Have Your Turkey and Eat It Too: 5 Steps to a Fantastic Thanksgiving (While Sticking to Your Weight Loss Plan)

ow to fit Thanksgiving into your weight loss planIf you’re trying to lose weight, you might imagine Thanksgiving as a kind of no man’s land of diet disasters just waiting to happen. You imagine yourself standing nervously by the veggie platter, hanging on for dear life to a few stalks of celery while your family and friends gorge themselves on turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie. But don’t worry! Just because it’s Thanksgiving doesn’t mean you have to give up your weight loss plan or resign yourself to a dismal feast of crudités. There are a number of ways you can stick to your weight loss plan and eat the foods you like – which is something that’ll make this Thanksgiving one you can truly be thankful for.

 Tip #1: Set aside Thanksgiving as a “cheat day”

If you don’t have “cheat days” built into your weight loss plan, now is a great time to start. Cheat days are days when you relax the rules of your weight loss plan. Contrary to what you might think, cheat days won’t hold you back from ultimately reaching your weight loss goals – many people find that they offer just the right amount of incentive so they can stick with their weight loss plan for the long haul, not just for a few weeks or months. The key word here is “relax” – you’re not completely letting go of your healthy eating plan altogether. The idea is to enjoy a larger amount or variety of the foods you like in moderation. So set aside Thanksgiving as a cheat day – use it as an occasion to enjoy the foods you wouldn’t normally eat, and rest assured that one day of reasonable indulgences won’t stand in the way of losing inches from your waist.

 Step #2: Go in with a game plan.

Once you set aside Thanksgiving as a cheat day, your next step is to go in with a game plan. If you haven’t done so already, you’ll probably want to sign up for a calorie counting program. Before turkey day rolls around, figure out what your overall calorie goal for that day will be. This number will be different for everyone. For some, a cheat day might mean “overspending” by 500 calories; for others – especially those who are able to fit a good workout into Thanksgiving Day – this might mean overspending by 1,000 calories or more. Once you’ve figured out your target calories, come up with a list of possible foods you might want to spend your calories on. Here’s a tip: given that vegetables are generally both filling and lower in calories, try filling at least half of your dinner plate with salad and other green goodies. Using this strategy will give you more calories to spend on calorie-heavy treats like stuffing and pie.

Going in with a game plan will help put you in the driver’s seat of your weight loss plan – instead of eating mindlessly on Thanksgiving Day, you’ll be making conscious choices about what you put into your body. Having a game plan will also make it easier to turn down unwanted second (or third!) helpings from overzealous and well-intentioned, relatives.

 Step #3: Set yourself up for success – bring healthy choices to the table

If you’re the one in charge of cooking Thanksgiving dinner, this step will be easy – you’ll have complete control over what goes on the table, and you’ll have the chance to make any number of healthy culinary decisions for yourself and your family. However, if you’re going to someone else’s house for Thanksgiving, do yourself a favor and bring a healthy treat for everyone (including yourself!) to enjoy. Don’t just make this a veggie platter (unless you love crudités) – aim to bring an alternate main dish, a hearty side dish, or a healthier version of a traditional Thanksgiving dessert. That way, you’re setting yourself up to eat something that won’t break your calorie bank and that you know you’ll love. Your fellow dieters will thank you.

Step #4: Ditch the football game, hit the great outdoors

Fight the temptation to camp out in front of the television after dinner. If the weather’s nice enough, gather a few family members and/or friends together for a post-dinner stroll, or, if you’re up for it and you’re not feeling too stuffed, a light game of touch football. You’ll get to enjoy the crisp autumn air and beautiful fall colors – all while building cardiovascular health and burning a few extra calories.

Step #5: Relax!

Finally, remember that nobody’s perfect. Even if you go in with a game plan, don’t berate yourself if you don’t follow it to the letter. Your goal shouldn’t be perfection, but progress – you’re working to build healthy habits that will last a lifetime, and a few slip-ups here and there won’t spell doom to your weight loss goals. Take time to enjoy being with your family, and don’t pass up a slice of your grandmother’s homemade pumpkin pie just because you’re worried you might go over your goal by a few calories. Eat well, eat mindfully, and have a bountiful Thanksgiving!


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