I fully love the holidays: the decorations, the crisp weather, and spending time with my family and friends. This is a time of celebration, and for giving thanks, and food…lots and lots of food. I love food, but my relationship with it has changed a lot over the years as I lost weight and gained a new perspective. I am very thankful for my good health, so it seems fitting to approach the season with a healthy mindset.
While I am a lover of pie, (and I fully intend to eat some) I don’t think that Thanksgiving has to leave us in food-coma status, ready for three hour nap. Trying to lose weight over the holidays is not a realistic idea, but going into any situation with a game plan yields far better results than just winging it. So I ask you, fellows Americans….”Do you want to feel on top of the world post turkey?”

Here are my tips for a healthy, happy holiday:

Eat a healthy breakfast

Thinking about skipping the first meal of the day? NO way, Jose’! You know better than this. Trust me, you will eat those breakfast calories and then some if you skip. Let this be your first healthy act of the day, and take pride in your excellent choice!

Fit in fitness

There are so many Thanksgiving Day 5ks and gyms that are open the morning of the holiday. Start the day off feeling like you accomplished something good for yourself, and supported others in your community by exercising alongside them. If you have guests staying with you, take a morning stroll together. Have lots of cooking to do? Start the day off with a 20 minute home workout in the room next to the oven. It works, I’ve done it. 🙂

Be the bringer of fruit and veg!

Whether you are hosting or you’re a guest, you have a say about the menu. No, I am not saying that Aunt Hilda should be shunned for making her famous double-marshmallow ambrosia salad, but I am saying that to should take the opportunity to make sure that there are some fruits and vegetables present at the dinner table with minimal amounts of fat and sugar added to them. Great examples include: an appetizer veggie and dip tray, fresh fruit kabobs, a healthier take on a green bean casserole, or a side salad.

Actually eat the healthy stuff

For many of us, having a less-than-full plate on Thanksgiving doesn’t seem right. It’s like picturing a ‘horn of plenty’ cornucopia with just a lonely apple hanging out in it. If that’s the case for you, I challenge you to fill up your plate with some of the healthier options first. Seriously, you can still have a small slice of Grandma Melba’s Liverwurst loaf, but start filling up on veggies first.

Let’s talk wardrobe

I know that there are some people who prefer to wear baggy sweatpants so they can eat more, but I say dress for the sort of day you want to have. Dressing nicely personally makes me less inclined to want to revert to old habits of stuffing my belly until it hurts. For me, wearing clothes that fit nicely make walking around with a bloated belly seem like an uncomfortable notion.

Be honest about your temptations

Decide what you like the most, and allow yourself permission to have some, before you even sit down to eat. The chances are pretty good that if you don’t contemplate this face-off beforehand, you’ll likely end up eating more than you wish you had of this dishy devil. Even planning how much you will have can help you make a great choice when confronted with your arch-food-nemesis.

Stop eating before you feel full

It’s completely legitimate to take breaks from eating. In fact, it’s a really important practice that can help you pace your eating throughout a normal day. So why not start getting in touch with your belly on the mother of all food days?

Do a non-food related activity

Thanksgiving is meant to be a day about gratitude, and a celebration of life with those we love. There are so many things we can do together to bond that don’t involve food. Even if this involves setting precedent, I challenge you to get others to do an activity with you that doesn’t involve eating. Great examples are: assembling a puzzle, playing a board or card game, having craft time (paper-bag turkeys!), going for a post-bird stroll, or my family’s recent favorite: an afternoon game of basketball.

Time spent with our loved ones is precious, and while sharing good food is a legitimate way to care for others, it’s certainly not the means to accomplish this. However you spend this Thanksgiving, I hope that you have a happy and healthy holiday!