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How to Make It Through Thanksgiving Without Weight Gain

  • 6 min read

by Matt Weik

Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie… Yes, please! Thanksgiving is here!

In this prime indulging season, with so many treats all around, it is next to impossible not to feel tempted. Staying true to your health and fitness goals in this joyous binging season is probably one of the biggest challenges you’ll face all year. But if you can make it through the holiday without gaining any weight, you’ll probably let out a sigh of relief.

How Much Do Most People Gain?

As per a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the weight of an average American increases by 0.4 percent over Christmas and 0.2 percent over Thanksgiving. In total, a person gains approximately one pound during each holiday season.

If you ask me, that figure sounds incredibly low as I commonly hear people saying that between Thanksgiving and the New Year, they’re up around 5-10 pounds. What have you seen, heard, and experienced? More or less than the one pound that the study indicated? Let us know down in the comments.

Regardless, let’s roll with what the study found. Although one pound for your favorite holiday season might look like a very small price to pay, you still need to understand the problems it can cause. That slippery slope of going off your diet and eating a bunch of things you usually wouldn’t, could set you in a downward spiral to crazy weight gain. From there, your motivation for working out could dwindle. Your immune system could take a hit due to your lack of exercise and unhealthy eating behaviors. The list goes on and on, and everything is a domino effect.

What Can You Do to Not Look Like a Stuffed Turkey?

With a few tweaks and simple changes, you can enjoy the Thanksgiving season without worrying about the extra pounds. So, here are eight tips on how to make it through Thanksgiving without gaining weight.

1. Fill up on protein to curb your hunger hormones

Protein acts as a natural appetite suppressor, so taking a protein-based diet helps to manage the hunger pangs. Try to include items like a spinach omelet, eggs, cheese, protein shakes, protein bars, etc., in your diet. Start your day with a high-protein breakfast, as it will help keep you satiated, and you can avoid overeating during Thanksgiving lunch/dinner.

2. Exercise early to burn extra calories before the big meal

Don’t skip your workout session just because it’s a holiday. Even if the gyms are closed, you can go out for a brisk walk and get some fresh air. You can fit in a bodyweight workout in the privacy of your own home. Or better yet, if you have a home gym, go get after it in the morning to start your day off on a positive note. It will help you to make healthier choices throughout the day since your mindset is still on hitting your goals.

3. Make half of your plate green (nutrient-dense foods)

Typically, an average Thanksgiving dinner ranges from 3,000-4,500 calories (unless you make pies like my mother-in-law, then all bets are off). Try to swap the traditional food choices with healthier options. Add more vegetables to your plate, and if you’re the lucky ones making the Thanksgiving feast, you can make a healthier version of filling and stuffing as there are tons of amazing recipes online that you can pull from.

4. Limit alcohol or swap for sparkling water

Holidays without alcohol? You may think I’ve lost my mind. But it’s true, you don’t need alcohol during the holiday to have a good time (although it may help you get through the day with relatives you can’t stand). It may sound weird but avoiding alcohol is the best thing you can do if you’re trying not to gain weight. Alcoholic beverages can add hundreds of empty calories in just one drink. And if you’re mixing drinks that contain fruit juice or other ingredients, it can send the sugar content through the roof.

Want some ideas on things you can swap your alcohol for? Ok, here goes… You could try soda with a splash of lemon. You can opt for healthier options and drink sparkling water. You can drink tea or coffee with a sugar substitute to help sweeten it up. Or just opt for plain water if you don’t mind something with flavor. This will not only keep you healthy but sober as well — which may be a good thing if you have some relatives you don’t exactly get along with and bite your tongue a lot.

5. Don’t skip meals

Starving yourself before a big meal is not a good idea. Leaving room for the main event will make you feel tired and may also cause you to overeat because of excessive hunger.

Plan your meals wisely to stay energetic. You can reduce the size of meals and drink lots of water. Remember that just because it’s a special event, you don’t need to overindulge to the point of absolute regret.

6. Get proper sleep

Sleep properly before Thanksgiving, as can cause you to overeat if you’re not getting the recommended minimum of seven hours of sleep. If you are sleep-deprived, chances are your metabolic rate will slow down, and it will ultimately increase the cravings for sweets and carbohydrates.

7. Avoid hitting the couch right after the meal

Avoid going to sleep right after the meal. It may be tempting to plop down on the couch, put some football on, and doze off — don’t. Instead, go outside for a quick walk to help burn off some of those calories you just consumed. Or, at a minimum, take part in some type of activity where you’re moving around, like helping to clean up or putting things away.

8. Eat slowly

It may seem like a race to see who can be the first back for seconds, but simmer down. As per the research, it takes anywhere from 5-20 minutes to feel full when eating. So go slow and chew your food properly instead of immediately heading up and making yourself another plate. Put your fork down after a few bites and engage in the conversations to increase the time. This will help to avoid overeating and make you feel satiated.

Have Fun This Holiday Season

Thanksgiving is all about family time and appreciating all that you have. And these tips will definitely help you enjoy some delicious food without worrying about packing on the pounds.

I hope you enjoy your Thanksgiving with your loved ones. Happy holidays!