11/07/2013 06:27 pm ET

Less Grabbing, More Thanks: 5 Strategies to Survive Thanksgiving Without Gluttony

You endured a two-hour dinner with your overly critical in-laws, your kids are loudly playing Xbox, your husband is snoring on the La-Z-Boy, and you've completed your culinary duties with a perfect 20-pound organic turkey.

So what to do now?

If you're like most people during Thanksgiving, you slip back into the kitchen to "clean" and nosh on seconds... and thirds... This initiates the holiday-season binge that carries through New Year's Eve, when you dutifully vow to lose weight among your resolutions.

Thanksgiving is like Christmas minus the gifts, excitement, and festive décor. After feasting on a decadent three-course dinner with pinot noir and a gargantuan slice of whip cream loaded pumpkin pie, boredom can quickly kick in.

Don't succumb with food. Put the leftover triple-layer pumpkin pie back in the fridge (trust me, someone will eat it) and replace eating with these suggestions:

1. Take a nap. You get sleepy from eating too much, so stop blaming the turkey. Relieve post-meal drowsiness with a short snooze. One study found a short (less than 30-minute) nap enhances performance and improves learning. (Frequent longer naps, on the other hand, increased mortality and morbidity.) Napping also guarantees, for a little bit at least, that you don't go face down in leftover maple cheesecake with roasted pears for a late-evening snack.

2. Get your brain going. Flip off the blaring TV and go old school with classic board games for entertainment. Scrabble or charades challenge your mind so you're not thinking about that leftover apple crumb cake your mom made. A recent study among the elderly found board games could improve cognitive decline and lessen depression. If you'd rather stimulate your brain solo, crossword puzzles or sudoku make smart ways to distract you from the kitchen's siren call.

3. Take a long walk. You sit a lot on Thanksgiving: while eating, browsing online for after-holiday bargains, watching football... A brisk walk breaks that sedentary behavior and gives you an excuse to get some fresh air and (at least for a while) escape the overwhelming extended family. Bolt for the door immediately after your big dinner: One study found walking immediately after eating proves more effective for fat loss than waiting an hour after you've eaten. One caveat: You're not going to burn enough calories walking to earn that second piece of pie, so don't use that as an excuse to subsequently pig out.

4. Play, don't watch, football. Unless it's pouring, snowing, or otherwise inclement weather, you have no excuse not to enjoy the great outdoors on Thanksgiving. (And no, I ate too much apple crostata is not a valid excuse.) A fun game of touch football provides a fun way to let off familial tension (you know about that, right?) and burn some fat while you are at it.

5. Show gratitude. In the frenzy of food and festivities, we forget Thanksgiving was meant to, well, give thanks. Make your own gratitude list. A literature review supports gratitude creates an overall sense of well being. Remind your family and friends who've gathered how much you appreciate them. Surprise someone who's shown you kindness with a thank you phone call or email. You'll feel great, with no lingering regrets like you'd have with that second piece of caramel pecan pie.

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