If you’ve read our newsletter, our Daily Diet Solutions, or past blog postings, then you probably know that we are strong advocates of having dieters make a plan for potentially difficult situations, like events, vacations, and holidays. We push for this because we’ve found, time and again, that when dieters have a plan (even if it’s a general one), they almost always do better than when they have no plan at all and have to continually make spontaneous decisions about whether or not to eat something. Spontaneous decisions are often the hardest to control because they require a lot of on-the-spot thinking and self-discipline. Any decisions you make ahead of time (like whether or not to have dessert, and if so, how much) means you don’t have to expend the mental energy and willpower in the moment deciding what to do.
If you’re going to make a Thanksgiving plan this year, consider adding the following components:
Practice good eating habits. Especially during days when you’re spending a lot of time cooking and have food around you all day, it’s extremely easy to take in hundreds of extra calories by just grabbing a bite here and there. You can really cut down on this type of extraneous eating by continuing to make it a point to eat everything sitting down, slowly, and mindfully. This may mean that you’re pulled away from your preparations briefly, but isn’t it worth it if it means you’ll actually get to enjoy what you’re eating and feel so much more satisfied?
Exercise. Even if you’re very busy on Thanksgiving Day, it maybe worth it to figure out, in advance, where you can carve out 15 minutes or half an hour for exercise. The point of this is less about calorie burning (although that is a good benefit), but more about taking some time for yourself during a busy day. It can also be an excellent stress reliever!
Thanksgiving Dinner. Obviously any good Thanksgiving plan will include what you will actually eat for Thanksgiving dinner. If you know what’s going to be served, then you can make a specific plan to have x amount of Turkey, salad, stuffing, potatoes, etc. If you don’t know what’s going to be served, then you can make a more general plan: x amount of Turkey, x amounts of 3 to 5 different side dishes, etc.
Set a range for alcohol/caloric beverages. It’s perfectly reasonable to plan to have alcohol/caloric beverages during Thanksgiving, but it’s important to decide in advance what your limit is so that you don’t go overboard. Consider setting a range for the day, such as planning to have 0 to 2 glasses of wine.
Decide about dessert. Again, it’s reasonable to have dessert on Thanksgiving, but decide in advance how much you’re going to have. If you know exactly what’s going to be served, then you can make a more specific plan, like “Have one small piece of pumpkin pie and one small piece of pecan pie.” If you don’t know what’s going to be served, your plan can be more general: “Have one bigger portion of dessert or 2 to 3 small portions.”
Don’t go back for more. Another helpful guideline to have during Thanksgiving is committing in advance to not having any seconds. If you plan a reasonable Thanksgiving dinner and then go back for more, you’ll likely end up feeling overly full. This year, if you want to avoid that uncomfortable feeling (and avoid possible weight gain), decide in advance what seconds, if any, you’re going to have. That way, after you finish eating, you don’t have to struggle to decide whether or not to go back for more because the decision will have already been made.
Think about the rest of the day. Since you likely won’t be eating Thanksgiving dinner until midafternoon or later, it’s important to think about what you’re going to eat before dinner begins. Many dieters find it helpful to plan in advance what to have for breakfast and lunch (and it may be smaller than normal breakfasts and lunches), and then make sure they take time to sit down and eat what they have planned. This way they don’t take in too many calories early in the day but they aren’t starving, either.