It’s hard to picture a more warm and fuzzy American experience than enjoying the traditional Thanksgiving feast.
Here’s an unpleasant reality check: This festive American tradition packs an average of 3000 calories. For many of us, this puts one meal at roughly double our day’s requirement. And to be sure, most of us at least eat breakfast on Thanksgiving, not to mention that time-honored late-night turkey sandwich.
Then there are those scary statistics about the average weight gain over the holidays, which rumor has it can run upwards of 7-10 pounds. Whoa.
In truth, the average weight gain is 1 to 3 pounds, which doesn’t sound like much until you realize that we’re talking about a four-week period, which means many people are packing on almost a pound a week.
Before we dig in, let’s talk strategy for staying in control. Top 5. Here goes:
1. Plan Ahead
Spontaneity is not your friend when it comes to weight loss. When we get hungry, we reach for whatever’s available. Ever stand at the counter in a trance with the Triscuits and suddenly find the box empty? Around the holidays, the choices are even more abundant and tempting. Make your contribution to a holiday dinner a veggie dish or salad – fill a big part of your plate with it. Or if wine is your weakness, perhaps bring an alternative beverage, like flavored fizzy water. Heck, pour it into beautiful goblets, drop some berries in it, and everyone will want some. Go you!
2. Who’s the Boss
It irritates me so when people blame their host: “I can’t help it if my family cooks a rich meal and expects us to stuff ourselves.” And the dog ate my homework. Who controls what you put in your mouth? You do. If family expectations are an issue, there are plenty of tricky ways around that. No, please don’t slip leftovers to the dog under the table. Take small portions allowing room for everyone’s prized dishes. If the pressure becomes too much, simply pat that belly and say “saving room. Wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without Auntie’s amazing pumpkin pie.” A piece of pie.
3. Earn Your Food
Upping your physical activity level during the holidays is the most straightforward and effective weight control strategy. A few suggestions: Before or after you sit down to a big meal, push yourself a little. It doesn’t have to be exercise, per se, although a good vigorous walk is often the simplest option. If you’re really too busy hosting to get to the gym or out for a run, then get physical while getting ready. Shovel snow, vacuum the living room or drag the Christmas decorations out of storage. These are all physically demanding and will keep you moving and grooving. Bonus - you’ll have a cleaner house and a tidier walk.
4. Go to Bed on Time
There’s a natural tendency to let our sleep routines go haywire over the holidays. We talk into the night with old friends and family or sleep in just because we can. But research ties weight loss to keeping a regular sleep schedule, showing that those who go to sleep and wake up at regular hours have lower body fat than those who don’t.
Bring on the turkey melatonin!
5. Don’t Punish Yourself
If you do overindulge, let it go. Recent brain research shows that beating yourself up for a “slip” in healthy habit sets the stage for a full tumble off the wagon. Instead, focus on what you did right, and compliment yourself. Creating a positive feedback loop is one of the best ways to insure a healthy habit sticks. Saying “Wow, you said no to that third glass of wine. Good for you!” goes a lot further than “Sheesh, you sure strapped on the feedbag yesterday.”
Remember, 3500 Kcals equates to one pound, lost or gained. Watch your total week, not one err in judgment. Get your head on straight Friday morning, and get back in the game!