Thanksgiving is a holiday that helps us reflect on what we're thankful for. It can also cause many well-intentioned dieters a great deal of stress. The overwhelming majority of us are hard-wired to indulge on Thanksgiving. In fact, Thanksgiving is commonly the kick off for the treacherous Thanksgiving-through-January-15-weight-gain phase. In my experience, the average overweight person puts on 5 to 7 pounds between Thanksgiving and mid-January. The good news is it doesn't have to be that way. Here are 12 tips to celebrate the holiday with maximum enjoyment (ME) and minimal emotional and scale damage (MD).
ME/MD Tip #1: Keep Perspective
Throughout the year you'll eat 1,460-2,190 meals (4-6 meals per day). Your Thanksgiving Day and post-Thanksgiving Day meals account for one-half of 1 percent of all your eating for a year. That's not very much -- if you stop.
ME/MD Tip #2: Expect a Spike on the Scale
It's not your fault -- it's physiology. If you're weighing yourself each day you can expect to see a 3-7 pound pop on the scale in the 2-3 days after Thanksgiving. About 90 percent of the weight gain you see right after Thanksgiving is from water retention, not an increase in body fat.
ME/MD Tip #3: Indulging and Gaining Weight Is on Plan
Make your Thanksgiving indulgences and scale spike as part of your plan. Perfectionism is death to any weight-management plan but you can be perfectly on plan if you include your indulgences and spike on the scale as parts of your plan.
ME/MD Tip #4: Watch Your Language
Watch your language when you step on the scale or you slip a little. You haven't "blown it." You haven't "ruined everything." Avoid the use of catastrophic terms to describe quite ordinary, easily corrected events. Treat yourself like a good friend, practice self-compassion, be reasonable, and know that you indulged and the scale popped as you planned. Focus on what you want and stay positive.
ME/MD Tip #5: Stop Indulging the Next Day
I hereby grant every reader to have two moderate splurge meals on Thanksgiving and two moderate splurge meals the day after. And then end all splurge meals for at least a week. That's a total of four splurges over two days. Thanksgiving is always on Thursday but it's common to continue overeating all the way through the weekend. For every off-plan day it'll cost you 5-7 days to get the extra weight back off. If you indulge in four meals over two days you can expect it to take 10-14 days to get the extra fluff back off. That's livable. But if you indulge all weekend? Do the math. Every off-plan day will cost you 5-7 extra. After the second day, throw all leftovers away or invite friends and family over for a post-Thanksgiving meal and be sure you send everyone home with leftovers.
ME/MD Tip #6: If You Make a Mistake Call Dr. F.
If you mess up? Call Dr. F! 1.) Do no further harm; 2.) recover quickly; 3.) Fail forward. By "doing no further harm" you agree not to make a bad situation worse by continuing to overeat or berating yourself. To "recover quickly" means that you take action steps you control to turn things around without hesitation. To "fail forward" means that you avoid rumination over the mistake and use the situation as a learning experience and nothing more.
ME/MD Tip #7: Indulge, But Not On Your Triggers
I am not a proponent of "all things in moderation." I know food addiction is a very real affliction and those who have it cannot "just have a little and stop" any more than an alcoholic can "just have one drink and stop." With all the normal Thanksgiving foods it could be really hard to figure out what's a trigger and what isn't. So start with what you know. Skip the foods you know are triggers. You may still get caught eating something you didn't know was a trigger. If so? Call Dr. F. But at least go to your Thanksgiving with a plan for abstinence of your known triggers.
ME/MD Tip #8: Call Your Own Shots
Eat or drink what you want and according to your plan. Eat or drink until you are satisfied, not until your relatives are satisfied you've eaten as much as they have.
ME/MD Tip #9: Increase Exercise Going into Thanksgiving
Increase exercise in the seven days prior to Thanksgiving by a total of 90 to 180 minutes. This won't save you entirely from the extra 3500 calories you may eat but it'll help.
ME/MD Tip #10: Weigh Yourself Every Day
Yes, the weight is going to go up. The scale spike is 80-90 percent water. You need to know what you are doing while you are doing it. Weighing increases consciousness. Stay awake. Stay in the present.
ME/MD Tip #11: Drink More Water
Flush, flush, flush. Water is the medium your body uses to perform every chemical reaction. It can speed up metabolism if consumed adequately and slow metabolism if not consumed enough.
ME/MD Tip #12: Exercise More Intensely After
By consuming more calorie-dense foods, muscle- and liver-glycogen stores are "topped off." It's very common to feel stronger or to have more endurance. Hit the exercise with a little more intensity and do what you did in the week prior to Thanksgiving--exercise for 90 to 180 minutes more in the seven days following Thanksgiving.
David Greenwalt is the author of The Leanness Lifestyle, a complete body-transformation resource for women and men sick of dieting and ready to permanently lose weight. A certified Wellness Coach, David founded Leanness Lifestyle University (LLU), an evidence-based, lifestyle-education platform that provides users with innovative tools to track, report, and score the behaviors optimal for successful weight-management. To learn more about David and to read his blog, visit him at www.lluniversity.com.