Thanksgiving is upon us, and my counseling sessions this week has turned into a “survival” guide to avoid that thanksgiving bulge. Understandably so, according to the Calorie Control Council the average American eats over 4,500 calories and over 200 grams of fat on Thanksgiving day!
Thanksgiving kicks off the weight gaining season. The statistic that is shared most often is “the average American will gain 5-7# during the time between Thanksgiving and New Years Eve”. This is likely over exaggerated as National Institute of Health (NIH) provided evidence that most of us gain only about 1# or less during the holiday season. However the bad news is this weight gained over the holidays isn’t lost during the rest of the year.
Most weight issues are not do to rapid weight gains but a pound here or there, that is hardly noticed. I know this was true for myself. I consider myself a healthy person who exercises 6 times per week, runs half-marathons and makes great food choices most of the time. A few years back at my yearly check-up my physician pointed out that I have gained 1# every year for the past 5 years. I was stunned because I didn’t notice (I have always been the same weight since senior year of high school). Five pounds in the scheme of things not an issue, but 20 years from now, 20 pounds of weight gain could mean a lot of bad health outcomes for me later in life. My goal for myself and many of my clients are to not gain weight during the holidays.
We have all seen the list of holiday weight loss tricks and diet versions of our favorite holiday recipes, (that never seems as satisfying as the real thing). I use to share them with my clients like every other health care provider out there, and one year I stopped to think “is this really helping them, would I ever do this?” My answer was no!
I have come up with 4 guiding principles for the Holidays, that I have used the past few holiday season with myself and my clients:
(1) Use a small plate: A simple change from a 12″ plate at dinner to 10″ plate could mean a 22% reduction in calories at a meal, Brain Wansink found at his Cornell University lab in 2008. If your typical Thanksgiving dinner plate was 2000 calories, a 2-inch reduction would equal 400 calories saved for that meal! Those 2 inches have enough impact on calories, yet are not drastic enough to trigger a response of feeling deprived. What I typically do is grab the 8″ salad plates and put my whole meal on that. I am always full and I get to still have my favorite thanksgiving foods. This week I challenged my wellness group to do the same for thanksgiving and the days to follow, the Small Plate Challenge is on!
(2) Get Moving: The past 5 years the women in my family has started a new tradition of entering a “Thanks 4 Giving” road race. The race consists of 5K and 10K walk/run. We all wake up early, put the turkey in the oven and head off to the road race. I know the calories that I burn during a road race will not counter act my Thanksgiving dinner, but it puts all of us in a “healthy mindset” which leads us to make better choices throughout the day. Check out a Turkey Trot in your area!
If races are not your thing, think of ways to incorporate exercise during your Thanksgiving weekend. Give a few of these suggestions a try: (1) Walk the track during the local high school football game (2) Take a walk between dinner and dessert (3) Start your day with at home yoga class/dvd (4) Many organization and gyms are offering Thanksgiving day Bootcamp type classes.
(3) Make it about everything but the food! Whenever asking someone about a holiday, our first response is always all about the food! “Oh the we had a 30 pound turkey or the sweet potato pie was amazing or someone forgot the peas!” This step is more about your mindset. If all you think about and talk about is the food at a holiday, then guess what the holiday is going to be all about… the food! Start to change your focus, to be on the friends you will connect with, family you are looking forward to seeing and the reason for the holiday. Take the emphasis off the food and make it about the people.
(4) Holiday is over and so is the eating! This is the final yet the most important guideline of all. Eating “poorly” one day is not the reason you gain weight after Thanksgiving. It is the next day of eating when you start your day with apple crisp and vanilla ice cream for breakfast, followed by the gobbler sandwich you have for lunch with 2 slices of pumpkin pie, then ending the day with 2 plates full of turkey, gravy and all the fixings. And it doesn’t stop on Friday, we carry on like this for two, three, maybe even seven days until every last bite of Thanksgiving is gone. Enjoy the Thanksgiving meal with your small plate, have all the things you have been looking forward to. The next morning after the holiday get right back to your usual routine and start the day off with a great breakfast like oatmeal and blueberries. Don’t let the holiday eating carry on.
I challenge you to join me this Thanksgiving in grabbing a small plate, go for a walk/run and stop the holiday eating the next day! Those small actions could have big payoffs on the scale.
I would love to see pictures of your small plates from thanksgiving, and what you did exercise. Share with us on my facebook fan page… Dietitian Drive Fan Page.