Thanksgiving’s Dark Meat

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Like the bird that we savor on the day itself, Thanksgiving has a dark side for many of us. While it is full of wonderful time to sit back and enjoy time with family and friends and to reflect upon this past years many blessings, the holiday’s focus on food can be problematic especially for those on special diets (gluten free, vegan,twinkie diet etc), are trying to watch their weight, or fear undermining this past season’s hard fought fitness gains.

Growing up, I happily anticipated the holiday and would love gorging myself on everything at the table, but as my focus and love for fitness and health increased so did my fear and anxiety over this great holiday. As the day approached, I would think up a million excuses to try and avoid the banquet table. One year, I actually feigned sickness so that I would have an excuse to avoid the food and just have a light small cup of turkey stock. I feared that if I gave myself free reign for even one meal, all my fitness gains would evaporate. Even though I was trying everything in my power to remain healthy, this mindset was far from healthy.

With all the temptations and familial pressure, even the strongest willed person can cave into having one or two (or in my case four) helpings of stuffing topped with marshmallow ladened sweet potatoes followed by another round of Pecan pie. We fear that if we have one bite then we will have one more and then another and then the whole pie is gone. However, making a war on the table is not the answer especially with the possibility of hurting Grandma’s feelings.

Here are my top tips on how to make peace with the turkey (or Tofurkey):

  1. It’s not about the food: While Thanksgiving has become largely about the food, it does not have to be (nor should be). Treat the meal like any other and eat when you are hungry and stop when you are full. Instead make the peripherals special. Savor being with family and friends, the football, and traditions like the local 10k or going hunting with the kids.
  2. Savor the savory: If your family does put a heavy emphasis on food and the meal, use it as an opportunity to savor some really good food. First, enjoy the smell of the food, how your body feels as it takes the first bite, then put down the fork, balloon belly and talk to Aunt Martha to comment on good her green beans are this year, then maybe take a sip of water to cleanse the pallet and repeat. Usually we lose the taste of food after a few bites, so only take a few bites.
  3. Exercise before and after the meal: Rev up your metabolism before the meal by racing the local 5k or hitting the gym. If the gym is closed do some body weight exercises at your house. Then after the meal go for a walk to help with digestion
  4. Don’t starve yourself: Some people do not eat anything throughout the day so that they can gorge themselves when they sit down to eat. This is a recipe for disaster since you are more likely to overeat. Focus on eating healthfully before your meal with smaller portions so that you arrive slightly hungry but not ravenous
  5. It’s not the end of the world: If you do go crazy and eat half the table and drink Uncle Timmy under the table, do not brood over it but move on and get back to your normal routine when you can.

If you need extra tips, support on dealing with Thanksgiving, or some healthful and filling recipes, email me and I would be happy to help out. Have a great Thanksgiving and remember to give thanks for what you have rather than dread what is not.