With Thanksgiving looming, it's a good bet all thoughts are on food, family and friends.
How that plays out is anyone's guess, but I have a hunch it could swing a few ways:
Thanksgiving is a loaded holiday, so to make sure it's not loaded with things that will lead you to give up on your good health, I've decided to offer some tips to protect you and help you through it.
Here is your 2016 Thanksgiving Survival Guide.
So that you don't join the crowd that consumes up to 5,000 calories while sitting around the Thanksgiving table:
- Eat breakfast the morning of. If you're saving all your calories for that mega meal, don't. You may be so famished come turkey time that you overdo it big-time on the mashed potatoes and gravy (not to mention the stuffing and dessert)—all fat-laden, calorie-heavy foods. Eating a small, sensible breakfast (and lunch, depending on what time the dinner bell will ring) will help take the edge off and give you control over your appetite later in the day.
- Stay hydrated. Don't forget to drink water throughout the day—this can be easy to forget to do if you're busy running around, preoccupied with all things Thanksgiving. It's not uncommon for people to mistake their thirst for hunger. (If you feel hungry, try drinking a glass of water first and waiting about 15 minutes to see if the hunger was real—or just thirst, after all.)
- Pay attention to portions. It's easy to get carried away, what with all the yummy once-a-year temptations. Before you dig in, take a brief survey of what's on the table. Decide what you're going to choose, and then be reasonable. Remember the "three-bite" rule: The first bite is the most exciting; the second is good, too. By the third bite, you've already experienced the taste and texture and then it tastes pretty much the same. (OK, it's Thanksgiving; you can take more than three bites—but you get the idea.)
- Skip the seconds. Are you really still hungry? Remember that leftovers are pretty good, too!
- Take your time. Savor each bite. Chew slowly. Put your fork down between bites. There's no rush, after all. It's a time to relax and kick back. And doing so will give you an opportunity to taste and enjoy your food, plus make you more aware of when you are really, truly full.
- Diagnose the danger foods. String bean casserole may sound OK (after all, it's a vegetable!), but it can be laden with creamy, gooey calories. And a sweet potato seems like a worry-free choice but becomes a calorie bomb when dressed up with sugary marshmallows and candied pecans. Can't resist? Take a little of each.
- Go easy on the booze. Not only are drinks "liquid calories," but being buzzed can unleash your inhibitions and make you eat more. Pour some sparkling water into a nice glass and add some cranberry or orange juice. Or, make your wine a wine spritzer by cutting half of it with sparkling water or club soda.
So that you don't forget to move:
- Walk—and then walk some more. Hopefully the weather will cooperate to allow you to gather up some people and take a walk early in the day, before dinner. And after dinner? That's a time when a lot goes on: you either sit around and pick at leftovers, sit around and snooze or watch TV (or both), help clean up while picking at leftovers, or all four. Instead, take another walk: the exercise will aid your digestion, help energize you and cut the desire to veg out and misbehave. (Don't want to walk? See below.)
- Offer to do the dishes, vacuum or mop the floor or clear the table. These will all get you moving (and gain the appreciation of the host, too).
- Attend a class. Lots of gyms or exercise studios offer Thanksgiving Day classes or workouts, to help keep your fitness goals on track. Some clever names I found while searching around the Web include "Carved," "Pre-Feast Beast Ride," "Turkey Day Meltdown," and "Calorie Gobble Workout." Also, many communities offer "Turkey Trot" races on Thanksgiving morning—a good way to start the day.
So that you don't forget how to manage stress:
- B-r-e-a-t-h-e. Controlled breathing is an ancient practice that works wonders to relax your body and reduce stress. It can boost your immune system, too. Here's an easy one: Take a deep breath while expanding your belly. Pause. Exhale slowly while counting silently to five. Repeat five times.
- Steer clear of rehashing the election. We all know that this election has sparked some pretty awful dissension among even the closest of friends. People feel angry, hurt, frightened, disappointed and plenty stressed. Better to stay away from that topic altogether. Bringing it up or participating in a conversation is likely to get ugly fast.
- Meditate. If it all gets overwhelming and, despite your best efforts, the political banter besieges you, find a quiet corner or private room and sit for a few minutes to calm your racing mind.
- Get enough sleep. Do all you can to be well-rested the night before the big event. Sleep derivation not only frays your nerves but also can rev up your appetite.
- Write it down. Whether it be a food journal to track your eating, a gratitude journal to remind you of all that's good in life or a note to yourself written the night before to remind you to eat sensibly and keep your wits about you, committing thoughts to paper has a way of keeping you aware of the here and now. Studies show that expressive writing can help people relax and reduce stress and anxiety, too.
Wishing you all a happy Thanksgiving filled with good health, good times and peace! And don't forget to express your thanks—it goes a long way toward improving your relationships, your health, your outlook on life and your overall happiness.