Even though Thanksgiving is a holiday dedicated to gratitude, for millions of Americans, appreciation takes a back seat to high-calorie, carb-rich, sugar-filled foods, sweet drinks and alcoholic beverages.
Unfortunately, overeating on Thanksgiving is the norm for many. What's more, for many, that feast marks the beginning of a downhill food battle for the rest of the holiday season.
For many, Thanksgiving serves as a gateway meal (think gateway drug) for overconsumption during the holidays. Indeed, this late-November feast serves as a trigger, which ushers in the Season to Mindlessly Overeat.
As we well know, overeating inevitably leads to weight gain for many. But what many people don't realize is that regularly overindulging -- especially on sweets and simple carbs -- also can usher in a host of other ailments, from heart disease to type-2 diabetes to cancer.
Think about it: How many people do you know who do not overeat on Thanksgiving? And how many people do you know who have challenges the rest of the holiday season?
Rest assured, though, you don't have to fall into the Thanksgiving pigging-out trap. You can sail through Thanksgiving and the rest of the holiday season.
Here, then, are 15 tips to sail through Thanksgiving a beyond so that you can have a joyous, thankful holiday season, not one where you begin a slide into weight gain, fatigue and fuzzinesss.
1. Pick a Party Plan Based on Your Personality
Before you even go to your Thanksgiving celebration, plan ahead what you'll do. Will you give yourself some leeway? And can you stop? For instance, if you don't have pressing health reasons, will you permit yourself to have a piece of pecan pie, some stuffing or bread? And can you stop after one small portion of each? If so, that can be your plan. But do you feel uncomfortable with the concept of moderation? If not, then you may choose to not indulge in these high-carb treats. Just Pick a Party Plan that's best for you.
2. Nibble Before You Nosh
One of the easiest things to do is to overindulge when you're hungry. So don't starve all day to "save up" space for the Thanksgiving meal. Instead, have a little bit of protein (say, a hard-boiled egg) and some high-quality carbs (say, a few celery sticks) before your family's gathering. That'll help you to prevent from pigging out.
3. Think Small, Not Big for Super Success
When it comes to Thanksgiving, or any other holidays, for that matter, small is better. Oversizing (unless it's with veggies) is just not cool or hip. So go for tiny portions.
4. See Yourself the Morning After
One way to prevent Thanksgiving overeating and "sinning" (i.e., overindulging on sweets, candied yams, pumpkin pie and stuffing) is to pretend that you're talking to a friend or loved one the next day and openly sharing what happened at your feast. What would you say to this person? Would you be embarrassed? Would you be too mortified to tell her or him that you lost control? My clients find that having to honestly dish the dirt to a loved one can prevent them from overeating.
5. Do the Timed Breath, Blow-Out Technique
When you're at a Thanksgiving meal and sweets, carbs or other rich food "call out" to you, let your watch or cell phone guide you to slow down. Before you shove that second (or even first) serving of mashed potatoes or candied yams into your mouth:
- Check the time on your watch or cell phone. (If you have neither, ask someone else.)
- Then, whatever time it is, take that number of breaths -- but do so slowly, deliberately and confidently, breathing in and out slowly.
- Example: So, let's say it's 9 a.m. That means you'll slowly, consciously take nine deep breaths in and nine breaths out.
- At the same time, visualize your breath just whooshing or blowing away your craving up into the sky. (You can pretend that you're breathing away your cravings as if they were gentle clouds.) Expect that to occur. Now, watch your cravings go poof.
- If you're still tempted and are close to pigging out, repeat the whole procedure again. (You'll take another nine breaths.)
- If that still doesn't work and your cravings are really strong, then you can really buckle up. Take nine breaths nine times. (If it were 3 p.m., then you'd do three breaths three times, etc.)
6. Take Gratitude Breaks
Before you grab an extra helping, take a Gratitude Break. Go to a corner in your family member's home (or your home) and think about the meaning behind Thanksgiving. Then, before you put any more food into your mouth, first think about 20 things for which you're grateful. (If you can, write them down.) My clients find that being grateful tends to snap them out of their sugar or food obsessiveness.
7. Give a Hug and a Compliment and Switch Your Focus
At this Thanksgiving, and any holiday celebration, for that matter, one of the best ways to quit focusing on food and sweets is to think about someone else. Find a guest or two (someone you don't know that well, or your least favorite relative) and give that person your undivided attention. If you can, find out from your host or hostess which of your relatives or loved ones is having the hardest time. Then, go over to that person, catch up, ask questions and then listen carefully. Make sure to give this person your support, encouragement, validation, understanding, warmth, compassion and love. When you're giving to another like this, your heart will open up and you'll be filled with warm, fuzzy good feelings rather than food.
8. Say Grace... Again and Again
Those of you into religion will appreciate this pointer. When those rich, sugar-filled junk foods and drinks are tempting you, say grace (silently) each time you're about to put a bite of good into your mouth. Then, thank the farmers who brought you the various elements of the meal. Next, silently thank the companies that may have been involved. And give gratitude to G-d or whomever you think is responsible for rain, etc. Religious people have fun with this little trick and find that it helps to lead to weight loss. Essentially, all this thanking takes time. So delving deeply into gratitude like this can slow you down and help keep you from overeating.
9. Have Fun After the Feast
Soon after the evening begins, organize some kind of fun group activity. You could all go for a walk in the neighborhood. You could play a game of cards. Or maybe you could all sing karaoke to your favorite tunes. Just find an activity that appeals to most guests. You'll then get excited about your big game or walk or whatever and then you become less interested in pigging out on pie and potato.
10. Tell a Joke
As we all know, it's darn difficult to eat or overeat when you're laughing. So if you're clamoring after sweets or quickie carbs, tell a joke. In other words, figure out a way to make yourself laugh. You'll not only keep yourself from overeating, but you may get the whole table laughing so hard that they become less interested in their meal. (If you like, you could study some joke books in advance to have some good comedy material.)
11. Keep Close Track
Make a promise to your best friend or loved one to write down every single bite that you consume on Thanksgiving. The idea of having to share your food list with someone else is quite intimidating, and just keeping a what-I-ate-at-Thanksgiving list can prevent pigging out.
12. Protein Comes First
When you begin your Thanksgiving meal, always have protein (turkey or vegetarian turkey) first. Then go for the vegetables. Hold off on carbs until last. The protein will help slow down the absorption of the carbs and will fill you up more quickly.
13. See Your Meal as a Work of Art
Finally, before you begin to shovel in your food, see it as a work of art. Take a picture of it on your cell phone or with your camera. Look at the different colors and shapes. Study the way the light hits your yams, stuffing or rolls. Next, imagine all the hard work that your hostess had to put in to create this culinary masterpiece.
14. Put Down Your Fork Often
When you eat your meal, put your fork down after every bite you take. Then chew each bite at least 10 times. Slowing down like this will help you to slow down and eat less.
15. When in Doubt, B.Y.O.F.
The following tip is for people with special sensitivities. If you find it hard to keep control over the holidays or if you are allergic to gluten, meat, dairy or other substances, you may want to Bring Your Own Food (B.Y.O.F.). For instance, a vegetarian relative of mine always brings his own Tofurky, and we all easily accept that he does that every year. Likewise, my whole family knows that Connie doesn't eat sweets, so I always have an abundance of veggies from which to choose. If you haven't yet trained your relatives and friends, then you may wish to bring some foods that will enable to stay on track.
I hope that you have fun with these techniques. Please share your feedback. Which idea do you like best? And do you have other suggestions on how to stop the Thanksgiving Overeating Rollercoaster Ride?
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Connie Bennett is author of the book "Sugar Shock!" (Berkley Books). She is now writing her next book, Beyond Sugar Shock: The 6-Week Plan to Break Free of Your Sugar or Carb Addiction & Get a Slimmer, Sexier, Happier, Sweeter Life (Hay House). She is an experienced journalist, former sugar addict-turned Sugar Liberator, Sweeter Life Coach, Radio Host (Gab with the Gurus), Certified Life Coach, Certified Health Coach, Speaker and Frequent Guest/Interviewee. She is founder of the groundbreaking Break Free of Your Sugar Addiction in 6 Weeks Program.