Preparing for the Thanksgiving Holiday
Fall has arrived, which means that Thanksgiving and the holiday season are around the corner. In addition to spending quality time with friends and family, this also may become a high-risk situation for weight gain. The holiday season usually includes a greater availability of high-fat and high-calorie foods, along with frequent parties and gatherings. Furthermore, your normal daily routine is interrupted, which may mean that your usual eating and exercise habits could be thrown off. This combination of changes can result in the addition of a few extra pounds. Commonly, it is thought that most people gain approximately 5 pounds from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day; however, one research study has shown that on average, weight gain is less than 1 pound during this 6-week period (Yanovski et al., 2000). This is much less than what most people believe and provides some evidence that significant weight gain over the holidays can be avoided.
One of the important things to consider as the holidays begin is to make sure you have a positive attitude about your weight during this season. Try not to enter the season with the "I'm not even going to try," "There is no hope," or "It's the holidays, so I deserve to splurge" attitudes. If you believe you are going to gain 5 pounds and will have no control over your behavior, you may try less to control your behavior and could gain 5 or more pounds. However, if you believe you won't gain the 5 pounds, you'll probably be more conscious about what you are doing, and determined to make better choices. Stay positive and believe in yourself!
Another important thing to consider is that even though you will be busy running errands, shopping, and doing things outside of your daily routine, it does not mean that you should put your exercise routine on halt until after the holidays. If you cannot get your typical amount of exercise each week, do not worry. Aim to continue to get as much activity as possible, and focus on not stopping completely. Some activity is always better than none!
The last thing to consider is that the holidays will result in some slips in your diet and exercise plans; however, that does not mean that you should get discouraged or give up. No one is perfect and there will be times when you consume a little too much or do not exercise. After it happens, forget about it and start focusing on how you can make healthy choices at the next meal or during the next day.
As Thanksgiving approaches, here are a few tips to lower your caloric intake during your Thanksgiving dinner:
- Pass on the alcohol altogether or alternate alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. Remember, alcohol does contain calories and they can add up quickly.
- Choose white turkey meat over dark turkey meat. Each 3 oz. of dark meat has approximately 20 more calories and 3 more grams of fat than the same amount of white meat. Also, be sure to remove the skin from the turkey. Eating the skin from a 3-oz. portion adds another 20 calories and 3 grams of fat.
- Avoid adding butter on potatoes (sweet, mashed, baked), dinner rolls, and vegetables to save 100 calories and 11 grams of fat per tablespoon. Another way to think about this is that you would have to walk approximately 1 mile to burn off the calories in 1 tablespoon of butter.
- Choose smaller portions and eat slower than you normally would. Also, avoid going back for seconds, and aim to only consume 1 plateful of food.
- Make steamed vegetables rather than vegetable casseroles, which may be loaded with extra calories and fat.
- Remove the food from the table immediately after dinner to prevent snacking or picking at the leftovers. Also, do not sit around the dessert table. Each little extra bite you take will add up quickly.
- Although it is tempting, skip taking home any leftovers or only take 1 serving home per person in your household. Try to keep Thanksgiving dinner as one meal on one day, rather than repeating Thanksgiving dinner and eating leftovers for an entire week.
Yanovski, J. A., Yanovski, S. Z., Sovik, K. N., Nguyen, T. T., O'Neil, P. M., & Sebring, N. G. (2000). A prospective study of holiday weight gain. New England Journal of Medicine, 342(12), 861-867.