Lately I've been hearing a lot about the HUGE amount of calories we all eat over Thanksgiving, weight gain we'll consequentially gain, and the foods we should eat instead. Actually, this is the same old story we all hear at this time of year. The "Eat This Not That" rules are in full force. Don't listen to it...on Thanksgiving only.

While I'm all about encouraging people to eat responsibly - I'm here to tell you to ignore that advice on Thanksgiving.  If you've read this blog for any reasonable amount of time, you know I skew pretty conservative when it comes to nutrition. Now if you're hosting Thanksgiving dinner and have a healthy meal planned out - excellent! Fantastic! Wish I could be there.  And let me know what I should bring next year. But if you're not hosting Thanksgiving dinner, but you eat a clean diet and plan on going to someone's house - you've got to try to roll with the punches, eat what you really enjoy and appreciate the food for what it is that sits before you.  You probably don't do it very often. Eat. Don't stuff yourself, rather enjoy. Get back on track by Friday.

Where the weight gain really happens

Even though I'm not a big fan of telling people what to eat on Thanksgiving, I do believe - wholeheartedly - that people gain weight over the holidays, and they don't really lose it. If fact, I just spoke about this last Wednesday at Athleta here in Chicago (check out a clip from the show).

It's not just Thanksgiving - it's the entire holiday season. Even if we're eating fairly conservatively, if we make daily exception between December 1st and January 1st, it's easy to gain a few pounds in that time. Here is some perspective on how much damage a couple hundred extra calories consumed every day throughout the holiday seasons  - and how long it will take you to exercise the off.



Calories Added between Dec 1 & Jan 1


Weight Gained (based on woman 5'4", 150 lbs)


Miles You Need to Jog to Burn Them Off (running 10 min mile at 114 calories/mile)

Cracker, Chips  



1.3 lbs


39.5 miles

(based on 1 oz svg, 5x/wk)      



.75 lbs


22.8 miles

(based on 5 oz svg Red, 5x/wk)      
Specialty Coffee Drink  



1.6 lbs


48 miles

(based on medium specialty drink, no whip cream, 4x/wk)      
Dessert, Cream Pie  



1.1 lbs


35 miles

(based on 1 slice eaten 2x/wk)      



1.7 lbs


52.5 miles

(based on 1 svg eaten 7x/wk)      

If you're the average size American woman (5'4", 150 pounds) and indulged in these foods as frequently as I've laid out, you'd only gain about 6.45 pounds. It's not a ton of weight, but you might notice your waistline is snug by the New Year. Here's where it gets tricky. You'll have to be highly, highly, highly motivated to lose the weight, and shift out of the holiday habits quickly. There isn't a lot of wiggle room for other winter indulgences (Super Bowl parties, Valentine's Day, etc).  One exception leads to another and before you know it, you've gained 10 pounds. By next year it could be 15. This, my friends, is called creeping obesity It's very real and it affects most of us.

What to do?
Don't fall into the daily habits! Sure, it's ok the make exceptions a couple times a week, but don't take the attitude, "I'll just start in the New Year." You'll be so far behind the eight ball.

It is so much easier, healthier and rewarding to let yourself truly enjoy food on the days that matter (like Thanksgiving) and not on the days where you want to eat worse differently simply because it's the holidays!

Traci D Mitchell is a Chicago-based health and fitness writer and spokesperson. She's on-the-go everywhere trying out new and healthy things with a Chicago appeal. You can reach Traci through ChicagoNow, on Twitter @tracidmitchell or at