Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Seven Tips for a Healthy, Mindful Thanksgiving

Ahhh, Thanksgiving... the time of year that signifies the start of the Great Feast that continues through New Year's (or Mardi Gras, if you live in Louisiana!).

Oh, wait... that's not actually true. Thanksgiving is actually only one day*, just like Christmas is only one day (or two, if you do something on Christmas Eve like our family!).

*Even if you celebrate 2 or 3 Thanksgiving dinners, you can still use these tips and have a good holiday. That's no excuse :P

The holidays can be a really stressful time in terms of food, especially if you're trying to lose weight or get healthy... usually we just resign ourselves to either A) maintain our weight through the holidays, or B) accept that we will probably gain a few pounds (or 10) and resolve to deal with it at the start of the new year. Well folks, guess what...

It doesn't have to be that way.

Believe it or not, there IS a third option, and that option is to actually continue your healthy habits and actually lose weight through the holidays.

What a novel idea, huh?

It can be done, and I can prove it...

Yep, that's right--I actually LOST weight at last year's post-Thanksgiving meeting. Let that sink in.

I remember prior to Thanksgiving Day, I'd decided that I'd be happy to just maintain through the holiday. Then, I met with my nutritionist a couple of days prior to T-day and she helped me develop some strategies to stay mindful and have a good Thanksgiving, where I was able to enjoy the company of family and not stress about the food. I then decided that I'd just do the best I could, and whatever the scale said afterward didn't matter, because at least I would know that I did my best and had a good time.

I should also mention that we eat Thanksgiving dinner at Marc's aunt's house. He has a massive family, and there are usually 30-40 people there, with like 5 different appetizers, about 20 different side dishes, and 5+ different desserts. Oh, and loads of wine and beer.

I've been thinking about how I will handle this Thanksgiving, and I realized that all I need to do is follow last year's strategies--and I want to share them with you!

Treat the days leading up to Thanksgiving Day as ordinary days. How often do we practically starve ourselves leading up to The Day so we'll feel "okay" about gorging ourselves when it actually arrives? Or how about the opposite--we say "screw it" and just throw our healthy habits out the window altogether because we figure we'll gain anyway so what's the point? So here's an alternative--change nothing. Remember, Thanksgiving is just one day, not a whole week! If you have work potlucks to attend, do the same... it's just one meal!

Wake up early and go for a walk or run. Last year was the first time I'd ever done any sort of exercise on Thanksgiving morning, and I gotta say... it was a game-changer! It set a positive tone for the entire day. I got up early and went for my usual 2-mile walk, and it was a wonderful way to start the day. I felt energized and invigorated to follow the rest of my strategies!

Eat a good breakfast and a snack prior to The Meal. In prior years, I would eat nothing until Thanksgiving dinner, because I wanted to make sure I had as many calories/points and as much room as possible for gorging myself. Not last year! I had a good breakfast (I think I had toast w/ almond butter, a yogurt and some fruit), and then I had fruit for a snack before heading out for The Meal so I wouldn't be starving when we arrived. This way, I wasn't starving when we arrived and I was able to mindfully choose what I wanted to eat--rather than just eating everything in sight.

Eat only what you truly enjoy. This is a tough one. It sounds simple enough, right? I mean, if you don't like something, why would you eat it? Well, there are a million reasons... you don't want to offend Great Aunt Sally, your sweet grandmother keeps pushing you to "try this! have another spoonful!", or it's the mindset of "it's Thanksgiving I HAVE TO EAT ALL THE THINGS mmmmmnomnomnom". So how about it this...
  • When your grandmother is pushing you to eat something you really don't want, take a tiny spoonful and then leave it on your plate.
  • You really don't want to offend people or hurt anyone's feelings, so when push comes to shove, make a to-go plate. Explain that everything just looked and smelled so delicious, but you're already stuffed and will take some to-go. Once it's home, you can do with it as you please! 
  • Be picky! I usually skip the basic veggies, mashed potatoes, mac & cheese, and some of dressings (at our Thanksgiving, there's like 4 different types of dressing). I can have the veggies, potatoes, and mac & cheese any time, and I don't particularly like all of the dressings. However, I love sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, and Aunt Donna's orange rolls, and I only have them 1-2 times per year so make sure to have those on my plate! 
Go for a walk after dinner. I didn't actually get to do this last year, but I'm hoping to do it this year. Ideally, I'd take the walk before dessert so I'm reinvigorated to stay the course, but after dessert would be fine too. 

Mingle away from the food. It's so easy to munch on food when you're standing right next to it. Go outside and chat with people, or go to another room... just step away from the food

Wake up Friday and remember it's a new, normal day and pat yourself on the back for being kind to yourself on Thanksgiving! You did it! Your survived, and you didn't overstuff yourself and feel miserable and fall into a coma afterward. You had a great time and enjoyed chatting with friends and family, and didn't concert yourself with the food the entire time. You rock! 

What are your strategies for a successful Thanksgiving? 

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