If you celebrate Thanksgiving, you know that it’s a time for expressing gratitude and spending quality time with friends and family. It’s also a time for big dinners, sinful drinks and yummy desserts.
Eating, drinking and being merry at Thanksgiving is fun and is a treat to in which to indulge. At the same time, it can lead to overindulgence and the start of what I call the ‘holiday belly bulge.’
Many people end up enjoying Thanksgiving so much, they end the day feeling guilty and weighing more.
Indeed, if you’re focused on either maintaining a healthy weight, or working towards a fat loss goal (like the participants of our FastBurn28 Fat Loss Challenge, which is in progress), Thanksgiving can cause a real setback to your aim of looking and feeling your best.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could enjoy Thanksgiving without feeling like Miss Piggy? What if you could eat, drink and be merry without putting on unwanted weight?
Well, I’m here to tell you it’s totally possible!
The six steps below will help you enjoy Thanksgiving, while avoiding the guilt that comes with having overindulged.
In fact, these steps can be used for ANY event where you anticipate a lot of eating and drinking – weddings, galas, birthday dinners, etc.
1. Sleep Well The Night Before
Sleep plays a much bigger role in keeping a healthy weight than you may realize.
Lack of sleep throws off numerous hormones, including spiking Cortisol (which increases fat retention), increases Ghrelin (which is our hunger hormone, making you hungrier) and suppresses Leptin (which is the hormone that tells your brain you’re full and cuts your appetite).
So, sleeping well the night before Thanksgiving is essential to balancing hormones that will keep your weight steady. This might be particularly challenging to do, because the night before Thanksgiving is notorious for being a big party night in many cities.
But if you can get your Zs on Thanksgiving Eve by either going to bed at a good time or at least sleeping in the morning of Thanksgiving, this will help you do better on Thanksgiving Day.
Also, keep alcohol to a minimum on Thanksgiving Eve. In addition to the unwanted calories, alcohol affects quality of sleep. (more on how to handle alcohol on Thanksgiving Day below).
2. Create A Calorie Deficit During The Day
You want to create calorie deficit prior to your Thanksgiving dinner by:
- Eating less during the day
- Exercising on Thanksgiving
A. Eating Less Before Thanksgiving Dinner
Like most of us, you’re probably going to consume a lot of calories at your Thanksgiving meal. A lot more than you would at your usual dinner.
This can cause you to easily blow your calorie budget for the day. But if you under eat during the day, you’ll have more budget left over to absorb the bigger Thanksgiving dinner that awaits.
By under eating, I do NOT mean starving yourself during the day and eating nothing. You definitely want to start the day (i.e. breakfast) by eating something in order to get your metabolism going. Otherwise, if you eat nothing all day your metabolism will slow down and then it will have to process an avalanche of food at dinner, which can lead to indigestion. (more on prepping your metabolism and digestion for Thanksgiving below).
The goal is to keep carbs and fat low during the day so you can have stuffing, gravy and dessert later.
I recommend you have one serving of slow burning carbs in the morning and some low-fat protein. A great and easy option here is sugar free oatmeal (you can add cinnamon, a couple of nuts, etc.) and boiled egg whites.
This will get your metabolism going and provide you with some protein, which you will need for your Thanksgiving day workout.
Get some veggies at lunch or have a serving or two of my favorite green veggie superfood powder: Organifi.
3. Exercising On Thanksgiving Day
You can work out on Thanksgiving Day any time you can fit it in. Preferably, after you’ve eaten something but if it’s first thing in the morning on an empty stomach that can work too.
Either way, have breakfast as described above either before or after your workout.
As far as how to exercise, an intense workout will serve you best. You can do a HIIT cardio session with the Motion Traxx app, or you can do a full body weight training workout that incorporates compound movements. Ideally, you can do weight training and HIIT cardio together that day.
Intense workouts like these will help you burn fat and rev up your metabolism. This will help you absorb the onslaught of calories heading your way later that day.
4. Enhance Your Digestion
Now that you’ve created a caloric deficit, prime your digestive system to better handle the food and drink coming its way. Alcohol, fats and sugars all cause inflammation and require our digestive system to work overtime to process them.
Make sure your digestive system has the proper enzymes to digest the Thanksgiving feast by taking a serving or two of probiotics before you start eating.
Another good supplement that helps digestion is ginger (either fresh or in capsule form). As an added bonus, ginger has been shown to boost testosterone, which helps burn fat and build muscle.
5. Sip Slowly
Alright, you’ve made it to Thanksgiving dinner.
It will probably start with drinks, so let’s tackle the subject of alcohol. Many people love to have drinks at festive events such as Thanksgiving. I will not tell you not to have alcohol but I will inform you to the tradeoff you’re making when you do drink alcohol.
Quite simply, alcohol is the most challenging thing for any weight loss or fitness goal. Besides the long term health effects of drinking, alcohol causes inflammation, raises estrogen (which stores fat) and spikes insulin, which means it gets stored immediately as fat.
If that wasn’t bad enough, it also results in decreased willpower, which usually leads to poor food choices. Besides having to convert the fast-burning calories in alcohol into fat, your body also has to deal with the additional calories you eat when you’re feeling merry. That’s a lot for your body to handle.
To have alcohol in a way that is sustainable for your aim to drop fat or stay lean, use techniques that result in drinking less.
One such technique is to have a drink only when someone makes a toast. This helps you make the obligatory toast, while also keeping a limit on how much you imbibe.
Alternatively, have a target number of drinks in mind and don’t exceed it. Obviously, this becomes important for other reasons such as the need to be in good shape to drive home after dinner.
6. Have Just One
You’ve made it through dinner, so let’s talk about ‘surviving’ dessert.
If you downloaded my 5 Proven Hacks for Consistent Weight Loss eBook, you learned that you can reduce the impact of sinful food and drinks with a technique I call ‘Have Just One’.
This means having just one bite of dessert, one sip of a drink, one taste of something indulgent.
This requires some discipline but will help you enjoy dessert a bit while keeping the impact on your waistline minimal.
By following the six steps above, you can enjoy Thanksgiving – and weddings, brunches, birthday parties and another big eating events – while controlling the impact they can have on your fitness and fat loss goals.
So, go ahead and indulge without worrying about the belly bulge.
P.S. I teach fat loss techniques like this as part of my BodyHack90 transformation program. It can help you reclaim your edge and be your fittest and best self in 90 days, without spending your life in the gym or the kitchen. It features personalized meal and workout plans, and weekly one-on- one coaching calls for accountability. Drop me a line to learn more (my email is below).