I don’t know if I’m being more observant or just more sensitive, but there has been A LOT of misinformation floating around this year about how to tackle Thanksgiving. The heartbreaking thing is that these ideas aren’t just not helpful but they will actually lead to the exact outcome that you are trying to prevent. So I wanted to answer some of the most common questions I have been receiving and give some specific advice on how to handle America’s biggest eating day.
Oh, and if you are busy or just a skimmer…skip down to the end where I get to The Point.
Should I skip breakfast or fast to save calories?
I get this idea, I really do. When you are thinking in the terms of calories, this thought makes 100% sense. However, when you take a step back and look at behavior, this is the root of most of the overeating during the holidays.
When we skip meals or cut calories too low, we are ensuring with 100% certainty that we are going to follow that up with frenzied eating. You know what I’m talking about. The type of eating where you are starving, inhale the food in record time and then find yourself uncomfortable and maybe even sick. Our intention may be to save room so we can really enjoy the meal, but if we are being honest, when we set ourselves up like this we barely even taste the food. Moreover, we have changed the way our body metabolizes food and now it is more likely to be stored as fat.
Instead, I want you to eat normally leading up to Thanksgiving. This means breakfast and maybe even lunch depending on when you eat as a family. You will not “spoil” your dinner, you will still be hungry and you will actually get to taste and enjoy the food that you are eating.
Should I get in an extra hard workout in the morning to make up for over eating?
Oftentimes we think that we should either burn extra calories in the morning or pay for our behavior the day after Thanksgiving to make up for a larger meal. When we do this, it can feel punitive and we can feel entitled or justified in eating to an extreme. Now please don’t hear this as me encouraging you not to workout (I love going for a hike on Thanksgiving morning) but do it because it is part of your normal routine or it makes you feel good. It does not need to have any impact on the actual food you eat.
Should I limit myself to one plate or load up on veggies so I don’t over eat?
We get very committed to the food that we put on our plate. So once we pile it on we fall into clean plate club mentality and keep eating until it is gone. Instead I want you to put a very small portion of everything that sounds good on your plate with the full intentions of going back for more. Then (this is the fun part) only go back for what you love! I mean really love. This isn’t a trick to get you to go back for the steamed broccoli. No way! Get the mac and cheese or the potatoes or the stuffing. Whatever sounds good to you, feel free to keep going back until you are full or it no longer tastes good.
Should I clean out all the holiday food that night so I can get back on track the next day?
The issue with Thanksgiving isn’t the quality, it is the quantity. Yes, the food may be made in a richer way that you would normally eat but at it’s core, it is a fairly basic meal. The real issue becomes quantity and that is rooted in the mentality that we have to get it ALL in on this one day.
Yes, the food on Thanksgiving is delicious and special….but it’s not that uncommon and it’s certainly not the last time that you will see it. So if you set mental rules that tomorrow it will be off limits you are more likely to overeat today. Remind yourself that the only way it will be all gone is if you eat it all right this second.
One meal makes very little difference when it comes to health and weight. Health and weight are symptoms of behavior over time. In the same way that eating a single carrot doesn’t make you healthy, eating a piece of pie doesn’t make you unhealthy. Eating a bag of celery does not make you skinny nor does eating a bag of chips make you fat. The last two may make you feel pretty crappy, but they will not have permanent positive or negative repercussions.
Now I’m not saying this to give you a license to eat until you are sick. But I do want you to manage your expectations of the day. It is a holiday. It is a celebration and you will most likely eat more than you are used to. This is a part of being human, having connections and celebrating and showing love with food. It is also something that our bodies can handle. There is no need to save, trick or punish. Doing so typically takes the joy out of the eating (by either shoveling it in faster than you can taste or feeling ashamed with every bite) and it has zero positive impact on your health.
So do your best to taste every bite, explore the feeling of being full and avoid talking any politics with Crazy Uncle Pete. If anything doesn’t feel great, reach out to me and we will learn from it and come up with some strategies to feel better next time…which may be as simple as finding someone else to feed Pete?