For me the year has flown by. It’s hard to believe that in just a few days, families all over America will be sitting down to a meal which looks back to that first Thanksgiving in which the Pilgrims commemorated the harvest after a harsh winter.
Thanksgiving has become my favorite holiday over the years. A day to spend with family and friends, without the pressure or worry of giving the perfect gift and so on.
Celebrating a holiday with a big feast together is as old as the human race. It is a way of celebrating and enjoying time with family and friends.
But we have to be careful not to overdo the festivities otherwise we could end up setting ourselves back over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, which so many of us tend to do.
As someone who has seen many a person get derailed on their fitness journey by the holiday season I know all too well the hazards that come with the holidays, starting with that Thanksgiving feast.
How big is that holiday meal?
Did you know that the average Thanksgiving meal contains 3,000 calories and 229 grams of fat and that’s just the main meal!
And let’s be honest, most of us don’t limit ourselves to one indulgent meal.
Heck if you’re like me Thanksgiving isn’t over till you’ve had that big sandwich with turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce on top later that night.
The truth is, most of us tend to spend the entire day snacking and celebrating. And if we are REALLY being honest that “day” is actually the entire weekend what with leftovers that HAVE to be eaten and such.
The trouble comes when we have to deal with those extra calories that we have packed into our bodies:
“A 160 lb. person would have to run at a moderate pace for four hours, swim for five hours or walk 30 miles to burn off a 3,000-calorie Thanksgiving Day meal,” said Dr. Cedric Bryant, ACE chief exercise physiologist. Many people start by snacking throughout the day and that combined with the meal can lead to a total caloric intake of 4,500.”1
Multiply that by one day or over the full weekend as most tend to due and its easy to see how someone can get derailed.
To be sure, one meal, one day or even one indulgent weekend won’t ruin our health but for many that weekend becomes weeks, months or even years.
Perhaps you’ve even said it to yourself…. “Well I blew it this weekend so I might as well just give up”.
And you wouldn’t be alone. As I mentioned earlier I’ve seen it time and again. In fact the most common time I see people give up on their fitness journey is the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Years. They go nuts over the holidays and next thing you know they’ve lost all the progress they’ve made and give up in frustration.
So what should you do?
It doesn’t have to be that way. You just have to stay focused and keep on track. Here’s my tips for getting thru the Holiday’s and enjoying them without blowing it:
Turkey Day Tips
First some good news: you don’t have to forgo your favorite holiday foods. There is room for a little indulgence at a holiday feast! The secret is to have a plan as we head into the holiday season.
By staying on top of both your calorie intake and your physical activity, you can enjoy your favorite foods in moderation and emerge on the other side just as fit as you are now.
Plan your meals. If you know that you are going to be having some heavy, celebratory meals in the upcoming days, limit your intake at other meals to help keep your diet balanced out. The big mistake I see many make is skipping meals and “saving calories” The problem with that is you will be so hungry you’ll in all likelihood eat MORE calories than you saved. Instead have a decent breakfast and a small lunch prior to the big meal. Keep them light and be sure to include protein and healthy fats. These will help you feel full and reduce the tendency to go crazy later.
Look at the big picture and keep focused. Keep up with how you are eating during the several days surrounding Thanksgiving. I have many of my clients write down what they’ve eaten. Even just having a list keeps them aware of how much they are eating and will help them keep on track. Remember all good things in moderation. It’s okay to splurge a little, but it’s not a good idea to indulge at every opportunity that presents itself. If you splurge heavily one day, take it easy the next.
Keep moving (Get some exercise)! The last thing you need this time of year is a slowed-down metabolism, which combined with overeating is a sure way to pack on the pounds. Keeping active is a great way to give your body a fighting chance to negotiate the extra calories you will be consuming and allows you to have those splurges without feeling guilty.
Put your exercise as an appointment in your calendar and make it non-negotiable. Even better get your family and friends to join in. To get the biggest bang for your exercise-buck, incorporate regular strength training moves. Even after your strength training session has ended, your metabolism and calorie-burn will remain high for hours afterward.
Try this easy do it anywhere workout:
Do 10-15 reps of each exercise resting 30 seconds between exercises.
Push-ups: If you aren’t used to doing push-ups, start with your hands on a raised surface such as a desk or chair.
Lunges: Bonus: Hold dumbbells or other heavy objects in your hands while lunging.
Squats To do a proper squat, lower yourself just as though you are about to sit into a chair, then raise back up.
Step-ups Find the nearest step and with alternating legs, step onto the step with one leg then lower yourself back down. Again, holding heavy objects in each hand will increase the effect.
Rest one minute then back at it for a total of three to five sets, depending on your level of fitness.
There is no need to pack on the pounds this Thanksgiving and over the holiday season. It’s a matter of setting priorities and keeping on track. Figure out your strategy now, and then when the festivities start, just work the plan!
And if you do slip up, let it go and get right back to it. It’s okay to mess up. What’s not okay is to let that mess up cause you to give up completely.
Dan Romand is co-owner and operator of Full Circle Fitness-NY in Albany and Saratoga Springs.