I’ve noticed a pre-Thanksgiving trend on Facebook this year. Amid all the posts about Black Friday madness and football rivalries, I am finding more than a sprinkling of Thanksgiving weight loss plans people are implementing in preparation for feast day. “I’m only eating lettuce all week,” one person posted Sunday night. “No white foods ’til Thursday, then I’m going crazy!” someone else declared. Still others are bemoaning family member’s culinary talents. “My sister is making pecan pie again this year even though I asked her not to. She knows I’m on a diet…”
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for celebrating Thanksgiving. But spending a week in diet mode in preparation for a day-long food binge doesn’t sound very joyful to me. Neither does eating yourself into a coma. So I’ve compiled a few tips to help you enjoy the holiday without deprivation or all out debauchery.
Before the Big Day:
1.Trash your deprivation list.
You know what happens. You swear off doughnuts and the danged things start showing up in your dreams. You declare “No more mocha lattes!” and someone builds a Dutch Brothers drive-through across the street from your work. Eventually you give in – and you give in in a big way. Bypass the whole deprive-binge drama by simply putting all foods on the “can eat” list. Then pay attention to your body. Notice which food you really want. Notice how you feel before you eat them, and notice how you feel after you eat them. Check out our Free Weight Loss Resources to help make this process easier.
2. Stay active.
Stick with your movement routine (even if it’s only 30 seconds). You’ll feel better in the days leading up to the big event if you keep active. If you can boost your exercise level a little bit in the days preceding Thanksgiving even better. You’ll give your metabolism a boost and feel healthier – both of which will lead to making healthier food choices naturally. Bonus tip – focus on the big muscles of the lower body. Squats, lunges, step ups, burpees. Get those glutes and leg muscles moving!
3. Get a good night’s sleep.
Research shows that how we sleep has a huge impact on how we eat. It’s all about hormones. More sleep equals more leptin (the hormone that lets you know that you are full and lets you know you need to move). More sleep also means less gherlin (the hormone that stimulates appetite). So commit to getting 7-8 hours of sleep in the days leading up to Thanksgiving, especially if you’re the person getting up at 5:00 am to pop the turkey in the oven.
On Turkey Day:
1. Eat breakfast.
I know what you’re thinking. “If I don’t eat breakfast I can eat more at dinner time. I’m banking calories here.” Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that away. Skipping breakfasts simply isn’t going to save a bunch of calories. In fact, all it will do is make you hungrier – causing you to nosh on anything and everything in sight – even foods you’re not particularly thrilled about (whipped cream Jello salad I’m talking about you.) In addition, it will put your body into panic mode, causing your metabolism to slow down. And the last thing you need after a big meal is a slow metabolism.
So, take the experts’ advice and eat breakfast. Preferably a breakfast high in fiber and protein – an egg and toast or a bowl of oatmeal would be perfect choices.
2. Water Water Water.
What’s a celebration without soda, sparkling ciders, or beer and wine? Go ahead and indulge, but remember that drinking alcohol will not only increase your tolerance for Cousin Jeffery’s parks department stories, it will increase your food consumption, too – guaranteed. Be sure to drink a glass of water before you eat, and intersperse your liquid choices with water throughout the day.
3. Eat slowly and enjoy it.
Pay attention to every bite of food you put in your mouth and savor each and every flavor. This means taking the time to taste each mouthful of food – whether it’s a couple of almonds or a slice of your sister’s killer pecan pie. Not only will you derive more pleasure from each and every bite, research shows that you’ll also feel more satisfied with less food.
4. Plan an after dinner walk.
My husband and I take a 5-10 minute walk after every meal. We figured we’d get a little extra time together, some more movement in our day, and some fresh air – all good things. What we didn’t expect was how planning to walk impacted our meals. Within a week we noticed that we ate smaller portions, felt full faster, and ate more fresh and lean foods overall. Our bodies simply adjusted to the expectation of movement – and of movement soon after eating. It is simply more comfortable to walk if you are not stuffed full. So plan a family walk around the block after your big meal on Thursday. Mention it before you eat. Then see what happens.
5. Enjoy your time with family friends.
You know that Thanksgiving is not just about food. It’s all about spending time with the people you appreciate in life. By taking the diet stress out of the equation, you free up your mental focus for the things that really matter. That’s what celebration is all about.