, Gloucester, MA

November 29, 2012

Battling Turkey Day bulge

On the Mend
Joe DiVincenzo

---- — If you’re like most Americans, Thanksgiving was the kickoff event to the season of eating. After a continuous month of desserts and second helpings, many of us could be a good five or 10 pounds heavier.

Just think — with turkey day arriving what seems like a week early, we’ll have extra time for parties, shopping and the finest in mall cuisine (my car is always parked next to the food court).

If you don’t mind the seasonal fluctuation in your mass, you’re the envy of eaters everywhere. But if you’re trying to keep the weight off, you’re going to need a strategy — and it better not be exercise alone.

By itself, exercise isn’t nearly enough to prevent looking a little jollier come Jan. 2. Thanksgiving is a pivotal holiday — it sets the “eating tone” for the next month. So if you’ve reached for the leftovers, read on to find out what you’d need to do to burn off what you’ve eaten.

Everyone should know that a pound of fat is worth about 3,500 calories in cardiovascular exercise. If you’ve ever weighed yourself a few hours after a good workout and been a few pounds lighter, don’t pat yourself on the back too hard — it’s probably water weight, not an excuse to indulge in your favorite foods.

Pecan pie, a Thanksgiving favorite, is worth about 500 calories per slice – and that’s a small slice. “No problem,” you might think. Five hundred calories seems manageable enough, right? Well, burning off that piece of pie is going to cost you five miles on the roads running at a pace of 10 minutes per mile. Still worth it?

It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without gravy would it? And thankfully (pun-intended) it’s only 30 calories per serving. The average person uses three servings on mash potatoes alone, though, and close to six servings for a plate. Easy enough to fix — just extend that walk to two hours and you’ll wipe the slate clean of gravy.

An ice cream scoop’s worth of mashed potatoes runs about 120 calories, before butter and any other fixings. Have you ever seen just one scoop of mashed potatoes on a plate before? It’s an incredibly lonely sight. Potatoes love company, and as such, most Americans will eat more than 500 calories worth of them. Don’t like running five miles? No problem — three consecutive hours of aggressive weight-lifting (no rest between sets) should remedy those potatoes nicely.

Turkey, the symbol of November, only costs you 150 calories per serving. But that’s white meat only. Dark, with skin, is over 200 – and it’s loaded with fat and cholesterol. Pretending there are at least two servings (which is easy to do, it’s only about a fistful a piece) on your plate, you’re going to need to bike aggressively for an hour.

So while the damage from Thanksgiving Day itself may be done, you’re not out of the woods yet. Your Thanksgiving food for thought — keep the leftovers or big meals to a minimum over the next few days.

Gloucester resident Joe DiVincenzo is a physical therapist and clinical specialist in manual therapy. He writes “On the Mend” weekly. Questions may be submitted by email to