Here’s an early wish of “Happy Thanksgiving” to you! Many of my clients often ask for strategies they can utilize to successfully navigate holiday meals without jeopardizing their health goals. Here’s a few…
- Just don’t worry about it. Simply have a big feast and don’t overthink it. Humans are designed around the cyclic use of many “f” words (feasting, fasting, fighting, fornicating, friending, fellowshipping, fitnessifying, etc.) and a celebratory dinner with loved ones is a part of our genetic and historical makeup. If you are generally pursuing a healthy life that includes a nutritious diet, the right amount of exercise, plenty of sleep, and connected, meaningful relationships — the impact of one meal is actually quite inconsequential. Sure, if you work really hard at the dinner table you might gain a pound, but you won’t wreck your hormones and metabolisms over the long haul with just one banquet.
- Eat a traditional meal but dine selectively. Who says you have to plow through three heaping plates with equal portions of all the dishes? Enjoy the turkey but go light on gravy, stuffing, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, and the like. Have a dessert, just not 3. Whether you are looking at total calories, macros, or portions, you can enjoy your Thanksgiving dinner without feeling like you are giving up anything. Chew your food well, put down your fork on occasion and engage in conversation, and enrich yourself with the total experience, not just the gustatory side of T-day.
- Create a healthier version of the old standbys. Take advantage of the many outstanding cookbooks, websites, recipes, and products that we have available today. You can take virtually any traditional Thanksgiving dinner dish and make it grain-free, low-carb, free of industrial seed oils, and anything else. Whatever your standards are, you can make or buy products that allow you to manipulate your holiday meal so that it is not only guiltless (I really don’t love that term in any sense, particularly with food, but there you go) but fantastically delicious.
- Do something entirely different. What if you are not crazy about the traditional turkey and all the trimmings? Some will consider such a thought blasphemous but others simply will not have an emotional registration over the subject. And some, the rebels among us, will defiantly state they aren’t going to let The Man tell them what they should eat on any given day, ever. Ok, so we don’t have to get that crazy, but if you love salad, seafood, steak, ham, stew, or anything else, turn that into your celebratory dinner. Or consider a potluck, a fondue or raclette party, a meal-on-a-stick bonfire…you make the rules…actually there are none.
- Use a few strategies to optimize the situation. As in strategically employ some of your lifestyle habits to allow T-day to be a non-impact on your waistline, health, or self-perception. If you are an endurance athlete, do a long, depleting workout just before dinner (unless you are the cook). You’ll show up hungry and can use the party as replenishment. Or try a 20 to 30 minute HIIT workout several hours before dining. This will blunt your appetite and keep your metabolism idling even as you chow down. Eat early, as in 2-5pm, so that your digestion can handle the bolus of excellence and you don’t disrupt your sleep, health, or circadian rhythm. And consider a gentle stroll of 15-30 minutes after dinner to reduce your postprandial blood glucose levels and consequent insulin response.
These are just a few suggestions that can help you to feel like you are not getting derailed from your health and fitness endeavors while at the same time minimizing anything that you might associate as less than positive with Turkey Day. In the end, it’s important to remember that this is a day of gratitude and we have so much for which to be thankful. I sincerely appreciate your readership, viewership, listenership, and general fabtacularness! Happy Thanksgiving!