Turkey, stuffing and pie, oh my! Thanksgiving can be a stressful time for people looking to manage their weight because it is a holiday that:
1) Primarily focuses on food
2) Signifies the start of the holiday season which is full of parties, celebrations and special family meals. And unfortunately, most of these celebrations are not serving huge platters of veggies, grilled chicken, hummus and whole wheat pita with fruit for dessert!
While an all-day eating holiday like Thanksgiving can wreak havoc on otherwise good eating habits, one non-ideal meal (or day) does not lead to pounds of weight gain. The big issue for many is how to deal with the days following Thanksgiving when we have lots of temptations to keep the celebration going on. Friday (all those leftovers) and Saturday (well I’ve already gone overboard so may as well enjoy myself) and Sunday (I’ll start fresh on Monday) and Monday (I wanted to eat better but my coworkers brought in pie/cake and leftovers!) and . . . you get the idea.
To successfully tackle Black Friday, use the following three tactics:
- Have a “Leftovers” Plan: We tend to run into trouble when we open the fridge the day after Thanksgiving and see tons of tempting foods staring back at us. Creating a way to control leftovers will make sure that we can indulge on our terms, not on our refrigerator’s terms (i.e. I’ve got to eat this pie and half a turkey or it will go bad). The adage still applies, “Out of sight, out of mind, out of stomach.” So if you’re hosting Thanksgiving dinner, send your guests home with care packages containing pie and casseroles.
- Keep Active: Nothing like falling asleep in front of the football game on TV after Thanksgiving dinner to get our weekend started on the less active foot. A great way to help our bodies deal with extra food is to keep our metabolism high throughout the weekend. Consider a bike ride, jog or workout the day after Thanksgiving to keep you motivated to continue exercising throughout the entire holiday season. Check out the 1 hour-tip below for another activity that will let you kill two birds (pun intended) with one stone.
- Preventing “Holiday Mode”: As previously mentioned, most of the issues with Thanksgiving and the holidays are when we let our celebratory meals spill into the next day, and the day after that. Many people have the the day after Thanksgiving off of work and we often are busy focusing on other activities like holiday shopping so we just go for whatever food is around: usually leftovers or eating out. Being mindful that the food-related Thanksgiving holiday ends on Thursday is the first crucial step to setting yourself up for success over the rest of the weekend.
Some tips to put these tactics into action:
Have 1 Minute? Give away unwanted leftovers.
Create a leftover delegation list with each family or person coming to Thanksgiving and the associated foods you will send them home with. Ask guests to bring their containers with them or make sure you have enough that you don’t mind parting with.
Have 5 Minutes? Plan a healthy Black Friday.
Plan a healthy day of eating for Friday by writing down what you will eat, from breakfast to your after-dinner snack. This will reduce that chance that you miss a meal or become tempted to eat something that is out of your routine. If you normally eat breakfast, do not skip it on Friday. Remember some of the keys to balanced meals: lean protein, complex carbs, plenty of fruits and veggies and healthy fats (avocado, olive oil, nuts, salmon, etc.). Consistency is key: make sure you eat on Friday the same way you ate the month, week and day before Thanksgiving.
Have 15 Minutes? Portion your leftovers.
Sometimes the issue is not about what the leftovers are, but more how much of them are left. Spend some time Thursday night portioning leftovers into balanced meals for Friday and the rest of the weekend so you do not become tempted to take extra-large helpings or only eat lots of your favorite food. Freeze some leftovers too so you can enjoy them throughout the holiday season and not feel pressured to eat them all within a few days.
Have 60 Minutes? Work out by cleaning up.
After breakfast on Friday, get your workout in while taking care of one of the most dreaded post-Thanksgiving activities by setting aside an hour to do some vigorous cleaning all around the house. By increasing the intensity of your cleaning (a little bit faster, more elbow grease) you will clean more and burn a few hundred calories per hour.
About the author: Jason Machowsky, MS, RD, CSCS is a registered dietitian, certified personal trainer, author of Savor Fitness & Nutrition wellness blog and avid proponent of MyBodyTutor, a health coaching website dedicated to helping people stay consistent with their healthy eating and exercise goals.
TELL US: What’s your strategy for recovering from Thanksgiving indulgences?