For a myriad of reasons, the holidays can cause us to consume foods that we know aren't nourishing to our body or supportive of our overall health goals. Sometimes it's the stress of being with family, the comfort and nostalgia of childhood dishes or the exhaustion of the holidays that drive us to dive head first into that bowl of mashed potatoes and scarf that third piece of pumpkin pie. Whatever the reason, it is essential that we find a way to enjoy our Thanksgiving without derailing our progress towards our health goals or our self care.
Here are a few tips that will allow you to have a fun, fulfilling and healthy holiday:
1. Exercise the morning of Thanksgiving: It really doesn't matter what you do or for how long but by moving your body (even for just 5-10 minutes) on Thursday, you are less likely to go totally bonkers on all the holiday foods. Why? Because you have already communicated to your body that you respect it and you will care for it. Also exercise boosts your endorphins (your body's natural version of morphine) so you will be riding a natural high when you arrive. When you feel good, you are less likely to emotionally or over eat.
2. Skip the appetizers: I know Aunt Mildred's cheese ball is always tempting but save your food for the main meal. Make sure about an hour before you go to your holiday meal that you fill up on a high fiber, high fat SMALL meal (a high fat, low sugar green smoothie with nut butter or coconut oil added would be great here. Something like this...). If people ask you why you aren't eating anything yet, just let them know you are saving yourself for your favorite holiday dishes and don't want to spoil your appetite. Sip on a sparkling water (bring your own if you have to) and enjoy the people, not the heavy apps.
3. Take deep breaths often and walk outside: I'm not saying your family does this but for many people, family can bring up a level of stress and triggering that very few others can. While you want to be able to be truly present with them (because even if they are cuckoo, they probably love you more than anyone else in the world), it's essential for you to take care of your needs. If political arguments occur, take some deep BELLY breaths (not up in the chest) and try to really listen to the person with the different opinion. If Grandpa starts in on his post-whiskey racist rants, politely excuse yourself and take a walk around the block. You probably aren't going to change anyone's mind so instead of engaging, just breathe, remove yourself from the room ("What? You need help in the kitchen, Mom? I'll be right there!") and remind yourself that your only responsibility in the situation is to take care of yourself and be kind.
4. Choose a smaller plate and pick your faves only: I like to grab a dessert plate instead of a giant dinner plate and pile that little sucker high. I always start with a lot of salad or whatever green veggies I can and then make sure to get a small serving of anything that is my fave (there is a sweet potato casserole that has been at the last few Thanksgivings that has changed my life. It's really more brown sugar than anything so I have a little bit and move on.). You don't have to "try" everything. You know what mashed potatoes taste like. If items aren't on your top three list, skip them and make space for something that really delights your palette.
5. Regroup the following day with greens and movement: No matter how thoughtful we are with our choices on Thanksgiving, chances are we are still eating things that aren't ultimately serving our internal organs, brain or body. No biggie-it's a holiday. Enjoy it guilt free. Friday, make sure you move your body again and focus on eating high quality veggies (resist the urge or pressure to take home leftovers-nobody needs to eat pie for breakfast four days in a row), some fat and some protein. Think fondly about the time you spent with loved ones and not so much about the food you did or didn't eat. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, write down a few things you are grateful for, perhaps including you making wise choices for yourself.
I hope you have a fantastic holiday and that you remind yourself that eating well is not a punishment but in fact a celebration of your body, mind and spirit. Honor yourself by nourishing yourself and enjoy the day for what it is-a time to give thanks for all that we have!
Photo cred: health.harvard.edu