How To Enjoy A Guilt-Free Thanksgiving While Trying To Lose Weight

A holiday about eating is bound to make you want to break your winning streak, but we’ve got the best methods to keep you on track despite temptation.

By Andrea Mew6 min read
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With its perfect timing right before Christmas celebrations ramp up, Thanksgiving is oftentimes the start of many people’s unintentional weight gain during the holidays. If you’ve spent a significant amount of time this year bettering your health and losing excess weight, then the thought of Thanksgiving dinner on the horizon might be a major stressor. But the truth is that Thanksgiving – or any holiday for that matter – doesn’t have to be a time of mindless self-indulgence. 

It’s still entirely realistic for you to maintain the weight you worked so hard to get to or even still be in weight loss mode during the holidays. As a self-proclaimed health and fitness enthusiast, I’ve gathered up my best tips and tricks for you which have helped me stay fit while still enjoying the delicious offerings of the holiday season.

Don’t Skip Breakfast…or Lunch Either!

There’s a lot of discourse surrounding whether or not intermittent fasting works well for losing weight. While some evidence shows that intermittent fasting can make weight loss easier for some folks since it restricts the amount of time you’re allowed to eat, some people struggle with not overeating during IF’s feeding times. If you know you’re already prone to binging or just simply overeating when food is in front of you, you might actually benefit from eating smaller portions more regularly throughout the day.

This train of thought applies any day of the year, Thanksgiving included! If you want to avoid a mega-meal once you sit down with your family, prep your body to already have eaten a fair amount of food during the earlier hours of the day by eating a light breakfast and lunch. You’ll likely feel a lot less tempted to eat large portions during Thanksgiving dinner while still being able to enjoy moderate servings of the dishes you love the most.

When I say light breakfast and lunch, I don’t mean that you should skimp on the nutritional density of your meals. Make sure you have a significant amount of protein during each mealtime since research shows that high-protein food choices make you feel more satiated and thus improve your appetite control. Incorporating ingredients like eggs, greek yogurt, cottage cheese, raw milk or kefir, smoked salmon, chicken breast, grass-fed beef, and bone broth will give you those needed boosts of protein in your meals that nourish your body and keep you from binging during dinnertime.

Schedule In Time for a Workout

Thanksgiving is a whole day. Though you’re probably spending time with family, that doesn’t mean that you’re beholden to family time at all hours. If it’s not a rest day, take an hour for yourself and set aside time for you to complete your regular workout. It’s not selfish to want to schedule a bit of alone time on a holiday! 

The serotonin boost from moving your body will leave you in a better mood for socializing.

In the grand scheme of things, spending about an hour on your own shouldn’t affect your family’s enjoyment of the holiday. Holding yourself accountable to the regular workouts you’re working so hard to maintain and relishing in that serotonin boost from moving your body will leave you in a better mood anyway! If your gym is closed or you need some workout inspo, we recommend trying a couple of videos on the free feminine fitness platform 28, which are tailored to your natural cycle. Oh, and here’s a bonus: You’ll also feel more mental clarity, which might be needed during conversations with certain family members during the holiday.

Take a Walk in Between Meals

Any extra amount of steps you take during an otherwise restful holiday will help you keep your basal metabolic rate higher and burn off a few calories. You can either take a break from socializing with your family members and go on a couple of mind-clearing walks outdoors on your own, or you can invite the family to come with you so that you make the most out of time with your loved ones.

Got dogs of your own? Going to a home that has dogs? Volunteer to take the pooch out for a stroll so that you can keep your step count high. Fresh air will feel great, and you’ll be helping get your pet’s energy out so that the whole family can enjoy dinner in peace. When you take a walk after you eat a meal, studies show you lower your blood sugar and have better chances of losing weight than if you wait about an hour or more after eating.

Don’t Feel Pressured To Eat Something You Don’t Want To Eat

Without a doubt, Thanksgiving dinner spreads are full of tempting dishes that you just know will disrupt an otherwise clean diet. While it’s actually unsustainable for you in the long run to cut all “cheat” foods out of your diet, you don’t actually need to eat things on Thanksgiving that will make you feel poorly about your food choices.

Hear me out: Only you can consent to food or drink entering your body. If you don’t feel that that particular thing will nourish you or add enjoyment to your mealtime, then you should disregard any pressure to eat it. Rejecting a slice of your grandma’s prized pumpkin pie or a scoop of your second cousin’s award-winning stuffing might come with a sense of guilt, but this is a great test of standing firm on your convictions.

Maybe you’re feeling wary about excessive amounts of sugars, seed oils, or any other ingredient you’ve been trying to avoid. If you know something will make you sluggish or sick, don’t subject yourself to poor feelings just to try to please others. 

Think Twice about a Third or Fourth Alcoholic Drink

On a similar note, don’t feel pressured to drink something you don’t want to drink. The holidays are a perfect time for enjoying alcohol if that’s something you do. In my personal opinion, drinking should be done in “celebration” rather than as a way to drown your sorrows. So since the holidays are (hopefully) a time of celebration and happy memories made with family, indulging in a bit of alcohol is definitely warranted.

If you plan on drinking during Thanksgiving but don’t want to entirely disrupt your progress, there’s a really simple rule you can follow: the two-drink maximum rule. I find that whether I'm out in social settings or just kicking it back with my loved ones, if I stick to two drinks then I don’t go overboard in terms of inebriation, and as a result, I don’t go overboard in terms of calories! 

When I stick to two drinks, I don’t go overboard in terms of inebriation or calories. 

Alcoholic beverages are calorically dense to begin with. Depending on the type of wine, you can get nearly 300 calories per glass, and we all know that beer notoriously gives regular imbibers beer bellies for a reason. Alcohol in excess is the enemy of weight loss. The problem with social drinking is there’s always pressure to have another glass or look past your relatives giving you a sly refill.

I don’t know about you, but when I drink over two or three drinks in a social setting, I tend to feel self-conscious about how tipsy I am and will inevitably start to eat more to counterbalance the feeling. While you should enjoy yourself, if you know you’re more likely to try to soak up excess alcohol with food when you go over a certain number of drinks, then stick to a reasonable number for a happy buzz and pace yourself.

Rethink Your Snacks and Appetizers

Tempted by your family’s spread of indulgent snacks that are meant to be nibbled on throughout the day? There’s nothing wrong with having a light bite, but take into consideration what might be the best type of snack for you in between your holiday meals. If you anticipate being a bit laxer during dinnertime, it’s probably best not to eat high-calorie bites before then. 

This doesn’t mean you totally have to avoid the cheese board, however. If you’re really craving that delicious charcuterie, let yourself have a small taste and then move on to lighter snacks. Crunching on crudité is one of the best ways to snack without guilt, especially if you’re picking raw vegetables that are high in fiber and water content. Volunteer to build a beautiful crudité platter to display for all guests in attendance and fill it up with cauliflower, zucchini, cucumber, carrot, bell pepper, broccoli, celery, tomato, and radish. Then, you’ll have a no-brainer decision when you’re itching to reach for a snack.

Confide in a Trusted Family Member

As alluded to before, it’s pretty easy to feel guilted by family members who probably mean well but don’t understand that you’re trying to stay on track. They might make passing comments about you not grabbing a dinner roll or passing on a slice of pie with your scoop of ice cream. I’d bet, however, that you’ve got at least one family member – if not more – whom you can trust to sympathize with your goals and be your best advocate. Be honest about these goals with a trusted family member and confide in them that, if needed, you might look to them to help diffuse tension. By confiding in someone and making your intentions known to someone other than yourself, you’ve got a buddy to hold you accountable and look out for you if you’re starting to feel overwhelmed.

By confiding in someone, you’ve got an accountability buddy who can also help diffuse tension.

Help Out in the Kitchen

We all have our favorite domestic tasks. One of my friends is infamously known for loving to vacuum. Then there’s me, the girl who will always butt in when it’s time to hand wash dishes. There’s something deeply satisfying to me about tidying up the sink and putting the kitchen to bed after it’s been abused during the holidays, but I digress. 

My love for helping out around the kitchen during meal prep and especially during clean up eventually led me to realize how there’s truth to the saying that goes something like “The devil finds work for idle hands.” One of the easiest traps we’ve all fallen into during weight loss journeys is eating when we’re bored. A simple preventative measure for boredom snacking or drinking is to keep yourself busy. Lucky for you, holiday prep and clean up requires a lot of (wo)manpower!

Does it look like someone needs a sous chef to peel potatoes? Should the dishwasher get cycled once before dinner so that the dinner plate pileup is less burdensome after everyone’s done eating? Keep yourself busy with valuable work, and you’ll find there isn’t even time for you to consider that unneeded snack.

Closing Thoughts

Just because this particular holiday is all about food, you don’t have to let one meal throw your weight loss goals off. You should remember, however, that it really only is one meal. If you’re feeling stressed out about that one meal, remind yourself just how much time it took for you to take weight off. The same principle applies to gaining weight back. If you eat one big meal, you might feel heavier because of fluid retention from water weight, but you didn’t just magically gain weight overnight. Chances are if you accidentally go a bit more overboard than you anticipated, you still didn’t gain back the weight you worked hard to lose. 

Be your best ally, use any frustrations or disappointment to get back on track and prevent one caloric bomb of a meal from becoming habitual overindulgence. Just keep in mind, by increasing your energy output through movement or deliberate exercise and making thoughtful choices about the volume and types of food and beverage you consume during Thanksgiving, you can prevent unwanted holiday weight gain and still have a jolly time.

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