Thanksgiving is tomorrow. You know you’re going to over-eat. You know you’re very likely going to feel like crap afterward (physically and/or mentally) because you over-ate, over-drank, and now feel like a fat slob. Usually this feeling spills over into the weekend after Thanksgiving, then the week after, and then the entire Holiday Season, through New Years, and then you’ve completely blown your fitness goals and need to become a Monk during January in order to atone for your culinary sins.
But do not fret!
Here are some things you can do to minimize the impact of your Thanksgiving food & drink binge. If you take some of these suggestions, you will give yourself a fighting chance of a.) keeping your weight gain to a minimum over the holidays, b.) not feeling super guilty just for enjoying yourself, c.) keeping yourself somewhat on track throughout the Holidays and not gaining 10 lbs in a month.
- Watch the sugar. Above all, watch your sugar intake. This includes (yes) alcohol and carbohydrates. If you’re looking for a place to cut-back and scrimp on a few calories, put your hand over your wine glass when they open the third bottle, and opt for some mineral water with lemon instead. This will refresh you and, a minute later, you won’t even remember you passed on the vino. When the pumpkin pie comes around, limit yourself to one (1) slice of it and eat it slowly with a nice cup of coffee. Then call it a wraps on dessert. And for Pete’s sake watch the cookies. They are small but packed with calories. And remember, fruit (in the form of things like ambrosia, cranberry sauce, etc.) has tons of sugar in it and ergo tons of calories in it. Just because it’s fruit-based doesn’t necessarily make it a good choice.
- Focus on protein and veg. If you’re going to over-eat, eat too much meat and vegetables. It is much more difficult for your body to store extra protein calories as fat, and the fiber from the vegetables will fill you up and — ahem — keep you loose. If you’re debating having another scoop of sweet potatoes…instead have a couple extra slices of turkey. Looking forward to your second helping of macaroni and cheese? Maybe instead opt for the green beans or a salad. “But that’s not the point,” you say. “I want the sweet potatoes and mac & cheese!” Well I feel you! But when you’re stepping up to the plate (ha) just ask yourself if you can trim back a little here and there. It’s much easier than you think.
- Close the floodgates! What gets people in trouble during the Holidays is the “floodgates” mentality. This is when you say to yourself: “Oh well, I ate too much on Thanksgiving, might as well eat too much today, too! What does it matter, I already broke my diet.” Well, it matters. The calories you eat on Friday count just as much as the calories you ate on Thursday. If you want to make sure you make it through the Holidays on the same belt loop, limit your indulgence to Thanksgiving Day, then get right back to your normal diet Friday morning so you can enjoy a (sensible) meal of some nice leftovers that night. And resist the temptation to include the entire weekend as part of the Holiday (in terms of food, at least).
- Focus on what the Holidays are really about: Family and friends. I used to treat the Holidays as a gigantic feast in which I had license (why? I don’t know) to eat and drink like a Roman Emperor for six weeks. I know I’m not alone in this. Maybe it’s just getting older, but I no longer have this attitude. For me, the Holidays are about extra opportunities to get together with family and friends. Whereas eating and drinking used to be the main event, now I just try and focus on the the new main event: visiting with my loved ones in the chillaxed atmosphere of the Holidays, when everyone (theoretically) has a little more time to spare. The eating and drinking are nice, but I view that as the sideshow now. I try to remember that, even though there is plenty of great food around and I have a couple days off, I still have fitness and health goals, and that I want to wake up on Friday after Thanksgiving feeling positive and energetic, not weighed down and soggy.
- Also, remember to live your life. Having said all of that, don’t take it all too seriously. When can you indulge in a little excess if not during the Holidays? If you are going to find yourself obsessing over calories and fretting about how many carbs you’ve had instead of enjoying your time with your Aunt Jean and Uncle Jimbo, by all means…just grab your fourth piece of pie and enjoy your life. Who wants to be the person sitting in the corner drinking lemon water while everyone else is enjoying dessert? Not me. What I offer here above are just some gentle suggestions on how you can cut out a few unnecessary calories here and there. But above all…remember to enjoy yourself.