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Have Thanksgiving Dinner, Don’t Let It Have You!

Turkey
Photo by xybermatthew via Flickr

The big day is coming.  You know what I’m talking about.  The biggest meal of the year.  The meal to end all meals: Thanksgiving dinner!  This is the meal that can make or break a diet.  If you manage to perfect a strategy for navigating this meal and follow it through to perfection, you could not only thoroughly enjoy yourself, but also continue your healthy lifestyle.

Todd’s story, don’t let if be you
Of course, if you decide to just enjoy yourself and toss your weight loss goals in the garbage, disaster could ensue.  You won’t have just one bad eating day.  The fall out will affect you over the next few weeks, maybe even months.  Imagine the following extreme scenario dramatized for educational purposes. It’s Thanksgiving day and Todd decides to “forget the diet” that he had.

Todd is hosting Thanksgiving dinner at his house and he plans poorly.  So, he cooks way too much food.     Then when dinner is underway, he decides that he will out eat everyone at the table.  It’s only one day, right? No problem!  Why not enjoy all his hard work?  So, Todd decides he’s going to eat a little of everything at the table.  A little deep fried turkey here, huge helping of mashed potatoes with butter there, a serving or three of stuffing, some yams, sweet potatoes, buttered green beans, corn, cranberry sauce three pieces of pumpkin pie and a bottle of wine to wash it all down.

When the table empties and the cars all leave, what is left behind?  Dirty dishes and enough leftovers to feed a family of four for a week.  So Todd’s going to be sensible and feed some other people for a few days, right? Wrong!  I guess you all don’t know Todd the way I do.  Todd decides that he’s done enough cooking for awhile and he’s going to recreate Thanksgiving dinner for himself at least twice a day until the turkey and pumpkin pie runs out.

A week later, the leftovers are almost gone and so are Todd’s dreams of maintaining a healthy weight and getting healthy.  He’s already gained seven pounds in just one week.  He feels weak and incapable of continuing the diet.  He sees the calendar and knows that it’s all going to happen again in three weeks.  Why bother trying to fight it?  Might as well wait until after Christmas.  Aw, heck!  Might as well just start next year.

Five weeks and twenty pounds later on January 1, 2008, Todd is kicking himself for giving up earlier.  Now he has so much more work to do.  It took him six months to get to where he was and only five short weeks to destroy it.

Plan to be healthy during Thanksgiving
Now, I know that none of you would go the route that Todd did because his case was extreme, but you want to avoid setting yourself back at all.  We can all see the traps that Todd fell into easily because his scenario was an extreme one.  Let’s learn from his mistakes and apply them to ourselves.  We all need to plan appropriately for Thanksgiving.  Here are a few suggestions to help keep you on track.

  1. Exercise: Work out before dinner and then the day after.  Exercise will help you burn some of the extra calories that you took in during the dinner.
  2. Healthy cooking: If you’re cooking, choose healthier ways of preparing the food.  Such as baking your turkey instead of deep frying or using a graham cracker crust for your pumpkin pie instead of a shortening based crust.
  3. Watch portions: If you’re cooking, don’t cook much more than you’ll be eating.  Figure out approximately how much you would need for one evening and try to only make 10% over that.
  4. Take your time: Eat slowly and savor each bite.  You’ll enjoy the meal more and won’t feel the need to eat so much.
  5. Skip certain foods: Avoid the fattiest foods.  Don’t add butter to your potatoes and skip the deep fried foods.
  6. Stand up: Halfway through the meal, stand up and clear some dishes or go to the bathroom as an excuse to get up for a moment.  The point is that when you stand, the food settles a bit in your stomach and you’ll feel full if you’ve eaten enough.  If you stay sitting, you won’t know that you’re full until it’s too late and you’ve overeaten.
  7. Don’t overeat: When you’re full, stop eating!  Know your body and stop when you are full. If you want some dessert, make sure to leave some room for it rather than forcing it down after you’re full.
  8. Share leftovers: If you’re hosting the party, be generous!  Give some food away for others to take home.  Focus on the least healthy foods like the pie.  Let them take the pounds away.  After all, there are more of them then there are of you, so you won’t be hurting them the way you’d be hurting yourself by eating it all without them.
  9. Move after dinner: After dinner go for a long walk.  This will help you burn some calories after the meal.
  10. Resume your normal lifestyle: Resume your normal diet and exercise immediately afterward.  Use the coming Christmas dinner as a motivation to work out in the weeks between the holidays, not as an excuse not to.

Just follow these tips as best you can and say thank you to Todd for showing you what not to do this Thanksgiving.  Have a happy, healthy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Comments (6)

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  1. Blake says:

    Great tips to remember. This year I am gonna try hard to watch my portions sizes and not overeat. I’m also going to make sure I take a walk after dinner. Thanks for the great ideas! Happy Thanksgiving!

  2. Rosy says:

    Great post, Tallie!!! For years, I have exercised a little more and saved some calories, so that, if I eat alittle more it isn’t too bad. I, also, have my guests bring ziploc bags/plastic containers, so that, I can give away almost all the food. Because, I just don’t need all those leftovers.

  3. Mark says:

    Fantastic tips Talli! Thank you!

  4. Very good advice! It’s not quite as bad when it’s just my husband and I at home, or we visit friends. When I go to my family’s house all the bad eating habits I had as a kid just come rushing back. It’s like I never left home. I’ll have to remember these tips for Xmas! Thanks.

  5. Carol says:

    Talli, Thank you for the tips, useful for my weight loss goals. Enjoyed our “Apple” talk!
    Have a Great Thanksgiving!

  6. Emily says:

    This is a great post with really useful tips! I rarely have trouble on Thanksgiving — I’m so hyper-aware of its potential caloric pitfalls that it’s the one meal a year at which I am the LEAST likely to overeat — but these are nice ideas to put into practice anytime. Keep up the excellent work on your blog and podcast!

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