When I was a young boy, I loved to leave cookies and milk out for Santa Claus. This tawdry attempt at bribery, meant to distract him from the fact that I'd attempted to impale the dog on my He-Man and the Masters of the Universe sword ("I HAVE THE COCKER SPANIEL!") and tried to melt my sister's dolls in the oven, always disappeared by morning. (It usually worked, too; everyone has his price, and Santa's is two cookies and a glass of moo juice.)
It wasn't until I was older and learning about the four food groups (yes, kids, there used to be a matrix with four food groups, instead of this fancy food pyramid you young whippersnappers learn about now) that I realized this might be a suboptimal way to keep those presents coming. How many cookies could Santa eat anyway?
In order to figure out Santa's annual consumption, we need to know how many households leave cookies out for him. This means we can reject non-Christian households [76% of American adults identified as any type of Christian in the American Religious Identification Survey of 2008] and households without children [45% of all households had children under the age of 18, according to the U.S. Census projections for 2010, based on extrapolation of 2000 Census data].
According to the Census projections, there are approximately
This isn't the right number yet; not everyone under 18 believes in Santa, and not every household that might leave cookies and milk out does so. Let's assume that two-thirds of American households have outgrown the Santa phase; that gives us 15% of all U.S. households in the correct demographic.
0.15 x 0.76 x 100,000,000 = 11,400,000 Christian households with children young enough to leave cookies and milk out for Santa.
Let's assume, again for conservatism's sake, that only 10% of the families who might leave out cookies and milk actually do so; that means Santa has 1,140,000 doses of cookies and milk to consume.
Two regular-size Nabisco Chips Ahoy™ cookies, according to the manufacturer's analysis, contain 100 calories and about 5g of fat. Certainly not the world's worst snack, in reasonable quantity. An eight-ounce glass of 2% milk contains 130 calories and 5g of fat.
That's 230 calories and 10g of fat per household, which means Santa Claus would consume 262,200,000 calories and 11,400,000 grams of fat.
It takes about 3,500 calories to add a pound of weight to a human frame; at that point, Santa would have gained 74,914 pounds, a third of which would be pure fat.
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Now, let's assume it takes Santa the same amount of exertion to deliver gifts as it would take for him to run 6 m.p.h., and let's assume he does this flat-out for 24 hours straight; given his ending weight of over 75,000 pounds, and allowing for his ending weight to be used for all the calories (fat people burn more calories on the same exercise than thin people), he would burn 8 million of those 262 million calories; that means he would work off 2,308 pounds.
Assuming a weight of 150 pounds when he started, that leaves him tipping the scales on Boxing Day at 72,756 pounds.
Hope your chimney's extra-wide; Santa sure is. Maybe leave him a nice letter instead and skip the snacks this year. Mrs. Claus thanks you in advance.