Thanksgiving is a holiday of gratitude and family, indulgence and indigestion. Embrace the former while ditching the latter with these actionable ways to limit your belly-bulging binge at this month’s high-calorie celebration of appreciation and appetite.
1. Stop training yourself to overeat at holiday meals. Yes, Thanksgiving food is awesome. Especially if you have a mom or grandma (or whoever the cooking guru is in your family) who blows out that spread like fireworks at a Katy Perry concert. But remember that it’s not the last meal you’ll ever have, and it shouldn’t be the first one of the day, either. Start the holiday by having a sensible, healthy and filling breakfast — like an egg white-and-spinach omelette with turkey sausage and mixed berries — so you’re not apt to snack all afternoon then dive into a piled-high plate of smorgasbord staples like you just got out of prison. Little piggies belong in a pen, not face-first in the pumpkin pie.
2. Drink water to trick yourself into feeling full. Just like you do (or at least should do) at restaurants when you’re in danger of overeating, drink water before taking your seat for the main event. Baltimore-based certified strength and conditioning specialist Roy Pumphrey recommends “downing a giant glass of H2O about 30 minutes before the meal begins to help quell the hunger pangs for a fuller feeling.”
3. Choose protein and freens over heavy carbs. Unless you’re running a post-Thanksgiving marathon (or partaking in Dallas’ Turkey Trot), there’s no reason to stuff your face like Wilson Kipsang gunning for another medal. Fill your plate with the healthy proteins and greens available at your family’s fete and limit the space on your plate for waist-widening comfort foods like mac-and-cheese and creamy mashed potatoes.
“Many of a food binge’s adverse effects come from carbohydrate overloading and the subsequent ‘carb crash’ that occurs due to spikes in our insulin levels,” says Dr. Linda Anegawa, founder and medical director of OSR Weight Management. “I always advise my patients on Thanksgiving to go for lean white-meat turkey, green beans and salad, and avoid marshmallow-laden sweet potatoes, simple-carb dinner rolls and sweets.”
Adds Pumphrey, “The protein will fill you more and be more satiating than stuffing or bread. Plus you’ll feel less bloated and awful later.”
4. Stay active. You exercise on ordinary days when your food intake is normal, so it only makes sense that you should fit in a workout before you settle in for this cornucopius supper.
“It is a busy time, but schedule into your calendar one hour of some type of physical activity daily,” Anegawa advises. “This won’t offset a giant food binge but it will help keep metabolism and appetite somewhat in check, and chances are you may not be as tempted to binge if you know you’ve put in the effort to exercise.”
5. Mind your alcohol and choose drinks wisely. For some, alcohol at holiday time is a special treat; for others, it’s a necessary coping mechanism to prevent a brutal bloodbath at the family manse. For whatever reason you partake in libations, choose your drinks smartly and set a limit on how much you’ll consume.
“If you must drink alcohol, enjoy a low-sugar, low-carb concoction,” says Anegawa. “Steer clear of cocktails with loads of simple syrup, such as premade mixes, and instead enjoy a vodka tonic made with Stevia-sweetened tonic or a glass of dry chardonnay.”
Red wine also is low(er) in calories compared to other types of booze, and packed with beneficial antioxidants when enjoyed in moderation. Two glasses is the sweet spot; any more than that and you’re entering iffy territory. As a general life rule, drink one glass of water — flat or carbonated — between alcoholic drinks to prevent from getting sloppy and waking up with a killer hangover.
6. Plan a post-binge fast to burn fat. After you’ve had your fill and finished the meal, it’s time to do damage control. As an alternative to exercise — because who wants to do that on a gluttonous gut? — prepare to fast for at least half a day.
“When you’ve just downed a big meal, making sure you fast for 16 hours right afterward is a good way to kick your body into fat-burning mode,” according to certified personal trainer Rui Li. “The simplest way is to skip breakfast so that half of your time fasting is during sleep.”
In other words, your body will start eating itself, which — let’s be honest, ye of expanding pants size — is a welcomed change of pace.
— Mikey Rox