Isn’t it funny that many of us heavily anticipate the holidays, counting down the days until Thanksgiving arrives and anxiously awaiting the time until we see our families … and then the actual occasion turns out to be more stressful and less relaxing than we anticipated? Whether it’s family members fighting, a burned turkey that you’ve tried so hard to prepare in a way that would impress those gathered, a feeling of guilt from overeating or “letting yourself go,” or just general holiday tension, many of us finish out our holiday vacations feeling like we need another vacation! (picture source)
The holidays take a toll on our bodies and health … between the parties and cocktails, the unending supply of sweets that seem to appear during the holidays, the lack of sleep, and the large celebratory meals, many of us end up feeling not-so-great about ourselves after the holiday season. Estimates vary, but WebMD says that the average American consumes 4,500 calories and 229g fat during Thanksgiving Dinner alone! We all know about the “food coma” that leaves us lying around on the couch for days after the big Thanksgiving meal, unable to do anything but gaze at the TV. (picture source)
Well, I’m never going to end the bickering between Aunt Gertrude and Uncle Tommy, and I’m certainly not going to tell you to just eat a salad instead of enjoying Thanksgiving dinner, but hopefully I can help you get through the holiday feeling a bit less stressed and a bit healthier overall than you otherwise would have. Here are my top 7 tips for surviving Thanksgiving healthily and happily:
- Be thankful. In my family, on Thanksgiving, we used to all go around the table and name a few things we were thankful for. This seems a bit cheesy, but it actually does give you that “feel-good” warmth if you can take the time to express your gratitude. In fact, studies show that practicing gratitude can increase happiness levels by 25%!! I challenge all of you to write down 10 things for which you are thankful between now and Thursday. (picture source)
- Choose where to indulge. I believe wholeheartedly in enjoying the things that you really love on Thanksgiving Day, even if they’re not “healthy foods.” So if you adore pumpkin pie and spend all year thinking about it, by all means, enjoy a slice guilt-free! But that doesn’t mean you need to go back for a second (or third, or fourth) slice even after you’re feeling uncomfortably full. The same thing goes for other items on the table … if there’s a dish that you don’t actually enjoy, there’s no need to pile an extra-large serving on your plate “just because it’s Thanksgiving.” Choose what you do like, enjoy it, and move on!
- Exercise, even on busy days. I absolutely love the growth in popularity of Turkey Trots, Thanksgiving-themed road races that encourage people to get active on Thanksgiving morning. In 2012, 835,000 Americans participated in a Turkey Trot – that is amazing!! Whether you participate in a Turkey Trot, go for a walk or bike ride with your family, or do a quick at-home circuit workout, I challenge you to get in some form of exercise on Thanksgiving morning – you’ll feel more energized, and less uncomfortably full. (picture source – the Dallas Turkey Trot is one of my favorite races of all times!)
- Fit in some veggies. I shared my round-up of Thanksgiving recipes with you, and every option besides the protein pancakes includes some kind of vegetable. Whether you use one of those recipes, eat a salad before dinner, or snack on some veggies and hummus during cooking, try to fit in some vegetables during the day to get an extra boost of nutrients.
- Step back, breathe, and appreciate what you do have. After you consciously express your gratitude from Tip #1, this tip can stick with you throughout the entire holiday. No one’s family, life, or situation is perfect, but we can all take a step back to breathe and appreciate the positive things in our lives, even in a moment that seems stressful. Here’s an infographic from Institute for Integrative Nutrition:
- Don’t throw in the towel on the entire season. If you don’t exercise on Thanksgiving morning or end up going a little overboard at the dinner table, no problem! Do not adopt the attitude that “I wasn’t healthy yesterday, I might as well just wait until New Year’s to start over.” Instead, wake up the next morning and treat it as a brand new start! In the grand scheme of things, one day is really not that important, but several weeks in a row of less-than-healthy behaviors do add up!
- Don’t forget your water! As you know, water helps to improve your digestion, regulate your appetite, and is critical to keep your body functioning well and keep you feeling your best. Especially if your holiday involves alcohol, focus on getting in water whenever you can.
So tell me in the comments … What will you do to make your Thanksgiving a bit healthier? Where will you spend Thanksgiving this year? If you don’t celebrate American Thanksgiving, what’s your best tip to keep holidays healthy?