The word Thanksgiving has nothing to do with food, yet that’s exactly what comes to mind for most of us. The purpose and meaning of the holiday has become overshadowed by delicious food, frantic shopping, and football games. Even as I sit here writing this, my mouth is watering with the thought of moist turkey, rich, silky gravy, savory stuffing (or “dressing” if you’re one of those people), and pumpkin pie topped with an irrational amount of whipped cream. Yes, food has become the foundation of this national holiday of giving thanks, but not just any food; high-calorie, carbohydrate-laden, fat-dripping food…and lots of it! A single helping of a traditional Thanksgiving meal adds up to over 300 calories, 124 g of fat, and nearly 400 g of carbohydrates. Who doesn’t go back for seconds? The ironic thing about this gluttonous tradition is that we have the audacity to list health as one of the things for which we’re most thankful!
It is certainly not easy to buck the trend and go against the grain of what our culture has taught us. Obviously, we all want the pie. We want mashed potatoes. But it’s not about what we want, it’s what we DON’T want. We don’t want to be overweight and obese. We don’t want to suffer the consequences of living an unhealthy lifestyle, such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. If a healthy life is really what you want, then it’s time to recognize the things that you’re doing to limit that possibility. It’s time to take a realistic, emotionless look at our habits and evaluate why we’re doing what we do. Sounds easy, huh?
No, it’s not easy to change habits. Think about that old country dirt road, and the ruts that have been made from years of tires leaving their mark. You can actually let go of the steering wheel with confidence, knowing that those ruts will keep you on the path. In order to leave the smooth, comfortable ride of those ruts, you have to jerk the wheel to the right, and suffer the bumps of the rough, uncharted terrain. Do you have what it takes to do that this holiday season? Can you pass up a heaping pile of mashed potatoes for the greater good, or will you continue down that familiar path?
If you’re ready to make a change, here are a few tips you can follow to turn Thanksgaining into a true holiday of giving thanks:
- Continue the habits of eating breakfast, and eating several small meals throughout the day. Most people make the mistake of skipping meals early in the day, thinking that they are cutting back on overall calories. The truth is, your body needs a constant flow of fuel in order to keep the metabolism burning high. Also, starving yourself until the big meal will cause you mind to lag behind your stomach, causing you to overeat. Start your day with a healthy breakfast of lean protein and complex carbohydrates that will keep you from crashing later in the day. Example: Two-egg omelet with spinach and feta cheese. Follow that up with a small protein/vegetable meal every 3-hours. Celery sticks, cucumbers, and kale chips make easy snack options that can be eaten throughout the day.
- Commit to only drinking water throughout the day, avoiding the empty calories and sugars of other drinks. You’ll be consuming more calories in protein, carbohydrates, and fat, so don’t make matters worse with soda, wine, or beer. Also, water will keep your stomach full, allowing you to make better decisions about what you put on your plate.
- Prepare for success by having plenty of healthy options available. If you are celebrating at the home of a family or friend, ask if you can bring a veggie platter or salad. Fill up on those items first to avoid giving in to the temptations of the other items available.
- Keep a positive, healthy mindset. Remind yourself that the holiday is about spending time with family and friends. If you start to feel sorry for yourself, recognize it early and get away from the temptations. Physically leave the room, or invite someone to go for a walk outside for some fresh air. You will come back refreshed and focused, with a clear mind.
It has been said that change is easy, but thinking about change is hard. Set some goals for yourself and just do it. Get on the scale Thursday morning, and commit to yourself that you won’t gain weight by the next day. Recognize the excuses that you’re using, and remind yourself that you can have a good time without the food.