Perryman Nutrition Column: All-You-Can-Eat Still Not an Option for Most

Some of you are planning holiday menus and others can feel their mouths watering just thinking about Aunt Louise’s buttery mashed potatoes slathered with gravy and Cousin Dale’s pecan pie topped with real whipped cream.

Did your ears perk up when you heard that having extra pounds isn’t really such problem according to the recently released report published in the highly regarded Journal of the Medical Association? Authors of this new study say that an extra 25 pounds doesn’t raise your risk of death from cancer or heart disease.

Does this mean we are given permission to eat all we can? No doubt some of you are celebrating this seemingly exciting news as you’re about to enjoy a bountiful holiday feast. But the news does not mean you can feast without having to worry about how much weight you might gain during the holidays.  

Have you also heard that the report is highly controversial? This new study concluded that obesity increases the risk of dying from heart disease, kidney disease, diabetes and cancer of the breast, colon and pancreas. However, it stated that being overweight may not necessarily increase your risk of risk of dying from heart disease or cancer. Understanding the difference between overweight and being obese is important.  

The study’s conclusions were drawn after looking at the relationship of body mass index, or BMI, to specific causes of death. A BMI — which is a ratio of weight to height — of 30 or more is considered obese. A BMI of 25 to just less than 30 is considered overweight.

BMI is an indication of total body fat. Total body fat is related to risk of disease and death. The index is valid for adult men and women with a few limitations. If you’re an athlete, very muscular, elderly or have lost muscle mass due to an illness or injury, your BMI number may indicate a higher total body fat than you actually have.  

Go to to determine your own BMI and assess if you fall into either the overweight or obese categories. Enter your height and weight and your BMI is calculated instantly.

If you’ve done your own calculation and find you’re only overweight and not obese, don’t celebrate yet. People who are overweight are more likely to become obese with age. Weight gain increases health risks such as an increased chance of dying from diabetes and kidney disease.

To further add fuel to this heated topic, because Thanksgiving is tomorrow — and we are likely to sit at tables loaded with food typically not deemed to be heart-healthy or low-calorie. After stuffing ourselves, few of us are apt to walk outdoors to balance those extra calories with exercise.  

Also note, the emphasis of the report is not on health but rather risk of death. The study does not mean that recommendations to eat healthy should be changed or can be dismissed. Although the research can be confusing, the results do not indicate that healthful eating and regular physical activity are not important to decrease health risks and make us feel better. Sorry to let the air out of the all-you-can-eat balloon.  

People who care about their health need to make eating right and getting adequate exercise a priority every day — even during the holidays.  


By Shirley Perryman, M.S., R.D.

Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition

Colorado State University

Extension Specialist