How to Enjoy Thanksgiving Dinner!

November 20, 2017

When I started writing this post, I mistakenly titled it, "How to Survive Thanksgiving Dinner."


As I read it over before posting, that title made me shake my head in disgust!





My whole purpose and mission is to help women enjoy life to the fullest, serving their families and their world, and to THRIVE, not "survive," by living healthy and fit lives.


So even when it comes to the holidays, you should ENJOY them, not survive them.


Of course, I can only help you out navigating the dinner table but unfortunately you're on your own with the crazy uncle or over-zealous grandparents who won't stop asking when you are finally getting married!






Anywho... Here are some tips to enjoy the day without feeling guilty and bloated after! (Also, if you are completely OK with feeling guilty and bloated one day a year, ignore this post and I'll catch you on the next one!).




Navigating the Thanksgiving table:


1.) Don't fast all day in anticipation of the feast.


Unless you're eating by 12pm, which some families truly might be, you should eat something light and protein-filled prior to your main event. It helps keep your blood sugar stabilized and keeps you from falling face-first into whatever delicious appetizer greets you at your celebration. 


2.) However, DO save the majority of your calories for the festivities.


Of course if you know you're going to enjoy a piece of pie or extra scoops of gravy at your meal, go lighter on the calories throughout the day. For example, start your day with Greek yogurt, oatmeal, a smoothie, etc. instead of deciding to splurge on a doughnut. Save the doughnut as a treat for a day that you won't already be indulging more than normal.


3.) Try to be moderately active throughout the day, especially if you're hitting multiple locations.


You will definitely feel stuffed if you go from couch to couch at different homes of family and friends, eating your way through the day with minimal movement. I'm not saying you have to run 10 miles in between stops but DO try to move around to aid digestion. Offer to help with the dishes, play with the kiddos, etc.---moving burns calories!


4.) Have a plan in your mind before you go.


The next tip should constitute as your plan! If you do NOT walk in with a plan, you'll probably have at least one of everything, plus three helpings of your favorite dessert and then feel the need to unbutton your pants and crawl under the table. This is the age of social media, someone WILL take a picture of you and share it everywhere. Instead, read on to tip #5.


5.) Load up on the "healthy options" and enjoy smaller portions of the "not-so-healthy options."


Don't be afraid to eat what you enjoy or look forward to all year. You will feel sad and left out if you ignore your favorite stuffing because you thought you had to be "healthy." However, when you binge on that "favorite food," you will be enjoying it with a side of guilt and shame which is good for no one! 


  • Fill your plate with veggies (be as smart as you can about this, the green bean casserole with a creamy sauce might have just as many calories as the candied yams so choose what seems healthiest, such as a salad that you control the dressing on, etc.)

  • Add a serving of protein (turkey)

  • Survey which carbs are worth it. I don't throw on every carb I see. I check out the options: stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, rolls, etc. and then make a choice. If you REALLY love stuffing and mashed potatoes, go ahead and have both but make the portions smaller.

6.) Drink or dessert?


Here's the deal, you get to decide how "YOLO" you go on this meal. Personally, if I'm just looking to maintain my weight and not gain two pounds from this meal, I'll enjoy both a glass of wine and a small serving of dessert. However, if I'm trying to continue on a plan of fat loss and muscle gain and I expect to see progress at the end of a week that contains a holiday, I would only enjoy one or the other: a drink or dessert. Again, decide before you go, and walk in knowing you're going to drink only water to enjoy that pie, or that you will feel OK with yourself the next day if you have a beer and a small serving of trifle.


7.) Think about your portion sizes.


This is huge. No pun intended. If you follow all those tips but you use Godzilla-sized portions, you're going to walk away probably having ingested 5,000 calories. Don't follow the plates of the people around you and try to eat the same AMOUNT as you would any other day. Try not to fill your entire plate JUST because you were given a large plate. Let your brain guide you, not your stomach!



And lastly...







8.) Don't give a second thought to what your family says about your eating habits.


THIS. THIS. THIIIIIIIIIIIIS! This is the most important note I could make about ANY holiday or family get-together. So many of my clients cite this as a reason for totally derailing their nutrition at family gatherings. 


"I don't want my dad to make comments about why I'm not eating that."


"I don't want to be the weirdo who brings her own food."


Here is your two-word solution to this entire dilemma. STOP CARING.


That's right. Just stop caring what anyone else says about your food choices. First of all, it's rude for anyone to comment on. Seriously. It would be appalling to tease someone for indulging in gluttonous portions and likewise it is not appropriate to belittle someone's smaller or selective portions.


But it does happen and I can't tell you to duct-tape Aunt Edna's mouth shut so instead I'll tell you to JUST DO YOUR THING.


When a family member eyes your plate and comments loudly, "That's ALLLLLLLLL you're eating?!"


You answer: "Yup."


The end.


If they carry it on longer than that, don't feel the need to explain yourself. Of course, you can always answer honestly as well with responses such as, "That's all I really need," or "I'm trying not to over-indulge even through the holidays."



People always want partners for indulgent or devious behavior. I know. I'm like that too. 


It feels much better to have a second helping of ice cream cake if I get my sister to do it also. 


Thankfully, my family has always been very considerate of one another's food choices. When I was marathon-training, I'd bring my own grilled chicken salads to family dinners where I knew pizza was being served. At first they might have found it odd, but they understood. Since then there have been times where my mom is doing a Whole 30 so she skips the grains or a brother-in-law is skipping a beer for an upcoming race, whatever it may be. 


But I do know that not every household is as supportive in this way.


Do your best not to feel "guilted" into gluttonous behavior that you won't even enjoy because you'll feel bad about it later. 


If you feel OK about your food choices, don't listen to the opinions of others who don't share your same goals and values.


As I tell my 23lb turkey (aka 6 month-old son), "Haters gonna hate."





I hope these tips were helpful and that you have a wonderful Thanksgiving! Message me and let me know if you tried any of these and how they worked for you!

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