Pop quiz: What causes people to eat more than they anticipated on Thanksgiving:
a. Boredom “hmm…..I’ve been sitting were watching football with the fam all day…so I might as well dip into these chips and salsa sitting in front of me..”
b. Stress “OMG, two full days with the in-laws AND their yappy little poodle and I have no exit strategy…..where is the Pumpkin pie???”
c. Sheer volume of food in front of you “….hmm, of the 50 platters of food on the table, which 10 am I going to eat? Is that too much??”
d. Mouth-gasms from tasty eats “…I know my stomach is about to pop but mom’s stuffing is SOOOOO good……who can stop eating when it’s this good?
e. Mindless eating “…hey, did we really eat a whole wheel of brie and a box of crackers while catching up and chatting…oops!”
Answer: ALL OF THE ABOVE!!!
But, fear not. It doesn’t have to be that way! If you really want to, you can escape this Thanksgiving day without the extra helping of guilt, regret, heartburn and having to undo the belt a knotch.
First of all: Don’t panic. I’ve noticed after coaching a lot of intelligent, motivated, confident women that there is a lot of anxiety about expecting the holiday to be a day of total gluttony. It’s as if we feel totally powerless to the onslaught of food that is about to befall us. You DO have power, you just need to realize this. Nobody is forcing you to eat and if you simply employ a few mindful strategies, you can wake up on November 25th feeling pretty good (which, by the way, sets you up for more mindful, balanced eating for the rest of the weekend!).
Here’s what I learned over the years from books, from myself, and from amazing people like YOU who have contributed to this over-eating guide for the holidays (or rather how to NOT over-eat if you don’t want to) this holiday season.
Okay, strategy #1: Don’t panic. Now I’ve said it twice. Thanksgiving is ONE Day. It’s what we do habitually that contributes to our outcome (weight, mindset, health) rather than the occasional holiday meal. So keep it in perspective. It is not a free pass to excess eating between tomorrow and Christmas unless you allow it to be. It’s one day. You can do this and it’s okay to enjoy it, by the way!
Strategy #2: Go in with a plan. I love coaching women on devising their holiday meal plan. What do you really love to eat at the holiday that is special, delicious, and you wouldn’t want to pass up? Is it stuffing? Great? Put some on your plate and don’t feel guilty. Is it pie? Fine! Save room in your belly for dessert. Look at the whole day – there is likely some foods that are no big deal to you (like, say, the chips and salsa appetizer). Skip on those foods and plan to enjoy the foods you want.
Strategy #3: use a plate. What? No, I’m not trying to insult you by implying that you eat like barbarians, but when it comes to mindless, grazing food behaviors usually plates and utensils are cast to the wayside. If you are going to ‘graze’, treat it like a meal. Small bite calories add up just as much as big bite/portion calories do too. Stop fooling yourself! Be willing to commit to the eating experience but engaging in use of flatware. You’ll potentially put less on your plate and you’ll have a visible sign (empty plate) that tells you it’s time to stop.
Strategy #4: Position yourself strategically away from the tempting foods. This may not apply so much when you sit down to eat dinner, but a lot of people eat much more before and after the formal ‘meal’ when they are just hanging out, watching football, visiting with friends, etc. Literally don’t sit next to the food you can’t stop eating. Get yourself out of arm’s reach so you don’t hear the whisper of those Swedish meatballs or cheese cubes or whatever food calls you. If you aren’t hungry, don’t even get out a plate. Sit and talk and watch and take in the day for what it is! Also, maybe even consider sitting with your back to the food or putting the food away when the meal is over so that temptations are minimized.
Strategy #5: Move yo’ body! Play Wii with your pre-teen nieces and nephews (or kids…or heck, your adult friends too). Offer to take fluffy for a walk, do a Pilates video in your room (you brought your Smartphone, right? Load one up!). There are so many ways to move without going to the gym, you don’t need to find one that works for you. As they say….Just do it! It’s not so much for the calorie burning (which is good) as it is for the mental sanity and confidence it will bring you that you uphold standards of health and wellness, even on holidays.
Strategy #6; Eat a protein-rich breakfast. Nothing too heavy here, but don’t start the day with cinnamon rolls. You’ll get plenty of sugar later, right? Eat some eggs, some turkey sausage, some yogurt, or some high protein cereal. Maybe even squeeze in a vegetable (veggie omelet?). Even cereal with fat-free milk might be too much carb, but at least there is some protein in the milk. This may help you feel fuller faster later in the day and it will help kick start your metabolism.
Strategy #7: umm…ever heard of WATER? People forget to drink water at holidays. What with all the soda, sparkling juices, beer, wine, liquor, Egg nog, hot totties….you get the idea. You need water. If you are inside a hot, stuffy kitchen wrangling a 25-lb turkey, you better darn well drink some water to avoid getting even minorly dehydrated. Water is the elixer of life!! It is also the currency of your metabolic processes, so drink up to your digestive health!
Strategy #8: For goodness sake, be GRATEFUL! Is it a cliche to be reminded of this over and over again? Maybe, but it’s true. Be grateful for your body and how it can tell you when you are doing things it likes, and doing things it doesn’t like. PS: it doesn’t like being over stuffed to the point of oblivion. It’s trying to tell you that, so maybe you can make an attempt at listening today. Partner with your body on Thanksgiving morning and make an agreement that it will give you some liberties to enjoy an indulgent meal, but you’ll do your part not to expect digestive or caloric miracles by keeping a balance to things. YOu’ll know that the agreement worked when you go to bed feeling good, nourished, content, and you didn’t even need to open the medicine cabinet for some help.
Happy Thanksgiving, everybody. 🙂