.
Let’s say you burn 1,400 calories per day at rest (that’s your metabolism). On top of that, you burn 600 more calories from walking around, working, and exercising. That’s 2,000 calories. To eat a surplus of 3,500 calories, you’d need to consume 5,500 calories in one day.
This is a scientific way of saying: you don’t need to check your scale the day after Thanksgiving. You might’ve eaten some extra calories, but it would be very unlikely that you ate enough to gain the weight that shows up on your scale.
So, where does the extra weight come from? Water, mostly. Salty foods and alcohol will do that to you, but one meal won’t make a big difference in your weight loss journey. In fact, it might even be good for you.
If you’ve been dieting and losing weight for a little while, your body is constantly in a calorie deficit. This might sound good, but it means you’re constantly going to be low on fuel. Every now and then, eating a little extra can give you a big energy boost. That means your workouts should improve a little over the few days after a big meal.
Another benefit of eating a big meal is that it can reduce cravings. If you’ve been dreaming about your Thanksgiving meal for weeks it means you’re probably a little hungry. The feeling of fullness after you eat should last a little while.
You don’t need to fear your big holiday meals, because one meal won’t ruin your progress. You make progress by staying on course as much as you can, as often as you can. Going back to our calories in versus calories out example, let’s take someone who burns 2,000 calories per day. To get 3,500 calories extra they’d need to eat 5,500 calories in one day.
However, that number could be spread out over time. Let’s say they eat an extra 250 calories per day. In 14 days, they would’ve consumed an excess of 3,500 calories. Weight gain typically doesn’t happen all at once. It takes months or even years to accumulate. The same is true for weight loss. Instead of looking at things from a day-to-day perspective, look at them from a month and year-long perspective.
One meal won’t take you off your course. Making small changes to your average, everyday eating habits will. That’s where your focus should stay.