If you’re anticipating eating a lot on Thanksgiving or Christmas and want to offset those extra calories the day before, here are guidelines on how to do that.

Gorging on Thanksgiving or Christmas is common – even for people who normally don’t over-indulge on high calorie, fattening foods.

Some people will “starve” themselves for several days preceding a big feast, while others will deprive themselves for only the day before.

Bare in mind that it requires 3,500 calories to gain a pound of fat.

If the intake of 3,500 calories is spread throughout the day, from morning till evening, you will NOT be one pound heavier in fat the next day from those specific calories.

However, many people, particularly women, “feel” fat the day after Thanksgiving, Christmas or some other big food feast event.

The scale next morning may show two or three extra pounds, but this isn’t fat.

It’s fluid retention from high sodium intake combined with the weight of forming bowel movements.

Large amounts of food will also increase your blood volume, which can add weight to the scale.

That next-morning weight gain is not new fat in your stomach or thighs!

I recommend avoiding weighing yourself the day after eating too much food.

I also recommend avoiding trying on tight clothes the day after. You may still be bloated.

Let your body process your binge before you step on the scale. Give it a few days just to play safe.

Guidelines for Eating the Day Before Christmas or Thanksgiving


A fast is not necessary to assist an offset of the anticipated calorie intake the next day.

If you normally eat 2,000 calories a day, and anticipate eating 4,000 the following day, you can take in 1,000 calories the day before.

This will then be the mathematical average of eating 3,000 calories on that big day rather than the actual 4,000.

But keep in mind that there are other variables that will affect calorie expenditure.

• Level of activity the day before.

• Level of activity on the day of indulgence.

• Kinds of foods eaten on either day.

Perhaps you subscribe to the idea that type of food doesn’t matter, and that it all boils down to calories in vs. calories out. There is much truth to this.

However, the closer that a food is to nature, the more efficient your body will process it.

An apple is better than commercially produced apple sauce is better than apple juice from a vending machine.

It’s also better to eat the biggest meal earlier in the day when there’s still many hours left to help burn the calories than late at night.

The food the day before should be nutrient dense, so that every calorie is meaningful.

So if you’re going to eat only 1,000 calories (there’s no need to go lower), make sure that most of the food is in whole, natural form.

Don’t use up those limited calories on a highly processed frozen dinner, even if it’s low fat and only 280 calories.

Processed foods tend to induce more hunger than whole foods.

Instead of juice, eat whole fruit.

Make sure there’s a big green salad in that day-before diet.

Go very light on the sodium, for surely, you’ll be getting too much of it the next day.

If you feel like skipping meat or poultry, that’s fine, as long as you get protein from another rich source such as fish, eggs, lentils or whey.

Eat something every two to three hours to help with satiation.

Drink six to eight, eight-ounce glasses of water.

Exercise Guidelines to Help Offset a High Calorie Meal

Shutterstock/acob Lund

The rule of thumb is that any vigorous exercise should be done before the heavy meal, not after on the same day.

The next day, though, feel free to resume any of your intense workouts.

But remember, three hours walking on a treadmill and a thousand sit-ups will not undo all that eating. Not even close.

Next day, just resume your normal routine.

No need to tack on an extra two miles on what’s normally a three mile jog on a treadmill. No need to take three group fitness classes in a row.

Just do your normal thing, because the body is very good at “resetting” itself after an occasional feast.

Now if you truly WANT to exercise more than usual to provide a little offset, then go ahead, but remember, a full hour of hiking burns only about 450 calories for a 150 pound adult.

An hour of Zumba done at HIGH intensity may burn even more. Go for it to boost your morale, but avoid obsessing about cancelling out every last calorie.

Just get back into your typical routine and you’ll be fine.

There’s nothing wrong with over-indulging on a holiday, nor is there anything wrong with eating less the day before to help offset that.

Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer for Bally Total Fitness.