family, food, holiday, Survival Guides

how to survive thanksgiving

Anyone else a little freaked out by the fact that Turkey Day is next week? Or, in my case, Tofurkey Day! (My mom is always awesome and buys me a Quorn chik’n cutlet for Thanksgiving dinner. Christmas, too. One thing I am very thankful for is how supportive she, and my entire family, is of my vegetarianism.)

Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the last few weeks of the year are, without a doubt, the most difficult to get through if you’re trying to be healthy and watching what you eat. But, as with Halloween, as long as you go in with a game plan you can indeed eat your pumpkin pie and have it, too.

Eat First 
Know how they always say don’t go grocery shopping on an empty stomach? Same rule applies with Thanksgiving. So whatever you do, don’t go to Thanksgiving dinner hungry because you will inevitably eat way more than you intend to. So make sure you eat breakfast  the day of (plus a light lunch, depending on when the big meal is). For appetizers, veggies and dip or hummus are always safe, smart choices. Get one of those dry ranch packets and mix it in low-fat sour cream or fat free plain Greek yogurt (I’m a big fan of 0% Fage).

Get Your H2O On
Dehydration can feel like hunger, so when you think you want food sometimes what you really need is water. So be that weirdo with your favorite water bottle and make sure you drink plenty of water throughout the day.

Speaking of Drinking…
Don’t drink your calories. This is actually a valid year-round weight loss suggestion, but as the holidays tend to be a time when people are more likely to break out the wine or Christmas Ale, it’s important to remember those items have calories and they can add up quickly if you’re just knocking drinks back and not paying attention. I’m not saying you can’t have any alcohol at all, I mean, hi, I like wine with dinner. But, y’know, a glass of wine, not a whole bottle. It’s really about making a choice of what’s going to be worth the calories and what will leave you feeling satisfied at the end of the day.

Special note for those on Weight Watchers: You can’t go by the nutritional information on the bottle of wine or beer or whatever it is that you’re drinking. Sugar alcohol & regular alcohol ups the points, but it’s not going to show up when you plug the numbers in. So when alcohol is involved, always go by the information in your e-tracker or booklet to find out how many points something is.

Think Small
The majority of the time — I’m talking, like, 99.9% — when I eat a meal at home, holiday or not, I’m eating it off of a salad plate. Y’know, that small plate in your dish collection that you probably use for dessert and appetizers. We tend to eat with our eyes first and nothing is more visually appealing than a plate full of food. Using a small plate, it takes much less food to fill it up, whereas you put that same amount of food on a standard sized dinner plate and it looks pretty empty and suddenly you think it’s not going to be enough food and so you have to add another roll or scoop of mashed potatoes. Yes, it’s a silly psychological trick but it’s one that works.

Break Out Your Cookbooks
If you’re the one cooking the full meal you have a lot more control over what is being served so you can opt for some more weight-loss friendly recipes. If you’re going to someone’s house for Thanksgiving then offer to bring something so there’s at least one thing you know is okay. Maybe it’s something simple like a plate of veggies and dip, or scour Pinterest for recipes. There are a ton of skinnified versions of classic favorite side dishes available. You saw what I did with carrots, so imagine mashed cauliflowers instead of potatoes. Me, I’m making Mini Pumpkin Pies from this month’s Vegetarian Times. Baked in muffin tins, they are going to be the perfect single-serving dessert.

Eat Slow
Ever have a meal where you’re eating and eating, feeling good, not quite satisfied yet, and then all of a sudden after one more bite you’ve crossed the threshold from feeling not-quite-satisfied to full-blown-uncomfortably-stuffed? That’s a feeling you want to avoid whenever possible and the easiest way to do that is to slow down. There is some lapse in communications between brain and stomach which is how all it can take is one bite and you’ve suddenly gone way over. If you pause between bites and savor what you’re eating instead of just mindlessly munching along, you’ll be able to listen to your body when it tells you you’ve had enough. If you really wanna get hardcore, during this week’s Fitfluential Twitter Chat, Kymberly at Fun and Fit suggested physically putting your fork down between bites and you aren’t allowed to pick it back up until after you’ve swallowed.

Don’t Deprive Yourself
Have the green bean casserole. And a roll. Even a slice of pumpkin pie. Just make sure you mindfully eat and enjoy the food. See, in the past I would skip something, like, say, sweet potatoes and then spend the rest of the evening wanting the sweet potatoes, but saying I shouldn’t have them, only to eventually get them and practically inhale them. This was two fold because the guilt would set in almost immediately on top of having eaten them so fast I barely tasted them. What I should have done was just get a small serving and take time to enjoy the sweet potatoes. Like with everything else, it’s all about moderation. And since it’s unrealistic to expect to be able to measure out everything you eat at Thanksgiving dinner, learn how to estimate portion sizes.

Just remember: second helpings are not required and probably aren’t necessary. And while, yes, I know that there are children starving in Africa, despite what your mother told you, you don’t have to actually clean off your plate. So if you find yourself full, don’t force yourself to finish.

Shift Goals
Weight loss is hard during the holidays. Believe me, I know, considering I gained six pounds last Christmas. I’m not saying it’s impossible to lose weight this time of year, it’s just made a bit more difficult with big family meals and parties and lots and lots of food. So instead of working on weight loss, change your focus just a wee bit and go for weight maintenance. Not gaining any weight during the holidays is an accomplishment in itself and will take some of the pressure off.

Have any of your own suggestions to share?

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

9 thoughts on “how to survive thanksgiving”

  1. Yay. I told you I'd be waiting for this post. It's now my Thanksgiving manifesto! I'm planning to fill up on veggie dishes, but all this advice is being taken too 🙂


  2. I LOVE Thanksgiving and I LOVE Thanksgiving food. I'm particularly going to heed the advice on eating slowly and mindfully. Particularly in this pregnancy I can quickly go from feeling hungry to way-too-full-gonna-get-sick. I'm struggling to gain weight, which makes me say “oh, I can eat whatever I want!,” but the baby is going to be huge like my daughter, which should cause me to pause and say “let's put a reasonable portion of carbs on that plate.”


  3. It's crazy how quickly you can go from hungry to overfull! Slowing down has been a big help. And there are certain Thanksgiving foods I LOVE (my mom's green bean casserole for one) that I refuse to give up, but yeah, it really is all about reasonable portions.


  4. Amazing tips. I am all about shifting my goals from weight loss to weight maintenance so that I can enjoy the holidays and not feel deprived.
    Also I found I drink so much less now that I count calories every day. You are right I just don't want to waste my calories on drinks, I'd rather have food!


  5. I'm so glad you found them helpful!

    I don't drink a lot and it's so hard to explain to friends that it's because I don't have the luxury of wasting calories on alcohol. When I went out over the weekend for my birthday, I planned for one cocktail and as soon as we got to the bar made sure I let my friends know that it would be the only drink I would be having (since we're a group that always buys people drinks on their birthdays.) I wanted to celebrate, but more than one drink wouldn't have been worth it!


  6. Another tip, I found really life changing for me: Holidays are really, really not about the food. The WW “reframing” tool made such a difference for me. Now I really focus on time with my family and friends and it makes a huge difference. Holidays are less stressful and more enjoyable, and we spend a lot less time at the table.


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