Holiday Calorie Counters: Ruining Everyone's Meal One Bite at a Time

As a Weight Watchers Lifetimer, I used to bring my mini-tracker (a small food journal, for the non-WW alum) to the table during many a Thanksgiving meal. Between courses, I'd scribble down "2 potato latkes - 5 Points" or "1/8 slice pumpkin pie - 7-ish." By the time I got to "glass of red wine #2" ... the tracker had usually taken up residence in my purse for the rest of the evening. The next day, I'd look back at the half blank page and be disappointed in myself.

Fast forward to Holiday Season 2010. If I see someone sitting at the Thanksgiving table hemming and hawing about helping themselves to another serving of turkey, salad dressing ("12 grams of fat per 2 tablespoons, you know!") or cranberries ("Too much sugar!") -- I'll be the first one to roll my eyes. 

After all, it is one day, once a year. Do we really need to care so much about the calories?


Yes, we have an overall trend of obesity in this country, and many people are experiencing their own personal struggles (both big and small) with excess weight. So, surely it's smart to try to exhibit some control over one of the most out-of-control feasts of the year. Of course, one of the most basic ways to do that is by counting calories. In fact, tracking your meals in a handy little food journal has even been shown to double weight-loss.

But even for those battling the scale, I call a moratorium on counting calories during a holiday meal. Why? It is counterproductive

First and foremost, a Turkey Day fiesta should be all about sharing gratitude with loved ones. But when you put a calorie-counting crutch first (even if you're not blatantly typing the nutritional data into your Droid at the dinner table), you're immediately more focused on the food than your fam and friends. This ultimately ends up a lose-lose situation: Less time truly "spent" with those you love and more obsession with food. (Which, face it, is what we're really trying to control by counting calories in the first place, right?) Stuffing and candied sweet potatoes may be a big part of Thanksgiving, but neither should get more attention than Grandma Sue or Cousin Sally. 

Furthermore, it's easy as pie to "slip-up" and have that second glass of wine or indulge in that extra serving of mashed potatoes. If you're counting, you're more likely to feel guilty for that slight indulgence, and that can lead to a vicious icky cycle of stress, worry and self-criticism—emotions that do not exactly do wonders for pound-paring. Besides, we should be kinder to ourselves always and especially on Thanksgiving.

Knowing just how plain crazy-making it is to count calories on Thanksgiving, I'll gladly check my tracker at the door, enjoy in moderation, be tuned into my body's signals so I know when I'm full, and then go move and get some exercise afterward! I have a feeling that doing that could make for an even more festive and healthier holiday meal. 

Do you agree?



Image via o5com/Flickr

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