Thursday, April 19, 2012

A Food Experiment on the Real Cost of Celebrating

If you are gaining a little weight every year and you are not sure why, I think this post will help you. You will realize what a difference a day can make.

I did a little food experiment this past Easter Sunday.  Since losing 60 pounds over the last few years, I have been doing very well at keeping that weight off. So, I decided I would “treat” myself to one ‘bad’ day and enjoy my Easter the old school way - with TONS of food and candy.

I tweeted that I was going to eat ‘bad’, but would own my decisions by tracking every calorie in Myfitnesspal.  That Tweet received a lot of re-tweets and comments.  One person even asked me if I would tweet the final tally at the end of the day.  As a non-calorie counter he was curious to learn the final results. 

Then this got me thinking…Maybe I shouldn't go old school crazy.  I could go "new school" crazy. Allow myself a bad day, but reign it in a little bit with some healthier food choices and exercise.  Then see how big of a difference it would be between the two. Could I still feel like I celebrated  being moderately bad instead of no holds barred bad? And so my experiment began.  I would track everything I ate as I enjoyed my Easter day.

As a side note, I track NET calories (total calories eaten – calories burned through exercise).  My normal goal is to consume 1,740 net calories a day (to lose a little weight) vs. 1,940 net calories a day (to maintain my current weight).

So this is what my Easter day looked like:

I had a 2-course breakfast, consisting of a toaster tart (frosted strawberry with sprinkles, YUMMY!!) which was 200 calories. Then I went for a walk.  When I returned from my walk, I indulged myself with a homemade Easter cookie dipped in coffee, which was 230 calories.

I did very well on lunch! I made lots of healthy decisions here, with a low-calorie ham and pickle sandwich on small, thin, low-calorie bread. And rather than chips, I ate blackberries and grapes. The total count for the entire lunch was 317 calories!!!!

I was a naughty boy! I decided it’s Easter; no way I would skimp on dinner. My mother-in-law made lamb pasta, just because she knows I love it.  In addition to the pasta, I had some honey ham, a salad (just to be healthy) and even drank a can of Pepsi. All-in-all a total of 1372 CALORIES!!!!!!

I also ate snacks throughout the day:
  • Homemade cookie dipped in a little red wine (you know you want one) -- 285 cal
  • Texas sheet cake (one piece) -- 235 cal
  • 22 jelly beans (yes - I counted every jelly bean I ate) --118 cal
  • 1 chocolate chip cookie --130 cal
  • 11 mini Cadbury candy coated chocolate eggs --174 cal

Before you take your shoes off to try and total up all the snacks, let me help you - IT WAS 942 CALORIES!!

Now, I did take a 5-mile walk between my breakfast courses and a 3-mile walk before dinner, which burned 415 & 276 calories respectively.

My total count for the day: 3,061 calories in – 691 calories burned = 2,370 NET CALORIES

Alright, I had a bad day. It was 430 calories more than I should have ate to maintain my weight.  However, the day could have definitely been worse. I would have normally eaten way more for lunch and A LOT more snacks. However, I only took 3-4 jelly beans and 1or 2 chocolate eggs at a time. In the past, I would have taken them by the handfuls. 

This Easter was one of the few times that I only 1 piece of Texas sheet cake, which led my mom to believe I was not feeling well.

In the past, I would have never exercised on Easter.  So, if I would have eaten a normal lunch, had handfuls of candy instead of a few pieces at a time, and ate more cake, my day would have been very different.  It would have added at least 1,020 calories to my day.

So, my previous Easter holidays would have looked like this:

4,081 calories eaten (this is a low ball) – ZERO burned = 4,081 NET CALORIES. That would be 2,141 more than I should have consumed to maintain my weight.

So what does all this mean?  Well one of the many things I learned from my friend Dr. Sherry Pagoto is that 3,500 calories equals to 1 pound, so a deviation of +3,500 will lead you to gain 1 pound. Therefore, if I had 10 days of celebration each year with 430 extra calories (like I did at Easter), I would gain 1.23 pounds every year – all due to those 10 days. 

If I had 10 days like I used to have (with an extra 2,141 calories) I would gain 6.12 pounds EVERY YEAR JUST FROM THOSE 10 DAYS!!

how long do I have to stay on this thing to burn 2,141 calories!!
You always hear about people putting on 5+ pounds every year as they get older.  Could it just be from overindulging 10 days a year? Hmmmm…. is it that simple? A fancy night out at a high end restaurant, birthdays, holidays, etc. It’s easy to over do it on just 10 days a year.

Without over-doing it, I still enjoyed my Easter and with a little more exercise this week, I can make up for the extra 430 calories I ate.  It would be very difficult to correct a day with an extra 2,141 calories. All the exercise I would have to do to burn those extra calories would never be worth that one day of fun. The price you pay for a day like that is just too high.

So the next time you are out or celebrating at home, try to plan your day and make some healthy decisions. It could be the difference of gaining 1 pound or over 6 pounds for the year.  Just think about it - with 10 bad days a year, in just 4 short years, you could be 24 pounds heaver than you are now.  Trust me I did it!! But I will never do it again!!

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