I like to think that my blog readers (if there are any out there besides me) are somewhat knowledgeable about diet and exercise already. After all, if you're reading this post, you're likely trying to lose weight or maintain your weight or simply have an interest in a healthy lifestyle (or just think I'm ridiculously amusing and awesome). So, when thinking about writing my Thanksgiving Day survival blog, I'm going to make a couple of assumptions.
Assumption 1: Everyone knows that eating a massive plate of turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, and cornbread and then washing it all down with a half of a pie, is NOT going to make the number on your scale go down.
Assumption 2: Your idea of a good time on Thanksgiving does not include making yourself miserable because your plate only has peas and carrots on it while everyone else is shoveling in the good stuff.
Ok, now that we are all on the same page, there are some things you can do to enjoy Thanksgiving and not want to kill yourself the next morning. As I've said before, I believe in balance. It's not realistic to think that the average person is going to be able to resist the deliciousness that is Thanksgiving. Sure lots of people like to "pretend" this is the case, like my favorite Biggest Loser competitors. If I was in the running to win hundreds of thousands of dollars for losing weight and the finale was only 2 weeks after Thanksgiving, yeah, maybe I'd ease up on the stuffing too or make some low-calorie version, but I'm not so I have zero intent of doing either of these things.
So, how do you enjoy your Thanksgiving and not ruin your weight loss progress? Well, there are definitely some popular tips and strategies that you can adopt. Here's a quick list of some things you can do to save yourself a few calories without missing out on anything.
Eat a healthy breakfast. It does not do you any good to skip this meal to prepare. Eat what you normally would.
Reach for the white meat. White meat is much better for you than dark meat, and while you are at it, avoid the skin.
Don't use a heavy hand on the gravy. Smothering your plate in gravy is an easy way to add hundreds of calories. If you love gravy, don't skip it, just be mindful that you don't need gravy soup with turkey floating in it, a tablespoon or 2 will do the trick.
Pick pumpkin. Pumpkin pie is typically lower in fat and calories than all other pies. If you can, don't pick pecan or cream pies. These are usually the worst for you.
Here are some other things to think about...
Thanksgiving is a holiday and therefore a special day. Its unlikely that you have Thanksgiving Day foods like stuffing many (if any) other time in the year, so it is ok to enjoy these seasonal favorites on this one day a year. If you love your Mom's pumpkin cheesecake and this is the one time of year she makes it, by all means, allow yourself a treat. That being said, don't go crazy. In other words, have a piece of the pumpkin cheesecake. Don't take the whole thing to your face or I promise you will regret it later. After all, it's the first bite that tastes the best anyway.
Even though its a special day, keep the important question in mind, is this worth it? In the example above, the piece of pumpkin cheesecake is worth it. You love it and its not something that you can eat everyday. Maybe before you hit the bread basket hard, think about whether or not you need that roll in addition to the heaping pile of mashed potatoes you are about to consume. Unless you make some sandwich concoction (which is usually for leftovers--which I will cover shortly) than you probably can skip the roll and not miss anything special. Rolls are not Thanksgiving specific and you can get one any day of the year. Remember, don't eat as much as you can until you feel sick just because you feel like its the one day you are allowed to cheat. Eat what you want until you are full. After that, stop eating, because it does not taste as good and you will feel sick.
Now, onto the leftovers. Let's be real here. Leftovers are often better than the original meal. So, what do you do? Normally, I would give that advice that it is ok to splurge on the special day, in this case on Thursday, Thanksgiving Day. I would normally tell you that after that one day, it's time to get back on track. I would warn people not to think that because they over-ate on Thursday, it is ok to just call the weekend a wash and start again Monday. But, since Thanksgiving leftovers cannot possibly be put into the normal category, I am altering my advice. Here it is: If you host Thanksgiving at your house, give away most (not all of your leftovers). Keep enough for you and anyone else you live with to enjoy ONE plate of leftovers. On Friday, eat breakfast and lunch like you normally would, and eat your delicious tasting leftovers for dinner. DO NOT and I repeat DO NOT keep enough leftovers so that the next morning, you are eating mashed potatoes and pie for breakfast and then again for lunch and for an afternoon snack and so on... If you do not host, maybe you are lucky enough to have someone give you some leftovers to take home. If not, you don't even have to worry! But, be careful. Eat your one plate of leftovers and do not call the weekend a wash. It won't make for a pretty sight on the scale on Monday.
I've read in numerous places that the average American consumes over 4,000 calories on Thanksgiving Day. This whole time, I've been telling you this is ok. While that number is beyond disturbing, I still don't think it will stop many of us from pounding on Thursday. Personally, I want to eat my favorites on Thanksgiving, but not at the cost of completely blowing all of my recent hard work. Since I know my will power is non-existent when there is a bowl of stuffing in front of me, I know I need to work out on Thanksgiving to at least give myself a little piece of mind. So, if you're going to eat it, you might as well work some of it off. Find some time to hit the gym or get in some form of physical activity (and no, mashing the potatoes does not count). You obviously won't be working out after dinner, so you must get this done in the morning. If you can, up your workout a bit to prepare for the big meal. Also, make sure you hit the gym the next day too!
To end this post, here is a little poem I found:
May your stuffing be tasty
May your turkey plump,
May your potatoes and gravy
Have nary a lump.
May your yams be delicious
And your pies take the prize,
And may your Thanksgiving dinner
Stay off your thighs!
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!