When I was in a weight loss program years ago one of the students shared that he’d gained 10 pounds on Thanksgiving one year. Before you scoff and say that’s impossible, if you look at the math it is actually possible. 10 pounds = 35,000 calories, give or take. If you start off early with a big French toast, hash browns, egg and sausage breakfast, drink some egg nog or hot chocolate, snack on mixed nuts all morning, eat a hearty lunch, snack on candy, cookies, cheese and crackers through the afternoon, then top it off with a large Thanksgiving feast and several slices of pie, followed by a late-night refrigerator raid… yeah, it would be a stretch but it’s not impossible. I don’t think anybody reading this blog would fall into that sort of pattern, but if I think back to the time when I was at my heaviest, yes, gaining several pounds on Thanksgiving or Christmas was completely feasible. So having a strategy is a really good idea.
Here are some ideas, some of which I will be using this year, some I have used in the past. I’m putting them all out here in the hopes that they will spur ideas so you can find something that works for your situation:
- First things first, I always plan to get some exercise in the morning before festivities begin. I like to get it out of the way and get into a healthy mindset before I go to a feast.
- I try to timebox the feasting into a limited time slot, so that food isn’t tempting me all day long. I usually end up as a guest for these events, and I try to arrive close to the time that the meal will begin.
- I don’t show up hungry. Yes, I’m going to eat but I actually want to have some control over what I choose to put on my plate, so arriving hungry isn’t a good plan. When I’m not ravenous I can pick and choose what I want to enjoy and leave what isn’t worth the calories.
- I take small portions, and I fill my plate primarily with supportive options. I don’t get seconds, and I share dessert with my husband or another willing participant. I try to remember that this meal, while special, is merely a meal, and I will stop eating when I’m satisfied. And usually, lean meat is the main course, so building a plate full of lean meat and veggies is easily doable.
- I try to bring something to contribute that will be supportive for me, a veggie-based dish I like. A tray of veggies for the grazing portion of the get-together is another good option.
- I designate certain foods as safe foods I can eat all day long, like that veggie tray, or a fruit plate. I can eat as much as I like of these all day long, so any time I feel like snacking, I know what to grab.
- I keep a non-caloric beverage in my hand when not at the table. This keeps my hands busy. If my other hand is wandering, I find something else to keep it busy, like taking pictures or petting a cat.
So, what are you strategies? How will you manage the overwhelming food situations coming up in the next few weeks? I’m particularly interested in how people who actually have to cook for one of these feasts will manage their weight – what will you do to keep your health and managing your weight a priority?