Thanksgiving: A Meal, Not A Long Weekend

“Thanksgiving is a meal.  It is not a four-day event.”

   -   LeAnna Sheehan

Last week, during a lunch meeting at work, one of my colleagues reached for a cookie (because there are always cookies during lunch meetings).  “Well,” he commented, “ I might as well get started now.  I’ll gain fifteen pounds over the next six weeks.”  Way to throw in the towel before we’ve even put the turkey in the oven.

How do we turn that story around?  How do we get through this minefield of family gatherings, parties, late nights, holiday stress and find ourselves intact come January the First?

First of all – it can absolutely be done.  You can get through the holiday season without undoing all the good results that you’ve worked so hard to achieve all year.  And you can still have a good time doing it.  

How, you might ask.

To answer that question, let’s talk about the holiday season as a whole first.  And then, we’ll tackle Thanksgiving weekend.  OK?  Because that is exactly how I suggest approaching the holidays.  Make your overall plan for the big picture, and then tackle one event at a time.

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Commit to a Healthy Holiday Season

  1. Set your intention.  That is probably my favorite LeAnna quote.  This is a great week to set your intention to not gain those 15 holiday pounds (or 10 or 5).  
  2. Make a plan.  Goals are best achieved when you have a well-formulated plan.  This is a great week to sit down with your calendar, look at some of the events you have coming up and plan around them.  Rockin’ holiday party on the 9th?   Schedule an extra class that morning to burn some extra calories.  
  3. Be that person who brings the healthy dish.  I am known as Salad Girl (it’s been that way for years).  Any host who plans their menu knows they can count on me for bringing most nutritious dish.  But when you look at a table laden with high-calorie, high-fat dishes, it’s great to see at least one dish that is healthy.  
  4. Let a few bites be enough.  “It’s not Thanksgiving unless I have my Mom’s apple pie.”  I get it – I do.  I have beloved recipes that I will forever associate with people who are very dear to me.  My Aunt Ruth’s cookies at Christmas.  My mother’s apple pie.  But you can have a little.   You don’t need to eat the whole pie.
  5. Thanksgiving is a meal, not a four-day event.  I credit and thank LeAnna Sheehan for those sage words of advice.  We host Thanksgiving and when we shop, into our shopping cart, along with the turkey and fixings go a whole bunch of To Go containers.  Those leftovers go right out of our house with our guests.
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Begin New, Healthy Thanksgiving Traditions

  1. Make time for exercise on Thanksgiving Day.  According to the Calorie Control Council, the average Thanksgiving meal is (are you sitting down?)  4,500 calories.  So – find time to do something.  Go to a class.  Go for a run.  Go for a walk.
  2. Substitute one old high-calorie dish with a new healthier alternative.  For us, it was the Green .  Bean Casserole.  You know – the one with the soup and those fried onions.  We replaced that years ago with a roasted green bean dish from Cooking Light.  I love this recipe because you can prep it ahead (so easy) – and then just pop it in the oven for 10 minutes right before dinner while you carve the turkey.  The Cooking Light recipe is here.  
  3. Ask yourself – are people really eating this?  My grandmother (rest her soul) used to bring her signature dish, creamed onions, to Thanksgiving.  It just wasn’t Thanksgiving without Grandma’s creamed onions, right?  Um, I guess.  Turns out, none of us actually loved Grandma’s creamed onions.  We finally gave her a different Thanksgiving assignment, much to everyone’s relief and just like that – no more creamed onions.
  4. Get people moving or playing after dinner.  In our family, we break out the games after dinner.  I have tried to make them games that all generations can participate in. Our favorite is Pin The Feather on the Turkey.   Games eliminate that sit-around-the-table-and-eat-dessert thing.  Games make memories.  They also provide a common language between generations.  When my grandmother was in the nursing home last year before she passed, our kids would bring HeadBandz to play when they visited her.  She had learned to play it with them at Thanksgiving.  It really was a great way for them to visit her in her last days as it invigorated her mind and gave her some energy.  
  5. Follow the REI example on Black Friday.  I heart REI.  A couple of years ago it was a huge deal when they decided to close their retail stores on Black Friday.  Now they are taking a step further and they are not processing any online orders on Black Friday.  Yes!  Join the movement.  Go for a hike, walk, run, whatever.  And don’t forget to post it.  #optoutside.

We are a very blessed bunch with much to be thankful for.  Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

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