Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year. It is a day for gathering with family and friends to celebrate our blessings, to give thanks for the year’s good fortune and to anticipate the coming holiday season. All over this nation people will gather on this wonderful day to make merry amidst a bountiful feast of food and drink. For most people, this is what it is all about. We spend the days before deciding what to cook, what time to serve and whom to place next to crazy Uncle Freddy at the dinner table. At party’s end, we bid farewell and return home satiated and filled with the afterglow of a happy day. For many others, however, who are struggling to manage their weight, this day can be a nightmare of stress-filled anticipation, torturous temptations and waves of post-prandial guilt.
Here are my suggestions for navigating this minefield of enticements and deprivation and coming out of the day satisfied and guilt-free.
Editor’s Note: If you have any medical condition that requires the avoidance of any food or beverage, please disregard the suggestions contained in this article and follow your physician’s recommendations.
Sometimes Bad Really Ain’t So Bad
In my opinion, a little bad can be very good on a regular basis. The fact is that every culture and tradition in the history of the world uses food and drink as a central part of their celebrations. It plays a central role in the social bonding that cements the spiritual center of any group from clan to culture and from neighborhood to nation. To make the choice to not enjoy the special treats that come once a year at the Thanksgiving Day feast is to choose not to fully take part in the ceremonial bonding that is part of the revelry. Saying no to all or part of the day’s indulgences separates you from the spirit of the crowd, as it were, and, more than likely, you will face unpleasant questions or have challenges to endure from curious or intolerant guests. Moreover, you will spend a good part of the day wishing you could have enjoyed the foods that you pledged to avoid. And should you give in to temptation, the guilt and self-recrimination you will feel the next morning will undermine the enjoyment derived from your previous day’s decadence.
So, what to do? Here’s the truth as I see it:
Thanksgiving is a once-a-year event. Even if you eat and drink with thoughtless abandon you will not consume enough calories to gain an intolerable amount of weight nor will you do irreparable harm to your weight-loss program. In fact, many weight management professionals – me included – believe that occasional breaks from the discipline of a diet are both psychologically and physiologically beneficial. I come from the school of thought that it is easier to manage a food plan for six days at a time than six weeks or six months. And giving your body a little fun food once in a while can prevent the fat-sparing metabolic slowdown that often occurs in calorie-restricted meal plans.
Eat, Drink and Be Merry
Truth be told, I just believe that life is too short to squander the precious occasions where we can celebrate together and enjoy the bounty that this wonderful land allows. And food and drink are an essential part of that celebration. No good comes from deprivation. . .okay, it worked for Ghandi, but I think you see what I mean. The long and short of it is, I think you should give yourself permission to enjoy Thanksgiving Day to the fullest, then start the next day guilt-free and ready to return to your normal eating habits. I am quite sure you will be happy with the result.
To that end, I have prepared a few tips to help soften the blows to your psyche and your bathroom scale. Do these things and you will not only feel better about letting yourself go a little bit, your body will thank you for it on Friday.
- Exercise – On Thanksgiving morning, make sure you set aside time for a 30-40 minute workout. I like to take a brisk run because it doesn’t tire me out the way strength training can and nothing seems to make me feel lean and trim like a jog in the trail. And feeling fit and trim makes it easier to reward yourself with good food. Plan another workout for Friday morning as well. This one is really important. It will give your body something to do with extra calories you took in the day before and it will jumpstart you back into your normal regime. I like to use strength training on this day. After all of that food I am always really strong and I have really great workouts. But, choose the workouts each day that work best for you – cardio, strength, yoga, whatever. It’s not the type of workout that matters, it’s the act of doing the work.
- Remember that it’s Thanksgiving Day not Thanksgiving weekend. This approach only works if you can get back to your normal eating habits right away. One day is a reward; four days is a binge. I think you get the picture.
- Drink plenty of water during the day, before you go to bed and first thing the next morning. Water will aid your metabolism and help you get that good workout going on Friday morning.
- Eat slowly and savor your food. You will enjoy your food more and probably eat less.
- Try these three nutritional supplements to help your body deal with the effects of all that rich food and drink:
- Plant-based digestive enzymes help the body break down the foods you eat and take some of the workload off of your organs. Your pancreas will thank you.
- A probiotic complex promotes intestinal balance and aids in digestion
- A liver support complex will help decongest the liver, clear out the fat and improve liver circulation, so your body will find it much easier to metabolize the fats you ate at dinner and those you want to remove from your waistline.
So Have Your Pumpkin Pie – and Eat it Too
It’s really that simple. Make a deal with yourself that you will use at least the first three tips for helping your body cope with the holiday feast and then give yourself permission to enjoy the day without reservation or guilt. I think you will be happy with the result.
Oh, by the way, if you get right back on to your normal schedule of exercise and nutrition, there is no reason that this plan can’t work gangbusters for you on Christmas and New Year’s. Happy Holidays!