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Will You Gain Less Weight If You Shop on Thanksgiving?

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Business reports indicate that the sharp rise in large retailers open on Thanksgiving Day has leveled off. Perhaps, as has been suggested, this is due to consumer dismay at seeing the holiday hijacked by the temptation to buy deeply discounted electronics and toys, rather than eating another piece of pumpkin pie. However, a few national retailers are opening their doors at the time most people are attempting to carve (not hack) their turkey into attractive servings. It is possible that if this trend increases, Thanksgiving dinner will become a brunch so people can shop in the afternoon.

In the past, a traditionally spent Thanksgiving Day started with morning high school football games, road races usually with the title Gobble or Turkey as in Turkey Trot, much cooking, much traveling, and then much eating. Then, by late afternoon, the inevitable nap followed while attempting to watch more football, and finally a second meal of turkey sandwiches and leftover stuffing and pie was served. And no one needs to be told that the combination of eating and sitting in the car, in the bleachers, at the dining room table and on the sofa, adds up to consuming many more calories than the body needs for energy.

Consider then the benefits of ditching the 2- or 3-hour meal and nap for standing in line outside a big box store, perhaps even shivering, running through the store to find the bargains, pushing heavily laden shopping carts to the checkout area, lifting boxes into the trunk of the car, and then carrying the heavy boxes out of the car and into the house. All that standing, shivering, running, pushing, and lifting takes energy and uses up calories. Couple this bout of physical activity with the "no time to eat seconds," the lack of opportunity to lie on the couch and nibble the nuts, cookies and chocolates on the coffee table, and a missed chance to pick at the pies and sweet potato casseroles before they are wrapped up in aluminum foil and stored in the refrigerator. It is possible (although unlikely) that dedicated shoppers could even lose a few ounces because consuming is directed toward buying, and not eating.

Overeating may also be diminished for another reason: less stress at the dinner table. In contrast to the imagined scenes of happy families sitting around the table oohing and aahing over a perfectly roasted turkey brought into the dining room (why don't my turkeys look like that?), the family members may be already in verbal combat mode. Ancient quarrels, nasty remarks, boredom, too many invasive questions about someone's weight, or grilling about a boy or girl friend, or failure to find a job and other unfortunate conversations can cause stress. And that is often the trigger to overeating.

Every year as Thanksgiving approached, many of my weight loss clients would beg me to think up some reason they could use as an absentee excuse, because they couldn't bear to be with their families for the holiday. Their weight was always the issue. If they had gained, then every morsel of food put into their mouths would be scrutinized and "tsk tsk" would be heard from someone who saw any food my clients ate, as being too much food. On the other hand, if they had lost weight, there was the pesky relative telling them they looked wan, gaunt, and even sick so why didn't they have some gravy on the turkey or a larger piece of pie? Now, of course, these beleaguered individuals can escape. Who can fault them for skipping dessert entirely or packing a piece of pie in their tote bag as they race out the door to stand in line to buy a tablet or a computer-driven stuffed animal?

However, there are flaws in substituting shopping for a Thanksgiving celebration. Those who must work are not able to celebrate this national holiday, this day of thankfulness. And unless and until retail stores can be staffed by computers, this is not going to change.

And then there are the dishes. Does everyone go to the store or do some stay behind to clean up the mess?

Finally, if the meal is concluded prematurely, no doubt there will be much food left over. At least until the shoppers come home, take off their coats and sit down again to eat.