I have a problem with Thanksgiving.
Let me clarify: The issue is with the fitness industry's treatment of a holiday designed for being with family, relaxing, expressing thanks and giving back to those that have less.
The fitness and nutrition community will be filled with posts about how to save calories, avoid bad foods, and essentially suck the fun out of a holiday that really is designed for a little bit of gluttony. People will say we should not use food as a reward. And that makes perfect sense.
But that's not what this is. This is a holiday where food is part of the culture and tradition.
I don't think it's such a bad thing.
You want to know what's really wrong?
Trying to convince people that they should eat less on one day, rather than preach enjoying the day and building better habits for the rest of the week or even the entire holiday season is the worst health trend that repeats itself every year.
You'll see plenty of stats about how the average American will gain anywhere between 5 and 10 pound between now and the end of the year.
You won't make much of a dent on your weight in one day. Go ahead and eat to your heart's content. Sure, the scale might move a little, but most of what you see and feel will be smoke and mirrors that would regulate within 24 to 48 hours if the feast is limited to a day. Water weight, stomach expansion, and a bunch of other fun physiological changes will make everything you down on turkey day appear much worse than the real damage.
The truth: One day of bad eating or overeating doesn't make much of a difference.
Calorie math has made big strides in the past few years. But for the sake of this argument, let's say you were worried about one bad day turning you from lean to lumpy. You'd have to roughly eat 3,500 more calories than you typically consume. (It's probably even more than that. And yes, the old 3,500 calories equals a pound isn't exactly accurate, but this example still proves a powerful point.)
I eat about 2,500 calories per day. Meaning that if I wanted to push the scale upwards, I'd have to down more than 6,000 calories. Even then, I probably wouldn't see a change.
Let's turn it around to a day of all-out health to prove the misguided thinking. Imagine if you spent one entire day exercising, burning calories, and being the human version of the Energizer Bunny (you keep going... and going... and going). But then the rest of the week and the month you did nothing.
Would you really expect to be healthy, fit, and look incredible?
Of course not. Same logic appeals to one big meal.
Your Healthy Thanksgiving Plan (Pie Included)
Is this a license to throw all caution to the wind? Not exactly.
You should still eat with comfort and enjoyment in mind. If you're doing anything to the point that you don't feel good (e.g., needing to remove your pants in order for your stomach to breathe), then you're probably pushing a little too aggressively.
But if you eat a little past the point of full, or grab that extra dessert that you'd normally skip, it's part of what the holidays are about.
Our mentality towards food is completely messed up.
We teach people that when they want a treat -- let's say ice cream -- to go for the sugar-free version. So instead of a delicious treat, we eat fake food filled with crappy chemicals that doesn't even taste as good as the real thing.
This is life. We are here to live it. Every day isn't a party or a holiday.
At least 90 percent of your life -- let's call them "work days" -- you should be working toward being healthier, building habits, and learning how to be in control of your diet, fitness, and life. This is normal.
But on those few random occurrences -- like Thanksgiving -- there's no better time to take a break and not stress about what you're eating.
It might not seem healthy, but substituting one day where you don't have rules for 300 other days when you do, is a trade I'll make any time.
Eat up. Dig in. And enjoy your holiday. I know that's what I'll be doing.
And then when the feast is over, I'll shift back to my focus of doing what I normally do. That's enjoying the food I like, and making health something that works for me -- rather than feels like a burden that can ruin special moments and memories.
It's sustainable, reasonable, and leaves me feeling thankful that we can enjoy food and still be healthy.
Be The Change,