Thanksgiving is upon us yet again. A day on which Americans are not only permitted, but actually encouraged, to overeat to the point of falling deep into a food-induced coma. If you are trying to lose weight, however, this holiday can be just as frightening as Halloween. To make it through the holiday season without undoing the progress you have made in your weight management efforts this year, consider these strategies:
Begin the day with a satisfying meal. Yes, you read that correctly. You can and should eat a hearty breakfast on the morning of Turkey Day. You might think that you are “saving calories” by skipping breakfast and/or lunch, but you are simply making yourself more vulnerable to overeating when faced with the tempting spread that will greet you later. Arm yourself with a satisfied belly, and you will be much more likely to make reasonable decisions during the main event.
Dress for success. As a child, I remember my grandfather undoing the top button of his pants after stuffing his belly with turkey. In my adult years, I have noticed the higher frequency of elastic waistbands around the Thanksgiving table than might be the style at other social gatherings. It might sound trivial, but wearing fitted clothing that makes you feel attractive – as opposed to loose or stretchy clothing that can easily accommodate a full belly – will encourage you to eat until you are satisfied but not uncomfortably stuffed.
Limit the number of items you choose for your meal. Before you arrive to your Thanksgiving meal, make a decision to limit the number of items you will consume. Research tells us that eating “a little of everything” usually adds up to many more calories than does sticking to a smaller number of items. Choose your favorite three or four Thanksgiving foods: turkey, sweet potatoes and green beans make for a well-balanced and satisfying meal.
Choose “special” over “ordinary” foods. Why waste calories on crackers and cheese appetizers that can be purchased at the supermarket all year round? If you choose to indulge in snacks or a dessert at your Thanksgiving gathering, keep an eye out for selections that might not be available at other times or in other settings. Take a slice of Grandma Joan’s pecan pie, but leave the store-bought apple pie for another time.
Beware of leftovers. Keeping large quantities of food in your home is never a good idea when you are trying to manage your weight. If you know that the half-eaten pies, massive containers of remaining stuffing, and wrapped up turkey legs will call to you from the refrigerator the rest of the weekend, then make a decision to send leftovers home with your guests or give them away to a friend or neighbor.
Get moving! Create a new family tradition, starting this year. Rather than spending the post-meal hours on the coach watching mindless television and dozing off to sleep, try a game of Frisbee, take a walk at dusk, or just put on some music and dance around the living room. Exercising after a large meal will help you burn some of the calories you consumed, but more importantly, it will re-engage your healthy mindset. You are sending yourself the message: “That was a great meal, but now I am excited to go back to my active and healthy lifestyle.”
Let the turkey be the only overstuffed attendee at this year’s feast. And above all, remember what you are grateful for this Thanksgiving season: your health, your family, and your well-being.