Avoid Dieting On Thanksgiving Day

A pumpkin pie on a dining table
Thanksgiving Day! This is one of my favorite holidays because of the 3 Fs: Family, Football, and Food. Given the great tasting foods available, there is nothing more frustrating than attempting to diet on such a festive day.

However, gaining excessive weight during this time can be equally frustrating. According to the Calorie Control Council, the average American consumes over 4500 calories and 229 grams of fat during Thanksgiving dinner. As a reference point, a pound of fat is approximately 3500 calories. No wonder we feel more stuffed than the turkey following Thanksgiving.

Instead of dieting on Thanksgiving Day, prepare for it. Here are 7 tips on how to prepare for Thanksgiving to reduce your risk of excessive weight gain.

Get 7-8 hours of sleep the night before: Inadequate sleep can lower leptin (hormone that controls feeling of fullness) and increase ghrelin (hormone that controls feeling of hunger). Lower leptin and higher ghrelin hormone levels can contribute to overeating. Some research also has shown that a lack of adequate sleep may cause you to eat more foods that are high in calories, carbs and fats the following day.

Eat breakfast: I know. Some of us skip earlier meals so we can fully indulge during the Thanksgiving meal. However, skipping meals will slow your metabolism, cause your body to store fat and may contribute to overindulgence when it’s time to sit at the Thanksgiving table. Eat breakfast. Go with a high fiber meal such as steel cut oatmeal. You also can add quinoa (a good source of protein and fiber), a tablespoon of peanut butter (a good source of protein), and fruit (berries, banana, etc.). The fiber and protein will keep you satiated heading into your holiday meal. If your Thanksgiving meal is later in the evening, have a healthy lunch as well. Bottom line: Don’t approach the Thanksgiving table on an empty stomach.

Be active before your holiday meal: This will assist in revving up your calorie-burning metabolism just before eating. Do 15 minutes of moderately paced cardio just before your meal. That includes walking, jogging, bike riding or jumping rope. Alternatively, you can mix it up: 5-minute walk or jog, 5-minute bike ride, 5-minutes of jumping rope.

Drink water before meal: Drink 16 ounces of water just before the meal. This can trick your body into feeling full and may limit overeating.

Eat slowly: This can assist you in feeling full faster and may reduce the risk of overeating. Take your time. Relish every bite. Cherish every moment. Halfway through the meal, put your utensil down for a few seconds, then pick it up and resume eating. After the meal (and/or dessert) take a 20-minute after-meal break before going for that second serving. This break may allow your stomach enough time to communicate to your brain that you are full.

Participate in fun family activity after meal: Have an activity that gets the entire family involved. One of my favorites is WII’s “Michael Jackson, The Experience” video game. You can burn a lot of calories dancing to “Beat it” and “Thriller”. Yes, I still know all the moves to “Beat it” and “Thriller”!

Hand out leftovers: Leaving extra pies, cakes and other food in your fridge following Thanksgiving may result in temptation and weight gain. Offer left overs to guests. Alternatively, you may be able to contribute your left overs to not-for-profit organizations who can use the extra meals.

So, prepare yourself for Thanksgiving. During this food-focused holiday, not gaining weight can be just as important as losing it.

Have a healthy and happy Thanksgiving!

See additional tips on how to improve sleep, and other nutritional and fitness advice, in my book, Body Under Construction.

By Sloan Luckie, BDO Fitness Expert

Sloan Luckie, a Certified Personal Trainer and Certified Public Accountant, is the author of the optimal health workbook, Body Under Construction. Body Under Construction shows how to use nutrition, exercise and sleep to build the body of your dreams, reduce your risk to chronic illness and look and feel your absolute best.

His unique philosophy on building and maintaining optimal health has garnered significant media attention. Sloan has appeared on NBC’s “The Talk” with Marion Brooks, NY1 News with Cheryl Wills, graced the pages of Syd Jerome magazine, and conducted nutrition and fitness demonstrations for corporations, not-for-profit organizations, and various other groups throughout the United States.

Is Working Out Making You Overeat?

black woman with free weights
When most people finish a workout, they want a reward for all that hard work, which usually involves food. This makes sense, right? After burning a ton of calories, you’ve earned a treat, right.

Actually, wrong.

Moderate-intensity aerobic training can actually decrease your appetite, according to recent research. And when people do reward themselves with food, they tend to overdo it, increasing the calories they consume and destroying their weight loss efforts.

“Exercise can definitely suppress hunger,” says Barry Braun, PhD, director of the Energy Metabolism Laboratory at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, who has co-authored multiple studies on the subject.

How, why, and for how long afterward is something researchers are still working out. They do know that workouts trigger changes in the hunger hormone, acylated ghrelin, and the satiety hormones, PYY and GLP-1—though research has yet to establish the exact relationship.

But if sweat sessions make you want to eat less, then why aren’t exercisers everywhere losing weight like crazy? “In most studies, there is a poor correspondence between appetite and actual food intake,” says Braun. In other words, just because you may not feel as hungry as normal, it doesn’t prevent you from eating too much after a workout anyway.

So what can you do to avoid post-workout binging?

1. Stop rewarding yourself with food. You don’t want to train your brain to expect a treat every time you burn some calories.

2. Keep a log. For one week, write down everything you eat. Studies show that simply logging your meals can make you eat less. And remember: That energy bar, that handful of peanuts or square of chocolate counts, too.

3. Don’t skip the gym. “Exercise gives you benefits that dieting alone cannot, such as increased fitness, decreased stress, and increased muscle mass, which helps you burn more calories and fat at rest, ” says Kym Guelfi, associate professor at The University of Western Australia, and co-author of the Metabolism study.