It’s Thanksgiving week – the start of the holiday season. If you view the end of the year as a time when diets go awry and potential weight gain sets in, you might mark Halloween as where it all begins. I think though, that our inability to keep our health and wellness a priority is more about having to adjust (in some areas) to colder temperatures and (in all areas) the reduced hours of daylight than it is about Halloween candy. Shortly after daylight saving time ends, we’re hit with the busyness of the holiday season, the added festivities, our to-do lists, expectations and general stress, both good and bad. The candy serves more as a (poor) solution to the problem than as the culprit itself.
The average holiday season weight gain is about 4 pounds. Let’s look at the math. To gain 4 pounds on Thanksgiving Day, you would have to eat 14,000 more calories than you would typically need to maintain your weight, all on that one day. Even if you’re sticking with all your high fat, high sugar, traditional Thanksgiving recipes handed down from generation to generation, eating 14,000 extra calories is likely not going to happen in just one day. So while you might assume that your nutrition coach – me 😉 -would provide you with lightened-up recipes, advice on exactly what exercise to do and for how long to do it to burn off a slice of pecan pie, I’m not going to do that. Why? Consider this: There are 36 days between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. You need to eat only 389 extra calories per day, for 36 days, to gain 4 pounds. Eating 389 extra calories per day, sadly, is very easy. It happens when you’re stressed out, running errands, crossing off to-do and wish lists and “just” grabbing a pumpkin spice latte (a Grande with whip = 380 calories) because you don’t have time for a nutritious lunch, mindlessly munching cookies or fudge in the office, or having a few extra cocktails, pieces of cheese and couple bites of artichoke dip at the neighborhood party.
It’s the daily extras, eaten for 36 days straight that will eventually add up to your dreading putting on your “LBD” on New Year’s Eve, or sporting just shorts or swim trunks –sans T-shirt- in your hot yoga class, on the beach on Spring break or even at your neighborhood pool next summer. It’s those extras that can also eventually lead to increased blood pressure and cholesterol levels or cause you to need those oral diabetes meds. again.
I believe that the best way to circumvent the stress, the craziness and ultimate annual weight gain, is to practice Gratitude. And what better time than Thanksgiving to start? Take a moment, get quiet, and truly reflect on for what and for whom you are truly grateful.
Recognize what you find enjoyable, really enjoyable, about this time of year. What I know you don’t find enjoyable is standing on the scale 4 or more pounds heavier than you want to be. So what is it that you do find enjoyable? Is it mashed potatoes? Stuffing? Gravy? Pumpkin or Pecan pie? Is it eating whatever you want and however much you want on Thanksgiving Day and not worrying about it? If so, then I want you to do that. And while you’re doing that, think about the fun activity (read: exercise) you’re going to do on Black Friday. Decide how you are going to start every day with a protein-rich breakfast, and that you’re going to plan in advance to have healthy snacks on hand so that you can avoid the nutrient-void/calorie-dense treats in the office. Plan ways to include vegetables in at least two meals per day. Commit to scheduling exercise right into your calendar so that it doesn’t fall to the bottom of the priority list. Perhaps most of all, think about how you’re going to eat when you’re hungry and STOP when you’re full. Doing these things will allow you to not only enjoy your Thanksgiving meal, but also allow you to mitigate mindlessly eating those extra 389 calories everyday and avoid greeting 2015 four or more pounds heavier.
On Thanksgiving day, eat what you want. REALLY want. But most of all, be thankful. Be thankful that you even have the opportunity to eat a plethora of fabulous food, and that you get to make the decision whether to “clean your plate,” have more, or save the leftovers for later, all with clothes on your back and a roof over your head. If you’re not exactly sure how to “do gratitude,” check out Marie Forleo’s quick and easy gratitude guide/video that can really make a difference.
On Thanksgiving, I also encourage you to exercise or even just support someone else who is! Some folks run or walk “Turkey Trots” in their town, others have family traditions that involve a morning hike or an afternoon football game (playing, not watching). Still others are home, on their feet, cooking all day. Support someone! Whether it’s cheering them on in a race or chatting with them while they’re basting the turkey – just be there, really BE there, not texting someone who isn’t. Be grateful that you get to choose, and make the best choices whenever you can. Let your greatest effort be mindfulness – of your neighbor, and of yourself.
I wish each and every one of you a very Happy Thanksgiving. Know that when I count my blessings, very high on my list is the opportunity to help each of you improve your health, wellness and ultimately, your happiness. For that and for you, I am eternally grateful.
To Your Good Health,