If Christmas has been deemed “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” surely Thanksgiving must be second. Who can argue with the value of a day set aside to count all of our blessings? From the laughter of family to the encouraged consumption of delicious foods, the day itself is a reminder of all the many things we have to be thankful for. However, it’s not uncommon for us to give way to gluttony; “It’s Thanksgiving; calories don’t count on Thanksgiving!”
Mountains of mashed potatoes with plains of savory turkey and rivers of tasty gravy engulf our senses. Decadent sweets seem to create delicious choruses that sing our names; an ensemble of pies demands our attention: pumpkin, pecan, sweet potato…and don’t even think about excluding their best friend, whipped cream.
Does this sound familiar? Even though we may excuse our excessive mounds of food at the moment of the feast, we wake up bloated and ashamed (“Was that fourth piece of pie really necessary?”), vowing to do better until Christmas. Since I have made a habit of this every Thanksgiving, I am here to give my best advice for a gluttony-free Thanksgiving, so you can enjoy the holiday without backsliding with your health, fitness, or self-esteem.
Without further ado, I give you my top tips for enjoying your Thanksgiving with moderation. Believe it or not, it is possible to taste all of the things you love without resorting to listing elastic waistbands at the top of your gratitude list.
- Look, then touch: It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the glorious assortment of foods set in front of you. Since there are so many options, scan the table and process your choices before you start scooping foods onto your plate. If you only see a few things that you want to eat, you can take bigger portions of your choices. If you want to try everything on the table, you will know to take smaller portions.
- Hydrate first: Before you dig into your food, drink a glass of water; the water will help you feel full a little bit sooner, so you will start to slow down earlier. You can drink your water while you scan the table for the foods you would like to try.
- Use smaller plates: Typically, we tend to cover every square inch of our plates during our Thanksgiving meal. If you bust out the biggest set of plates you can find, you will be much more likely to consume a massive amount of food before it even hits dessert time. By selecting a smaller plate, even if you cover the entire plate with food, you will significantly cut your calories compared to eating the contents of a larger plate.
- Put your fork down between bites: Setting your fork down in between bites is a great strategy for multiple reasons; not only will it help you eat more slowly (and protect you from choking!), but it will allow you to enjoy each bite of your meal. Instead of shoveling the food into your mouth without thinking, you will savor every bite. You will also be more likely to chat with the people around your table, because you will be focusing on the experience of Thanksgiving rather than developing tunnel vision for your meal.
- Say a silent “thank you” for each bite: Every time you take a bite of food, think about how grateful you are to have the food on your plate. Consider your blessings by reflecting on how blessed you are to be enjoying a delicious and filling meal. Ponder the gift of eating a delicious assortment of foods. Instead of just stuffing the turkey into your mouth, think, “Wow, I am so grateful to have such a savory lunch! This turkey is delicious, and I am glad that I can nourish my body with something so tasty!” This will keep you from mindlessly eating, and it will also reinforce the value of gratitude we should practice every day (especially on Thanksgiving).
- Stay away from seconds: Try your best to refrain from going back for round two. It can take up to 20 minutes for our bodies to start feeling full, so this will help you listen to what your body is instructing you. After you finish your meal, have some hot tea, or another glass of water. Wrapping your hands around a warm cup of tea (zero calories!) will give your hands something to do, and distract you from digging into another pile of potatoes.
- Don’t forget about dessert: Before you fill your plate, keep in mind that you may want dessert after you finish. My family often keeps dessert in the kitchen, and every year I am completely blindsided by the train of delicious sweets my Grandma and aunts carry into the dining room. Even though I am already absolutely stuffed, I always take the dessert, because, hey, what’s Thanksgiving without some pumpkin pie? And apple pie…and pecan pie…and, well, you get the idea. If you have a sweet tooth, plan accordingly. Before you start your meal, make it your goal not to feel like an overstuffed teddy bear as you begin your dessert; if you accomplish this, it will feel like a tiny personal victory when you leave the table.
So there you have it, seven tips to keep you accountable during your Thanksgiving meal. As you take part in your Thanksgiving spread, don’t forget the real meaning behind Thanksgiving. Use your Thanksgiving Thursday to say thank you to all of the people who bless your life. Remember to treat your body kindly on Thanksgiving as your way of showing it some gratitude for all of the amazing things it does for you on a daily basis.
*I originally wrote this post for MVP’s blog. Feel free to go check out their site! http://www.mvpsportsclubs.com/blog/2014-11-24/overindulgence-overrated-playing-it-smart-thanksgiving