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Exercising to keep weight off after eating a big Thanksgiving meal

Running & Fitness
Saturday, November 28, 2020

The Thanksgiving Holiday is on the back burner and the start of more big meal celebrations are on the horizon. The creative people took a phrase from Daylight Savings Time and wrote, “Don’t forget to set your scales back 10 pounds at 1 a.m.” It seems that one of the popular assertions coming from Thanksgiving is that most of the people overeat and gain weight. Except for three groups of individuals this may be true. The three groups that come to mind that do not necessarily gain weight are runners, cyclists, and older people that have finally learned that overeating makes them uncomfortable.

I have been to social gatherings in the past with some runners for Super Bowl parties and similar celebrations. It always amazed me how much this group of skinny people could eat so much food. Second and third helpings were the norm for a feast with runners. A quick observation on this phenomena is that more than likely each of these heavy eaters probably ran 10 miles prior to coming to the party. To long distance runners their view point on a big meal is that they are just replacing all the calories they burned off that morning. I include the cyclists in this group of big eaters after they pedaled 50 miles that morning and are now enjoying an energy replacement meal.

The senior citizens that eat a normal helping at the table have in most cases learned after many decades that an overstuffed stomach is not the best feeling to watch a football game with. And drinking a glass of Alka-Seltzer versus a glass of wine is not the same. It was a lesson that was slowly learned over the years but now seems to be the best option to follow. Their eyes are not bigger than the stomach anymore and seem to see things in their proper perspective. The plate of food is more of a normal helping and desert is only one slice of pumpkin pie now.

You do not have to be a long distance runner, or a cyclist, or an older person, to be able to enjoy a Thanksgiving meal and still over eat a little on these special holidays. Exercise is still a major component in preparing for a big meal, but it does not necessarily have to be at the extreme level. Even a nice walk in the morning will help. It helps to walk some distance and not just one trip around the block. Two factors work to help the person enjoy the big meal later in the afternoon. One is that walking between three and five miles burns some calories that will help justify the calories you will replace with the meal later. The second factor is that exercise speeds up your metabolism so when you sit down to that big meal your body will be revved up a little to handle that extra food. 

There are a few fitness experts that suggest taking a nice slow, short, walk after the meal to help with the digestion. From personal experience after eating a big meal that is not a fun option. Sitting down in an easy chair and trying to stay awake watching a football game, or special holiday movie, is difficult in its own right. I have tried the walking option on occasion and will report that it does help settle the stomach, wakes you up from that desire to find an easy chair for a nap, and gives you some energy to mingle and talk with the rest of the guests.

If you are a weight lifter rather than a runner the same results can happen. It is something to observe how many people are in the gym the morning of Thanksgiving getting in a workout with the weights before heading back home for a meal. There are some research studies that report lifting weights actually keeps the metabolism elevated for a longer period of time than an aerobic form of exercise. A few studies suggest that the metabolism may stay elevated for up to 24 hours after a hard resistance workout. 

With the outlook of Christmas, New Year celebrations, office parties, bowl game weekends, and the Super Bowl gatherings, the advice of starting an exercise program is one to take to heart. For those individuals that are not exercise-minded, it is not too late to start a fitness routine. Think about the fact that you can now eat a little more at those big meals and use that as a motivation to get moving. While the primary goal to start the fitness program is to be able to enjoy gatherings with lots of food a side benefit is that you will be a healthier person overall.

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