Answer the question. Are you planning to pig out? Of course you are, like most people on Thanksgiving. I can hear you now. “Well, I am not planning to pig out the way you put it.” Of course you are. According to the Calorie Control Council, Americans will eat an average of 4,500 calories on Thursday. To put that in perspective, that is about 3 days’ worth of calories for a female over age 50. For a man, that is a little over two day’s worth.
While you may be aghast (I hope) at that figure, let’s talk about what you can do to not leave the table that day feeling like food was blown into your body while you ate! I have divided the tips into three parts.
PART I – PREPARATION FOR THANKSGIVING DAY DINING
1. PREPARE for Thanksgiving. Today is Monday. Start cutting back TODAY at least 300 calories. This will be a good start.
2. DRINK a glass of water before each meal every day and on Thanksgiving. Water is good for you and will give you a feeling of being somewhat full.
3. EXERCISE an additional 15 minutes every day this week. Also, exercise twice on Thanksgiving. Go for a 30-minute walk on Thursday morning after you have eaten breakfast. DO NOT SKIP BREAKFAST. Then, go for another half-hour walk about 30-60 minutes after your big meal.
PART 2 – MAINTAINING CONTROL AT THE THANKSGIVING DAY TABLE
1. DRINK a glass of water about 30 minutes before you sit down to eat.
2. BE SELECTIVE with what you are eating. If you love both mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes, then decide to eat one or the other, OR, take one tablespoon of each. Load up on fresh vegetables that are not drowning in a thick sauce. Consider passing up the bread rolls if you will be eating the starchy vegetables. If you are a vegetarian or vegan,you can still follow the same guidelines.
3. PRACTICE PORTION CONTROL. If you are unsure of how much turkey to eat, consider 3-5 ounces a safe bet, or the size of your palm, assuming you don’t have an amazon-size hand. Men can have 6.5 oz. of protein daily. Do NOT drown the turkey in gravy. If you can’t see the turkey, you obviously have too much gravy on it.
4. PUT THE FORK down after EVERY bite. Chew each bite until there is no more, and then swallow (yes, that is what you have to do if you want to be successful here). Do more talking than eating. It takes 20 minutes for your brain to register that you just stuffed yourself with food. While the Thanksgiving Day dinner usually takes longer, I have seen people inhale their food in 10 minutes, and all you see is the top of their heads as they are buried in their plates. Not good!
5. DESSERT TIME is often very hard on this special day. Hopefully you can wait at least an hour before you attack the dessert plate. It used to be the only choice was good old-fashioned pumpkin pie with a dollop of whipped cream (the real thing). Now we have pecan pie, mince meat pie (yuck!), pumpkin cheesecake, and other exotic and totally-over-the-top-high-caloric desserts. With so many choices, the temptations are hard to overcome. BUT YOU CAN DO IT! If you like two of the choices, then take enough for one or two bites (small bites, mind you) from each, and no more. Then STOP! You will be so glad you did.
PART 3 – POST DINING
1. DO A FEELING CHECK after you have finished. Do you feel full? Did you wait up to an hour after the main meal before diving into the dessert? Did you have to let your belt out a notch? (If you are feeling like a stuffed pig, notwithstanding you may have eaten ham, too, then you did not follow the instructions above!)
2. GO FOR A WALK after you have eaten. If you live in a cold climate, bundle up, and go outside to burn some calories. You will feel better and be able to go to sleep without that awful heavy feeling people get from eating too much. Shoveling snow will burn a lot of calories.
3. IF YOU HAVE LEFTOVERS, make those sandwiches now and package them. That way, you will not tend to overstuff the sandwiches, either. Go lightly on the mayonnaise, too; better yet, use a Dijon mustard to spread on the bread. No leftovers because you ate out? No problem, then!
4. DON’T BE AFRAID to toss some of the food into the garbage. It is okay, really.
After spending two weeks in France, eating and drinking my way through the countryside this month, I gained only ½ pound, despite the walking we did daily, even in the rain. At the table, I ate most of the protein entrée (fish 14 out of 15 meals), and only half of what else was served, and limited myself to one slice of bread (despite the fact that France makes THE best bread). I had wine at every dinner. The French eat very well, and I did not see even one overweight person while there. The key was the portion size and eating one bite of something just so I could savor the flavor. You can do this on Thanksgiving. Remember, the turkey and everything else on that table can be found in a store every day of the year!
Whether you are going out to eat on Thanksgiving or dining at home or with family, be thankful for what you have. Many today do not have a roof over their heads and do not know where their next meal is coming from. We take all that for granted, so let’s be especially grateful on this day for the bounty we enjoy every day of the year.
Enjoy the day, join in community with those around you, do not overeat, practice portion control, and do not go overboard. It sounds simple—and it is. YOU CAN DO IT! Make this the year you did not pig out because you planned the day. (P.S. I give you permission to have a glass of French wine with your meal, too!)
Don’t forget to remember all our service members on this special day, too. Without them, we would not be enjoying the freedom to worship on this day and celebrate it in the manner we like.