Turkey, dressing, pumpkin pie...holiday weight gain is practically a national sport. Wouldn't it be wonderful if this blessed bingeing session (for once) didn't wreck your waistline woes? Enjoying Thanksgiving doesn't mean unavoidable weight gain! Put in some planning time, learn to reframe your attitude towards the Thanksgiving foods themselves, and you're headed for more Holiday enjoyment and less Holiday overloading.
- Go easy on the calories the week before. The great thing about the holidays is you know exactly when they're coming. They're not like that surprise pot of queso your friend brought over that one night that you accidentally devoured all by yourself after a regrettable bottle and a half of wine. So do your worries a favor and cut back the week before. It'll make the food on Turkey Day that much more delicious!
- We're not advocating dieting, per se. What we are saying is skip the dessert, don't spent the afternoon baking, or let your froyo coupon expire. When you go out for a meal, box up half before you even begin. Make little strides you wouldn't otherwise make. Thanksgiving isn't about losing weight -- it's about not gaining it.
- Put treats out of sight. When our kitchens, dining rooms, living rooms, and, let's be honest, bedrooms are littered with cakes, cookies, and sweet, sweet munchies, it'd take a robot not to succumb to the deliciousness. When peppermint brownies, gingerbread, and toffee is within arm's reach, no one is going to blame you for going over to the dark side. Since it'd be ridiculous to suggest you throw them out, the best thing you can do is to put them in a non-transparent container and in the cupboard. Out of sight, out of mind. It actually works!
- When we're staring at a table full of treats, all hope goes out the window. But when they're there but not seen, we're capable of forgetting that they're there (most of the time) and thus can avoid the absent-minded munchie grab. Do yourself a favor and pack 'em away before you don't realize you're on your fifth mint chocolate cupcake.
- Schedule your workouts. When our schedules get jam packed (which normally happens during the holidays), exercise is usually the first to go. The gym changes hours, we end up traveling, family obligations magnify tenfold -- whatever the cause, we succumb to the demands of our schedules and end up doing a lot more sitting, waiting, and eating than we intended. Instead of letting your schedule rule you, rule it.
- Call up your gym and find out their new hours. Wake up 30 minutes earlier to squeeze in a 20-minute morning workout. Only do your holiday shopping after you've had a session with the treadmill. When you make it a priority, it's a lot easier to stick to.
- Reduce stress. Most of us are running around like chickens with our heads cut off this time of year. The increase in our stress levels actually leads to more cortisol being produced, which can lead to weight gain. And you thought it was only the dinner rolls!
- Take some time to do some warm-ups and stretching in the morning or squeeze in a yoga session whenever possible. Take 10 minutes of me-time when you're sitting at your desk at work. Whatever would give you that zen, do it. Your waistline won't know to thank you, but the numbers will (or won't!) prove it later.
- Plan a holiday workout routine. So maybe scheduling workouts is putting the cart before the horse. In order to schedule workouts you have to have workouts in the first place. What could you feasibly start doing? Any is better than none!
- If you're traveling, what workouts can you do just by yourself? Core workouts (jumping jacks, planks, squats, etc.) can be done in your hotel room/boyfriend's uncle's spare bedroom.
- Do it with family! Start a routine of taking an early evening walk, weather permitting. Even running around the house can get everyone going.
- Sign up for a Turkey Trot! Your area may have a 5K, 10K, or Fun Run available on the morning of Thanksgiving. And proceeds may even go to charity! What a great way to start off giving thanks right away (and the right way).
- Keep warm. When our bodies get cold, all we want to do is huddle up in the corner under a blanket, rocking ourselves until the freeze passes. Maybe grabbing a hot toddy or two. To avoid this physical stagnation, keep warm! Turn the heat up in the house, throw on an extra sweater, but above all -- keep moving. And you know what moving does? Burns calories!
- When our muscles stay warm and relaxed, it's a lot easier to opt for that workout. So run around your house a bit every so often. That evening workout may not seem so totally not doable anymore.
EditPlanning Your Meal
- Volunteer to host the Thanksgiving festivities. You'll be in charge of the menu, and can plan from the start what foods will be on the table. Just be sure to ask if any of your guests have dietary restrictions! It can also be potluck style, that way you have a few options that you've pre-approved yourself.
- Don't forget the table! If you didn't already know, wikiHow has tons of Thanksgiving articles to get you through your hosting duties.
- Revamp your traditional favorites. Pick natural, unprocessed foods, prepared simply but tastily with herbs, spices, and fruits, such as lemon and orange. Throw out the canned cranberries and go fresh. Instead of overloading on carb-heavy stuffing soaked in turkey juices, opt for a nutty quinoa. Bacon wrapped green beans? They're just as tasty steamed with olive oil, salt, and pepper!
- There are many websites and online recipe sites that give detailed "clean eating" menus and recipes. Thanksgiving is a huge trend and so is health -- you have a veritable goldmine of information at your fingertips.
- Cook with substitutes. When recipes call for eggs, butter, oil, and sugar (just for starters), you have a little wiggle room. Apart from the obvious (like switching sugar for Splenda, etc.), you can substitute yogurt, banana, or applesauce for your eggs or oil or to add body to dips and sauces.
- To get started, take a look at wikiHow's How to Cook with Sugar Substitutes, How To Replace Eggs in Your Cooking, or How to Use Applesauce to Bake articles. And, yes -- it will still taste good!
- Go heavy on the veggies. Gram for gram, veggies pack a lot fewer calories than meats or carbs. If you want to fill up your plate, these are the things you should be gorging on (if they're prepared correctly!) Have a plethora of veggie options at your table -- that way you'll have less room for dinner rolls!
- For your mashed potatoes, make 25% of it cauliflower. Don't tell anyone and see if they even notice!
- Stick to healthier oils like olive, canola or walnut. If you're seasoning your veggies, try to lay off the salt; it's the culprit behind bloating.
- Plan healthier snacks. Even though we're fully aware of Thanksgiving being the absolute biggest meal of the year (save maybe Christmas), that doesn't keep us from snacking the day away as we wait for the Turkey to bing in the oven. Instead of munching on cakes and cookies, opt for a veggie tray, fruits, and light cheeses. Since the cookies are in the cupboard (right?), you won't be tempted to go for them anyway!
- Of course, if you can stay away from the finger foods entirely, that's best. But c'mon, this is Thanksgiving we're talking about here. Will-power and self-control is for holiday grinches.
- Choose healthier desserts. Sure, pumpkin pie is a given. Luckily, it's a lot healthier than pecan pie. And if you don't eat the crust, it's even better. But that doesn't have to be your only option. Stuffed apples or pears -- really any fruit without a crust -- is a great holiday dessert too and much lighter in calories. Take this day as an excuse to widen your dessert repertoire.
- Never checked out wikiHow's Desserts and Sweets section? There are gems like How to Create Healthy Desserts for Your Family, How to Make Parfaits, How to Make Butterbeer, and even How to Make Caramel Coated Cheetos, Make Edible Gllitter, and How to Make Desserts with Ramen Noodles. Think of all the desserts you've never tried!
- Plan your meal for 1-2 PM. Urge that schedule if you can influence the time set for the meal. That way, no appetizers are needed at all as you are sitting down to eat early. Also, the earlier start time gives you time for digestion (key to feeling good the next day) and for more activity in your day after the meal is finished. If you are active after the meal, it will help you manage physically and feel much better.
- Grandma was right, have the beautiful meal on the table at 1 or 2 -- it works better for the cook/tablesetter/clean up persons as well -- then you aren't too exhausted to enjoy yourself! And you definitely need time before dessert. Which you want to savor and not force down, by the way.
EditStrategizing Throughout the Big Day
- Eat a decent breakfast. You basically have two options here: 1) Eat a decent, protein-rich breakfast followed by a large Thanksgiving meal, or 2)Skip breakfast, start starving, and eat a Thanksgiving meal that's so large you resort to rolling yourself to the couch and asking mom to bring you more pie because you can't move. Which one sounds like the more weight-friendly option?
- Hopefully you're thinking #1. It's not exactly rocket science -- going into a meal not starving makes us eat a lot less when we hit the dinner table. Sure, you're wasting calories on food you eat every day, but you're preventing yourself from gorging on a 3,500 calorie meal. And no, it won't result in a higher calorie intake. You will eat less if you eat breakfast.
- Be an active host. If you did get lucky enough to secure hosting duties, good for you! Now you can run around entertaining people, filling up their drinks, making sure all is good to go, and decorating. Sounds like work, sure, but it'll keep you moving around. If fidgeters are thinner, this is definitely an idea worth taking advantage of.
- Don't think of this as ruining your Thanksgiving. No, no, no -- you're actually more involved. At the end of the day, you'll feel more like you created it, rather than being a passive participant. And maybe your friends and family will be thankful for you this year! Imagine that.
- Wear a tight-fitting outfit. This one barely needs reiteration. If your pants are so tight eating is uncomfortable, you'll do a lot less of it. At the very least you'll be conscious of what's going on in your body and feel less free to begin your self-induced food coma!
- Use portion control. Take tablespoon-size servings of only the various dishes you really want. Leave behind anything you feel lukewarm about! Take bites of what you like the very best, first. When you clear your small plate, you'll know exactly what you want to zero in on for seconds. It's all about tactical planning!
- You can eat anything if you only eat a small amount. So don't tell yourself certain foods are off-limits. That just paves the way for intense cravings and falling off the wagon later. Eat a little bit to satisfy your hunger.
- Eat the turkey the healthy way. When it comes to the big bird, it should be baked or roasted -- definitely not fried. If you can push for either of those two options, do so. And when it hits the table, opt for white meat that is without skin. The skin is the fattiest bit.
- If your family is big into gravy made with drippings, chill it first for about 15 minutes. That will separate the fat, leaving a film on the top that you can scrape off. If anyone asks, tell them you read the Pilgrims did it and are trying to be authentic.
- Mind your margaritas. That alcohol you're drinking -- be it eggnog (God forbid), Manhattans, or red wine is full of empty calories. You can drink and drink and drink and your body has no idea it's ingesting calories because it just isn't full. Go with water, club soda with lime, or a cup of mint tea! You will feel so much better, be more present, and survive the season with less weight left on your booty and more tread left on your tires.
- If you do imbibe, try alternating each alcoholic drink with a "hydration cycle" of some kind - water with lemon, diet soda, Perrier, etc. Or take that glass of wine and turn it into a spritzer with bubbly, 0-calorie water. You want to remember the day, right?
- Slow down. Enjoy and be thankful for each bite, truly savoring the wonderful tastes. The slower you eat, the less you'll intake before your stomach reaches your brain and says, "Woah! Stop. I'm full!" It usually takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to start sending CCK signals to your brain -- the "I'm full" hormone. So instead of gorging yourself before you realize you don't want any more, take it easy. You have the whole afternoon, after all!
- A simple way to do this is to put your fork down between bites. Chewing your food a little more than you normally would (no need for counting and ruining Thanksgiving with math) and losing the fork are two concrete ways to curb your chowing speed.
- Don't fall prey to "now or never" thinking. You're allowed to roast a turkey or turkey breast, make a pumpkin pie, or recreate Aunt Sue's special stuffing in July, if you want to! Ditch the "one time only" availability theory, which causes gobbling of Thanksgiving foods. This mindset and focus will make turning down extra Holiday servings a lot easier.
- The food is not the key thing to Thanksgiving (otherwise it'd be called Food eating), and the food is not going to run away! There will be leftovers for later, or tomorrow. Sit back and visit, or be the person to initiate a "What I am thankful for this year" conversation. Keep your focus, eat what you really enjoy, and then stop.
- Avoid hitting the couch right after the meal. Find an activity outlet afterward. Crank up 70's disco hits and dance while helping clean up the meal and kitchen. Take a long walk with family and friends to enjoy town and/or enjoy the fall color. Play tag outside with the kids. You get the idea! Just get moving afterward.
- You totally won't want to. However, your evolved self can say, "NO!" to those tryptophan receptors and push through it. Frisbee in the park, anyone?
- Remember Thanksgiving Day is just one day! If you blow it, get right back up on the horse and ride. It's making excuses and rationalizations every single day afterward in the 40+ days between Thanksgiving and New Year's that will cause you to gain the typical 3-7 Holiday pounds. With the right mindset, your New Year's resolution can be something actually useful and unique!
- Above all, do not let yourself just say "what the heck, it's Thanksgiving (or December, Christmas, or New Year's)!" and run wild. Holiday foods can be made anytime of year; don't be caught up in how special they are. Be picky and really enjoy what you decide to eat!
- Have a light heart, and enjoy a wonderful Thanksgiving and Holiday Season!
- If you are already overweight, be very diligent with finishing meals when just politely full, choosing clean foods, and daily movement/exercise over the Holidays. Those already overweight are more likely to gain weight than thin people through the Holiday season!
- Make a Thanksgiving Flower Arrangement
- Volunteer to Help During Thanksgiving
EditSources and Citations