The Festive Season, Short-Term Overfeeding & Your Weight


The festive season is upon us, which for most, means a never-ending supply of delicious tasty Calorie-dense food.

Bitmoji Image

For some people, like those who are trying to lose fat or those that are trying to maintain weight or even those people who are just mindful of their food intake, the festive season and the effect it could have on their waistline may cause some anxiety.

But, fear not that pav and choc-ripple cake this festive season.

A study published in 1985, looked at 5 healthy men (22-27yo). All were non-diabetic, non-smokers. These 5 men ate 60% more Calories than the amount they would require to maintain their weight. They did this for 9 days.

They increased their food intake for 9 days by an average of 1,914 Calories each day to see how much weight they would gain.

They went from eating about 3,279 Calories to eating ~5,193 Calories. These Calorie intakes were a little different between subjects as they were specific for the individual subjects.

This diet was fairly low in protein with protein making up just 15% of total calorie intake. This is important as the effects of overfeeding on a high protein vs low protein diet are different.

A low protein diet is less favourable for weight maintenance/weight loss and probably more closely resembles the typical diet over the festive season (less protein, foods high in fat and carbohydrate such as dessert type food).


The study showed that on average the subjects gained 3.2kg of weight in 9 days. BUT, only 56% (1.8kg) of this was actual body fat.

The study also showed thatoverfeeding caused an initial rapid weight gain that became slower over the 9 days (see fig below).


The remaining 44% (1.5kg) of weight gain was most likely due to increased body water content. Organ mass or non-muscle lean tissue may also have contributed.


Other studies show similar results with fat mass gain making up 60-70% of total weight gained. Some of these studies are longer in duration though so may not be as applicable to the festive season.

If you are interested in reading a complete summary of the literature including overfeeding on carbohydrates vs fats or overfeeding on high vs low protein, follow this link.


If you are looking to make calorie conscious decisions with your food selection over this period consider filling your plate first with lean protein sources (meat, fish etc) and plants (vegetables, fruit & salads). Consider low calorie alcohol options or sugar free sodas as mixers. Swap full fat cream for low fat cream. Swap high calorie dressings for low calorie dressings. Use low sugar jelly. There are plenty of easy swaps like these to help reduce calorie intake.


With the research above in mind, you can overeat between Christmas and New Years Day and potentially not gain much fat. This of course depends on the exact amount of overeating and total Calories you consume in this period. Obviously, if you decide Christmas Day is a great chance for that 10,000 Calorie challenge your fat gain may be larger.

While you may gain weight over the next few days, remember that not all of it is fat.

So, relax, enjoy the time spent with family & friends. Give yourself permission to eat anything. Enjoy good food without feeling guilty, just don’t eat like a complete moron.

Once the festive season is over go back to the way of eating that had you on track for your goals. No biggy.

In 10 years time that Christmas that you ate all the food you enjoy won’t be a factor.

Christmas is no time for Tupperware, chicken and broccoli.

If you need help achieving a weight goal, contact me.


Daniel Reeves

Physiotherapist, MNU Certified Nutritionist

The Strength Den, Burnie Tasmania

Non-Tracking Methods & Habit-Based Guidelines For Nutrition


While tracking methods like tracking calorie intake or macros have a lot of benefits they are not for everyone. Even though tracking can be a great tool for educating yourself and helping to change body composition some people will find it monotonous, difficult, time consuming and it can cause some people to become neurotic and obsessive.

Tracking is also not a long term goal or sustainable for most people. For the majority of people the goal is to become educated enough and develop good nutrition habits so that you don’t have to track calories forever. The goal is to get to a point where you can maintain your ideal physique without needing to track i.e. effortlessly maintain your weight.

The good news is that there are ‘non-tracking’ methods and habit-based approaches that you can implement to help achieve and maintain your ideal weight / physique if you don’t like tracking.


Non-tracking methods are strategies and methods you can implement to control your intake of calories to help you achieve your ideal physique, that DO NOT involve counting/tracking macros or calories in any shape or form. There is no tracking involved.

Non-tracking methods can include global guidelines e.g. protein at every meal, increasing fruit & vegetable intake or just simple strategies you follow e.g. portion control or skipping a meal.


  • Less time consuming
  • Potentially less obsessive
  • Practical (able to be done most of the time)
  • Help to build better nutrition habits


  • Can be more restrictive. Restriction can stimulate the want to eat restricted food.
  • Harder to manipulate
  • Hunger can be a major issue
  • Need good awareness of fullness factors and things that influence fullness e.g. food choices, sleep and food palatability


  • When your goals are not too time dependent (e.g. you want to lose 10kg but don’t mind how long it takes)
  • When you want to build better nutritional habits
  • When you don’t want to use a tracking method


People who can’t stand the thought of tracking calories.

People who are at risk of developing disordered eating or eating disorders.

People who have obsessive tendencies (tracking can become a bit obsessive in nature for some people).

People who don’t like numbers and data.

When deciding if a non-tracking approach may be better for you than a tracking approach, it is a good idea to consider the following…

  • The extremity of your goal (how extreme your goal is). Do you want to lose 10kg over 10 months or are you trying to lose 10kg over 8 weeks. The more extreme your goal is the more likely that a tracking approach may be better.
  • How specific your goal is
  • Your personality and preferences e.g. if you hate numbers you might not enjoy tracking but for some that love numbers they love tracking
  • Your nutritional knowledge and current habits
  • Your lifestyle (the method you choose must be realistic for your lifestyle).

Just because you aren’t tracking calories doesn’t mean that calories aren’t important. 

Most of the methods that I’m about to share with you are designed to reduce your calorie intake to help create a calorie deficit which will lead to fat loss. Energy balance is still king and the energy balance principle will always apply (energy balance principle link here).


These methods like any fat loss method are designed to reduce total calorie intake to help you remain in a calorie deficit when fat loss is the goal. For those that aren’t trying to lose fat these methods can help build better nutritional habits and improve your nutrition.

  • Focus majority of intake on protein and plants (fruits and veg)
  • Focus majority of intake on low calorie per bite foods. An extension of this is swapping higher calorie per bite food for lower calorie per bite food some examples include 
    • fatty steak → lean steak
    • full fat yoghurt → low fat yoghurt
    • Rice → Kidney beans
    • Pasta → potato
    • Soda → Diet Soda
    • High calorie sauces → low calorie sauces
  • Choose foods with low palatability (foods that aren’t as tasty are less likely to be overeaten)
  • Reduce food variety
  • Reduce sugar intake (sugar makes things tasty which makes foods easier to over consume impacting calorie intake.
  • Have a protein shake before your evening meal
  • Drink 1 glass of water before each meal
  • Make one meal a large salad (light on the dressing)
  • Get enough sleep
  • Eat mindfully e.g. eat at a table (not in front of the TV)
  • Increase protein intake
  • Skip a meal
  • Reduce portion sizes
  • Eat a low-fat diet
  • Eat a low-carb diet
  • Meal replacement shake 
  • Remove carbohydrates from a part of the day e.g. not having carbs at dinner
  • Have either a fat or carbohydrate source in a meal but not both at the same time (fat and carb separation).
  • Intermittent Fasting (going a period of time without eating)
    • Windowed Eating: Eating only within a specific time period e.g. 8hr food window from 11am to 7pm
    • Alternate Day Fasting: Eat one day, don’t eat the next day but eat normally the following day.
    • Eat, Stop, Eat: 1 day of not eating each week

As you can see there are many options for those that do not want to track calories. There is nothing wrong with tracking and in most cases a short period of tracking calorie intake can help to educate yourself on how much (how many calories) you are eating. Sometimes we need to check the speedo to make sure we aren’t speeding and sometimes we need to check our calorie intake to see roughly how much we are eating.

I think non-tracking, habit-based approaches should be the goal for the majority of people. Improve your nutrition knowledge, improve your nutrition habits and enjoy food while effortlessly maintaining your ideal physique.

How To Eat More, FEEL FULL and Lose Fat – Food Volume & Calorie Density

How To Eat More, FEEL FULL And Lose Fat – Food Volume & Calorie Density

When it comes to dieting there are a few key concepts that are helpful to understand. Two of these are food volume and calorie density which tie in together. Understanding these will help with better food selection and hunger levels, making fat loss or weight gain phases easier.

Food volume = the physical size (volume) of the food/meal. A larger food volume will help to keep you feeling full as it will take up more physical space in your stomach and take longer to digest (see image).

Calorie density = The number of calories in a given amount of food. For example the number of calories per bite, per spoonful or the number of calories per 100g (as seen on nutrition panel labels) all describe calorie density.

See the image below which shows 200 calories from different foods. Notice the differences in food volume for the same amount of calories.

In the image above, broccoli and celery have low calorie density and trying to get 200 calories from these foods will fill you up. Peanut butter and bacon however, are calorie dense so you don’t need much food volume before you have consumed 200 calories.

The image below depicts how much space in the stomach is taken up by 500 calories from different foods. As you can see 500 calories from fruits and veggies is a large food volume and will take up much more space in your stomach, leading to a better feeling of fullness as opposed to 500 calories from oil or cheese.


Some foods are super helpful for fat loss and dieting because they have low calorie density. This means that you can eat a large volume of food for a low number of calories. This will help make you feel full so you don’t feel as hungry compared to foods that have high calorie density.

Examples include salad, vegetables, fruits such as strawberries, chobani fit yoghurt etc.

When someone is talking about eating more and losing fat this is usually what they are referring to; eating a larger volume of food by selecting foods that have low calorie density.

When someone reports “I hardly eat anything and still can’t lose weight” they are referring to food volume not the amount of calories they are consuming.


Food volume and calorie density are also important for those trying to gain weight and maximise muscle growth. If someone doesn’t feel hungry and struggles to consume enough calories then choosing foods that have high caloric density will be helpful.

The same goes for endurance athletes who require large amounts of calories to fuel their training. Sometimes choosing a more calorie dense food will be more beneficial so they are more easily able to get the fuel they need for training.

Examples include a smoothie with oats and peanut butter, granola, an oat slice bar (nearly 500kcal per serve), dark chocolate, olive oil, coconut oil, nut butters, nuts, cookies, doughnuts etc.

Use food volume and calorie density to your advantage to make dieting easier.

Components of Energy Expenditure (Calories Burned)


Energy expenditure can be thought of as Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE). TDEE is the total amount of calories burned in one day. This is the calories out part of the energy balance equation.

TDEE is made up of 4 components.

  1. Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)
  2. Thermic Effect of Food (TEF)
  3. Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (EAT)
  4. Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT)

Now, these terms might look and sound confusing but I’ll break them down below so that you have a solid & practical understanding of each component.

Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)

The minimum amount of energy / Calories required to keep your body functioning and alive at complete rest. This includes energy expended for functions such as brain function, digestion (RMR) and respiration.

Thermic Effect of Food (TEF)

The amount of energy/calories your body burns storing, absorbing and digesting food

TEF accounts for ~8-15% of TDEE 

Each macronutrient (protein, carb, fat) has a different thermic effect. That is, they each require a different amount of calories for storing, absorbing and digestion. 

TEF of each macronutrient

  • Carbs: 5-10% of calories from carbs
  • Protein: 20-30% of calories from protein
  • Fat: 0-5% of calories from fat

An example: If you consumed 100 Calories of protein, 20-30 of those Calories (20-30%) will be burned just to store, absorb and digest the protein. If you consumed 100 Calories of fat, 0-5 calories (0-5%) will be burned and if you consumed 100 Calories of carbs 5-10 calories will be burned.

As you can see protein has the highest TEF, that is it requires more energy to metabolise, that is it requires the most calories for storing, absorbing and digesting. A diet higher in protein can help to (slightly) increase TDEE compared to a diet that is lower in protein.  This is why you will hear that high protein diets can have a metabolic advantage.

Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (EAT)

The amount of calories burned during intentional exercise

EAT varies greatly between individuals depending on their exercise habits. In general, it can account for between 0-30% of TDEE.

The amount of calories burned during exercise will depend on the type, duration, intensity, volume and of exercise.

As you become fitter and adapted to a particular exercise your body becomes more efficient at fuelling that exercise and you will burn less calories during that exercise. For example, if someone starts running their body will become more efficient at providing energy to fuel running and less calories will be burned. 

EAT is also usually a lot less than you may think. 

One study found that those who exercise, do so, for less than 2 hours per week, making the contribution of EAT to TDEE negligible. EAT contributed less than 100 calories per day or 1-2% of TDEE for the week.

For the majority of people EAT will account for 0-10% of total calories burned. The upper limits of 30% are seen in endurance athletes.

So, exercise doesn’t contribute that much to total energy expenditure. This is in part why you won’t out-exercise poor nutritional habits/behaviours.

Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT)

NEAT is the amount of Calories burned / energy expended during activity that is not sleeping, eating or intentional exercise e.g. hitting your daily step target, standing at your desk, gardening, walking to work, doing housework and fidgeting etc.

NEAT can account for as little as 6% to as much as 50% of TDEE depending on an individual’s activity levels. Calories burned through NEAT can vary up to 2000 calories per day between 2 individuals of similar size, depending on their activity levels.

NEAT is very important for those seeking fat loss or weight maintenance.

NEAT is the predominant component of activity thermogenesis i.e. it can contribute more to TDEE than calories burned from intentional exercise….You can burn more calories by increasing your NEAT than performing intentional exercise!

NEAT is also the most variable of the components of TDEE and can help greatly to achieve a caloric deficit or a larger caloric deficit. Therefore, it is an essential tool for fat loss and should not be overlooked.

Putting this all together. If someone is maintaining weight on 2500kcal per day the breakdown of their energy expenditure could look like this.

  • TEF = 250kcal
  • EAT = 125kcal
  • NEAT = 625kcal
  • BMR = 1500kcal

Understanding the components of energy expenditure can help you to make decisions that will help to increase total energy expenditure if fat loss is your goal.


The Role of Non-exercise Activity Thermogenesis in Human Obesity (2018)