Okay, every year you get bombarded with messages about how to have a healthy Thanksgiving. These are great. The problem is, none of them work because they put you into this impossible-to-follow box of holiday restriction. Please, tell me the last time you went to Thanksgiving dinner and thought about how many side dishes you were going to SKIP that year? I own a gym, lead a healthy lifestyle 99.99% of the time, and I still go to Thanksgiving excited for pumpkin pie and mashed potatoes.
So how about this year, we do it differently? How about this year, you approach Thanksgiving as a time to focus on more than just the food and in doing so, actually enjoy what you get to eat and the day in general more than you ever have? In fact, I’ll do the very strange thing for a gym owner and argue that for this one day, focusing on restricting your calories, carbs, and fats is a negative mindset in the long run and counter-intuitive to achieving your goals.
Now, if you are pregnant, planning on becoming pregnant, preparing for an event, or you have been crushing the fast food like it is literally going out of business in preparation for Thanksgiving, maybe you need to take a cautious approach to this holiday and treat it like every other day: focused on healthy living and giving your body the best fuel possible. For the rest of you, read on and see why indulging in Thanksgiving 2019 may be the best thing for your health in the long run.
How much damage can Thanksgiving do?
Thankfully, the answer to that question simply is not much. In order to gain a pound of fat, you need to eat 3,500 calories above your regular baseline. Considering the standard American diet is about 2,200 calories, that is a total of 5,700 calories in one day to gain a pound of fat. That is more food than you can even begin to imagine. If you eat that much, you will feel sick – and some of you may get there on Thanksgiving. But it is just one day, and one pound is nothing to freak out about.
Now that we have that out of the way, here are three reasons to go back for seconds on stuffing (and pie, and turkey, and…) this Thanksgiving.
Begin with mindfulness about the food.
Someone, probably someone you love, spent a ton of time, energy, and money preparing this spread. If you’ve ever cooked a Thanksgiving before, you know how tough it is to get an enormous bird out of your oven done but not dry while also preparing mashed potatoes, salads, and a host of other sides with the intention of finishing all of them at the same time. It is enough to drive you crazy. So you, as the consumer, should be very thankful for what has been placed in front of you, and recognizing this fact is actually a key point to healthier eating in the long run. Express gratitude to the lovely person who made this meal, as well. You eating it, enjoying it, and saying thank you is the best way to repay their hard work.
Try to eat slowly for once.
Look, as I type this out I am actually eating my lunch at my desk. I’d say the average person eats their breakfast in a rush, lunch while working, and really only has dinner at a table, but a lot of times that happens in front of a screen, as well. This sets you up for eating your food extremely quickly, and not actually recognizing the amount you’ve eaten – which leaves you hungry and then you overeat.
Let Thanksgiving be a chance to NOT do this. Gather around a real table with your family and friends. Express gratitude about what was made for you, and really focus on your food. Many of these dishes you’re only going to have once or twice per year. Take the time to really savor how they taste, and if you want seconds, GO GET THEM. This is not the time to actively resist temptation. I’d bet money if you eat slowly and really spend time focusing on your food, you want less anyway, because you’re already full.
Seriously, stop calling food good or bad.
Food is food. Some of it is more healthy, some of it is less healthy. But it has no moral position, and you consuming it doesn’t make you a good or bad person. In fact, studies show that calling a food good or bad, and by extension yourself good or bad (what we’ll call food shaming), only leads to long term negative effects.
By all accounts, pumpkin pie is a less healthy food than an apple. But that doesn’t make it a bad food. It is a staple at many Thanksgiving tables, and my wife is actually so nostalgic about it if she made herself resist pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving, she’d just end up eating more of it on Friday. If you love that less healthy food, Thanksgiving is the day to have it. Just follow the steps above and eat it slowly. Appreciate what the food is, and who made it, and if you want seconds, feel free.
And end your meal with a little movement.
The post dinner nap is great, and so is the all-day football. But, when you’re inevitably stuffed full from a delicious dinner, a little movement can go a long way.
No, not to burn calories. To make you feel better.
A ten minute walk with your family around the block is a great way to get out into the fresh air, stretch your legs a bit, and to help your meal digest. Sure, you’ll burn a few calories, but mostly you’ll just feel much better when you lay down to take that post-turkey nap. Plus, the crisp fall air makes after dinner coffee taste even better.