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Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and it is by far my favorite holiday.  No matter how hard they’ve tried marketers can’t crack the code to undermine this holiday and make it a superficial commercially-focused day, and it is really about family, friends, food and football (US).  FYI…  these are a few of my favorite things.

Unfortunately, as someone who is a bit of a fitness and health nut, Thanksgiving has also become synonymous with eating boatloads of unhealthy food, lying around so that your calorie burn is as close to zero as possible, so that many go into the Christmas and New Year holidays feeling sloppy, gross and guilty.  I’m not going to write a nagging, negative blog-post to make you feel more guilty about enjoying the holiday.  However, I do want to ask that you avoid giving yourself card blanch to go all glutton and sloth on this great holiday.

My challenge to you is to enjoy the holiday, enjoy your time with family and friends, eat some great food, and chill out (OK, we all know it’s nap time) to a football game or two, while keeping your wits about you and your ‘health train’ on the tracks.

Here are a few tips that represent themes from the many articles I’ve read over the years with titles like “Thanksgiving Survival Guide”, along with some small steps of my own.

  1. Don’t Starve Yourself To Prep For a Mega-Meal:  We’ve all done it.  You wake up, you watch the Macy’s Parade, feel that tinge of hunger, but think “No, today’s Thanksgiving, so I’m going to save room by not eating until it’s time.”  Starving yourself until 2, 3 or 4 pm on Thanksgiving will guarantee you over-pile your plate and  go back for 2nds or 3rds.  A reasonable breakfast and lunch, will keep your metabolism motoring and ensure that Thanksgiving dinner is just a great dinner (not the equivalent of 5 of them).
  2. Drink Lots of Water:  OK, so this is good health/nutrition 101 and Thanksgiving Day is no different.  Make sure you drink at least 32 oz of water on Thanksgiving, and a tall glass of water just before dinner can be a good inoculation to vacuum eating.
  3. Be Social & Give Thanks:  If Thanksgiving is just about food and pigging out, you’re going to have a tough time not over-doing it.  Thus, take the time to be social, enjoy your time with friends and family, and think about those things you should truly be thankful for.  If you shift the locus of the holiday so that food is just an accoutrement and not the center-piece, you many actually enjoy the day more…  and you’ll feel much better the day after.
  4. Use Your Intelligence at The Table:  Instead of approaching your Thanksgiving meal in terms of amount (which most do), approach it from the perspective of making it one of the best meals you have all year.  a)  Be strategic with your food selection.  Go with small “sample size” portions of the stuff you know is simply bad for you, a bit larger portions of items with mixed ‘food value’, and save your largest portions for those things where volume is a non-issue (e.g. veggies).  b) Don’t get too saucy – – enough said?  c) Eat one meal only – unless you just won Survivor and spent 39 days eating coconuts, you only need one plate of food – – no 2nds, 3rds, etc.  d) Take your time at the table, socialize and enjoy the holiday.  You will see Uncle Jerry and Aunt Edna get 2nds and 3rds, but stay strong and enjoy plate one.
  5. Take A Walk: Not to make room for another plate.  Just because walking is good for you, your body needs to move to be healthy, and there are at least two half-times in which you can strategically time your movement.  My wife’s suggestion is to walk, before you have dessert.  I like it, as long as dessert is reasonable.
  6. Avoid Leftovers:  Don’t shoot the messenger.  I know leftovers are considered the best part of Thanksgiving.  In college, Thanksgiving leftovers could sustain me for almost a month.  However, from a pure health, wellness and “guilt free” perspective, I suggest you avoid them completely.  The best plan, have Thanksgiving at a friends, in-laws, etc., where the leftovers stay with them – – and avoid that post Thanksgiving sell from your mother-in-law, who wants to put together a tasty ‘calorie and fat basket’ together for you to take home.  If you do Thanksgiving at your house, make a few of those calorie and fat baskets for others and make sure they take them.  If not, be lazy enough not to put the food away, so that you have to throw it out the next morning – – you’ll be glad you did.

Enjoy this great holiday, I know I will.  Gobble gobble!!!

Small steps add up!