Unfortunately for our waistlines — and our appetites — it doesn't take much to pack on extra pounds. On Thanksgiving alone, the average American socks away anywhere from 3,000 to 5,000 calories. Since it takes just 3,500 calories to gain one pound, you can see how the weight can pile on quickly.
Eating your way through the holidays is like traipsing through a veritable minefield of calories. Who knows how many buckets of butter are lurking in Aunt Betty's fruitcake? So to help you navigate, we hand-picked the worst of the worst calorie culprits and found out from a ton of research and physical trainer Ryan Lauderdale just what it would take to burn those bad boys off. Spoiler alert: In some cases, it ain't pretty. But don't worry: We also have some suggestions up our sleeve on how to eat, drink and stay merry (and skinny) during the holidays.
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Is Eggnog Worth Its Weight?
The Bomb Buster: To defuse this calorie-laden drink, Lauderdale recommends burpees. Perform as many as you can in 45 seconds, then rest for 15 seconds. Repeat 25 times for a total of 25 minutes — that's how many it will take to burn off a single glass of eggnog.
Why: "Burpees are a great full body exercise that will burn lots of calories in a short amount of time," says Lauderdale.
Reality Check: Also known as a squat thrust, burpees are super effective — and ridiculously difficult. From a standing position, you drop into a squat as if you're trying to imitate a frog, then kick your feet back into a push-up position. From there, you hop back into your crouch, and end by jumping up into a standing position — your hands reaching for the ceiling. Repeat ad nauseum until you're wishing you never took a single sip of boozy eggnog. I take Lauderdale's boot camp class weekly, and — when put to the test in the office — was huffing and puffing after a single minute. I think I'll switch my eggnog for a glass of wine, which weighs in at a cool 120 calories per glass. I'll burn that off just by wearing heels to the holiday party, right?
Step up to the Cheese Plate
The Bomb Buster: To burn off that single slice of gouda or gruyere, hit the gym for 35 minutes on the StairMaster.
Why: "Because cheese is high in fat, one of the best ways to burn those calories is by doing a workout that utilizes fat as a primary source of energy," says Lauderdale. During exercise, your body burns easy forms of energy — sugar and carbohydrates — first. Only after your body has used up those fuel sources does it begin to burn fat. Doing sustained activities for long periods of time — like going for a run or sweating it out on the elliptical machine — helps push your body into the fat-burning zone sooner, so you can blast away the brie before it makes a permanent home on your thighs.
Reality Check: Cheese plates are a staple at holiday parties. And since food scales don't usually fit in holiday clutches, you might be enjoying quite a bit more than you think. A good point of reference to judge your portion size: One ounce of cheese is about the size of a pair of dice. It's okay to overindulge a little, but anything more than a few servings could push you into an endless stair-stepping marathon.
Not a Skinny Dip
The Bomb Buster: Believe it or not, it is possible to burn off that many calories without spending all day at the gym. But it won't be easy. Lauderdale's prescription -- 52 minutes of jump squats. Do as many as you can in 30 seconds, rest for 10 seconds, and repeat over a 15-minute period. If you can complete three and a half sets (that's 52 minutes total), you'll have burned off those 695 calories. Piece of cake, right?
Why: "Doing these at max effort can burn over 200 calories in only 15 minutes," says Lauderdale.
Reality Check: We love the idea of torching 700 calories in just under an hour, but we're pretty sure no one other than Lou Ferrigno could do this workout. Fifty-two minutes doesn't seem that bad, but my thighs turn to gelatin after about five minutes of jump squatting. If you're not familiar with the workout, it involves jumping straight up into the air and landing in a squat position, on repeat. A fruit plate suddenly seems way more appetizing than this deceptive dip.
As Easy as Pie?
The Bomb Buster: Sixty minutes of jumping rope. Break it up with two to three minutes of activity followed by 20-30 seconds of rest.
Why: You can burn 860 calories if you jump rope for an hour straight with no breaks. By following Lauderdale's suggestion of breaking it up into two- to three-minute increments, you should burn off that 500 calorie pie piece in about an hour.
Reality Check: Jumping rope sounds really fun and easy in theory -- but it's actually hella hard (which is probably why professional athletes incorporate it into their training so often). Unlike the leisurely skipping you did in grade school, there's no resting bounce between jumps. But just like in grade school, it's made easier when you have some tunes to skip to. Instead of "Cinderella, dressed in yella'," try one of these five playlists that'll actually make you want to workout.