Sticking to a healthy new lifestyle is challenging enough without throwing the food-focused holidays into the equation. If Thanksgiving is typically how you leap out of the starting gate into multiple weeks of chronic eating, here are some tips to help you survive the upcoming food fest.
1. Remember That It’s Just Another Day
Like any other day of the week, you make hundreds of food choices (many of which you’re not even aware of), such as eating breakfast vs skipping it, choosing leafy greens over grease, and making a home-cooked meal when you could easily buy a pizza.
Think of Thanksgiving like any other ordinary day — not as a day of doom that’s going to exhaust your willpower and leave you powerless. On Thanksgiving you are still in charge. Feel confident in and trust your ability to control your eating behavior.
2. Don’t Arrive Starving and Dehydrated
Eat breakfast. By intentionally skipping meals and “saving up” for the big meal, you are formulating a conscious plan to stuff yourself. Also, research shows dietary restraint is a predictor of overeating.
Rigid restraint wreaks havoc on you physiologically and psychologically. As blood sugar levels plummet, you create a strong drive to eat. When you feel deprived, it’s natural to eat fast and furiously! But when you’re satiated, you can make more controlled and conscious food choices.
Drink water throughout the day and throughout your meal. It’s not only filling, but oftentimes your body will confuse dehydration with hunger.
3. Wear Tight Pants
Don’t wear your stretchiest pants or tent dress. Again, like starving yourself, you are priming yourself to overeat when you choose “roomy” clothes. When you expand your waistline, you have passed the point of being satisfied and ‘light’ (pleasantly full). Once you need to loosen your belt or unbutton your pants, you are at the point of being very full, that is, “stuffed”.
Rate your level of hunger (a strategy to eat mindfully). Are you eating mindlessly because you’re caught up in the hyper-social atmosphere? Are you physiologically hungry? Or are you continuing to eat to alleviate an emotional surge, such as stress, sadness, boredom, fatigue, or loneliness?
4. Leave Perfectionism at the Door
Be realistic and kind to yourself. Focus on eating slowly and mindfully, being sure to savor and enjoy every bite. If you start out with harsh and rigid rules (I call them ‘dietary handcuffs’), but deviate even the slightest bit, you will feel like you ‘failed’. Perfectionists create added stress in their lives with their all-or-none approach to eating and often times spiral into an emotional eating binge.
5. Don’t Eat It Just Because It’s There
If in the past, you’ve gone through the buffet line and automatically selected a little bit of everything, be selective this year. Choose only the things you truly enjoy.
Also, remember, Thanksgiving is not your last supper. Don’t fall into the mindset that you have to eat your favorite foods (and lots of it) because you only get it on Thanksgiving. Turkey, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, etc. are available on any day of the year.
6. Avoid Saturated Fats
Research studies have shown that saturated fats affect the hormones that control your appetite. This effect can set you up for a vicious cycle of overeating as it can last for several days. Steering clear of the party platters of cheese and salami, creamy dips and dressings, buttery foods, and rich desserts will help you avoid the days-long spiral of overeating.
7. Focus on Fiber and The Healthy Plate
Center your plate around plants which are high in fiber, filling, and nutrient dense. Instead of feeling tired and sleepy after your Thanksgiving meal, you’ll feel more energized.
Follow the “Healthy Plate” principle of thirds…
8. Go for a Post-Dinner Walk
Enjoy the fall fresh air while blunting the blood sugar and insulin spikes. Keep phones in your pocket. This is a great opportunity to reconnect with your loved ones.
Karen’s Fit Tip: Have a plan and stay hydrated. Rethink Thanksgiving this year… not as a license to overeat, but as an opportunity to be with family and friends.