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How to Have a Fresh and Fit Thanksgiving


Each year when Thanksgiving rolls around, so too do articles about how to manage your fitness around the gluttony. Many of these write-ups discuss potential restrictions one can make in order to keep the pounds off during the holidays.

This will be a little different. Instead of making fitness the focus, the intention instead will be a focus on well-being.

What might I mean by well-being (a term that can be interpreted any number of ways)? Here, well-being boils down to doing what feels best for you. Whether this means indulging and not tracking calories or implementing dietary strategies, or even opting to not celebrate Thanksgiving altogether, what I want to encourage is doing what makes you feel most comfortable.

Thus, not only is this for those who are conscientious of their health, but, really, it’s for anyone looking to give themselves the gift of gratitude and wellness, simply by being one’s self.

Restricting on Thanksgiving

One thing to keep in mind, right off the bat, is that if you want to restrict your calories and food intake on Thanksgiving, there’s nothing abnormal about doing so. If you’re a regular gym-goer, it’s fair to assume that most of your fellow gym rats are also restricting themselves in one way or another this holiday season.

If this is what makes you feel best, go for it! Indeed, even if it isn’t what makes you feel best, for some, restricting on Thanksgiving is an occupational necessity. Consider, for instance, fitness competitors, elite athletes, and even actors. Each of these positions tend to require dietary restrictions in at least some capacity, and holidays simply can’t get in the way of that.

There are, however, arguably correct and incorrect ways of restricting calories on Thanksgiving. One way people often prepare for Thanksgiving is by not having breakfast in order to save room for dinner. On Thanksgiving Day, it would be worthwhile to eat before your big dinner. If you come into the meal feeling starved because you haven’t eaten all day, you’ll surely over-consume once seated before the feast.

One way fitness influencers and competitors often incorrectly prep for Thanksgiving is by aiming to track calories. Without a food scale, this can more or less be impossible, and unless you’re dining with only your immediate family, bringing a food scale to the table likely proves awkward.

Generally, trying to track calories on any given holiday can be stressful. Apart from eating before dinner, there are a few strategies that’ll allow you to restrict yourself without counting every single digit of caloric intake. One such move is ensuring you keep hydrated throughout the day. Proper hydration can actually help limit the degree to which you experience pangs of hunger, making it far less likely for you to over-consume when dinner time arrives

Another method of restriction without explicitly tracking numbers is to eat slower. When we eat too quickly, which is something one tends to do on Thanksgiving, the hunger hormones known as ghrelin and leptin fail to keep up with our rate of intake. That is to say, we can eat a whole lot before we start to feel even remotely full. If we eat noticeably slower, by contrast, not only will we savor the food more thoroughly, but we’ll also feel full at a more accurate rate.

One thing I’ve preferred to do on Thanksgiving in order to limit my caloric intake without explicitly tracking is to load up on vegetables. Vegetables are healthy and low in calories. This means you can eat a lot of vegetables without consuming a lot of calories, but it’ll certainly feel like you’re consuming a lot of calories, due to the sheer volume of food you’re taking in. In conjunction with this, I also like to load up on turkey since food that’s high in protein is highly satiating. In other words, if you stick to lean protein and veggies, you can actually eat quite a lot of food without consuming a lot of calories.

Feasting With a Few Caveats

If you’re simply interested in enjoying your Thanksgiving without packing on pounds, this section is for you. You can absolutely indulge to the fullest extent on Thanksgiving without gaining any permanent weight. In order to do so, there’s a very simple strategy to implement.

This strategy consists of mildly restricting your calories the day after Thanksgiving. So, whatever you normally eat on any given day, the day after Thanksgiving, eat slightly less than that. Speaking from personal experience, I usually wake up full the day after Thanksgiving anyway, so actually restricting my calories a bit can be arguably welcomed. Doing so prevents any possible weight gain that could occur as a result of having ten plates of mashed potatoes and a few slices of pie.

Going All Out

Personally, I’m opting to go all out and not care this Thanksgiving for the first time in years. There’s nothing wrong with restriction, but there’s also nothing wrong with not restricting! All of us have very different needs when it comes to Thanksgiving, and there’s nothing wrong with following the tradition of indulgence.

Whether this means dining until you feel like your gut’s going to explode or simply deviating from your ordinary restrictions to enjoy some awesome food with family and friends, Thanksgiving is a day to embrace however you’re feeling, ultimately acting in a way that conveys self-gratitude. So, if eating all the pie and stuffing you can is the way to do that, go for it!

Ultimately, doing what best serves your needs is what’s going to facilitate the best Thanksgiving for you. Whether that’s ensuring a fitness-conscientious day of dining or eating all of the food in sight, Thanksgiving shouldn’t be about meeting the expectations of others, especially not customs writ large. Instead, be good and grateful to yourself, and do so by treating yourself with kindness and an awareness of who you are and what you need.

— Daniel Lehewych

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