Thanksgiving food is, hands down, some of the best cuisine on earth. Unfortunately, while we’re caught up in the spirit of celebration we tend to let our eating go unchecked.
One day of indulgence isn’t going to wreck your long-term health. However, if you plan on training in the following days, you’ll feel a lot better if you take steps to prevent overeating.
Here are some tips for enjoying a fun, festive Thanksgiving, without getting a food hangover that’ll haunt you for days to come.
1) Start the celebration early.
This doesn’t mean that you should start eating turkey for every meal the week before Thanksgiving. In the days leading up to it, focus on the meaning behind the holiday and give thanks.
If you’re an instructor, on the last day of class before Thanksgiving break, take a moment to thank all your students for coming to your school. Let them know you appreciate all the hard work they put in. If you’re a student, thank your instructor, and don’t forget to let your training partners know how much you enjoy working with them. (Maybe even give them a small gift, especially if you won’t see them around Christmas/Hanukkah-time.)
By doing this, you can “fill up” by celebrating the spirit of Thanksgiving. This way your holiday won’t revolve around food, and you won’t feel like you’re missing out when you turn down a third slice of pie.
2) Don’t skip breakfast the day of.
It’s tempting to think that by skipping one meal, you can free up space and eat twice as much for the next. The problem is, by the time Thanksgiving dinner rolls around, you’ll be so hungry you’ll probably eat more than two meals’ worth of food. You’ll also be more likely to give into cravings for sweet, salty and fatty foods.
Instead, have a high-protein breakfast like a veggie omelet, oatmeal with fruit and nuts (not instant oats, as these can be high in sugar), or peanut butter toast.
3) Train a little in the morning.
You don’t have to do a full-length, sweat-dripping, Rocky montage-inducing session. Just get a nice stretch, work on a few techniques, or go for a light run (unless you're hungry for a challenge -- then try running with an elevation mask!. This doesn’t have to take longer than half an hour (since you may be busy cooking most of the day, anyway!).
The goal of this training is to get yourself to a healthy, stress-free mindset. WARNING: don’t be tempted to use this exercise as an excuse to overeat later!
4) Load up your plate with veggies first.
Opt for salad, roasted vegetables, or raw veggie platter offerings first (no, mashed potatoes do not count). Fill at least half your plate with these foods, and then go back for your favorites. Zucchini Slice, from the Angela Gracie Recipe Book, is a great veggie-ful dish that would make a great addition to any Thanksgiving table.
5) Choose white meat.
Dark turkey meat has more fat and more calories than white, so if you like both equally, go for the white meat. If you love the dark stuff, and it’s a rare treat – well, it is a holiday, so go for it! Just eat it in moderation.
6) Sub sparkling water for alcohol.
This is a good rule any day of the year, but it’s especially true on Thanksgiving. Alcohol will only add extra, empty calories, and you could end up with a real hangover as well as a food hangover. That combo will kill any next-day training plans you have.
7) Take a walk after dinner.
Like the morning training, this walk doesn’t have to be anything epic. A short stroll around the block will help keep your stomach actively digesting, relieving discomfort if you did overeat a little.
Depending on where you live, this could also give you a chance to take in some beautiful autumn colors – another thing to be thankful for! If it’s too cold or rainy, you can still walk around your house tidying up.
Want more ways to work out inside? Look at fitness gear here!
8) Commit to training the day after.
To keep yourself from slipping, find a way to hold yourself accountable. If the school you train at is open the Friday after Thanksgiving, that could just mean telling your instructor that yes, you’ll definitely be there.
If your school is closed, find a workout buddy and make a mutual commitment that you’ll go for a run, hit the gym, or work on techniques (if they’re in the same art as you) together.
9) Enjoy what you eat!
The point of this blog is absolutely not to discourage you from enjoying your favorite Thanksgiving foods. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Think about which you would enjoy more: eating a reasonable amount of tasty food and feeling healthy, or eating until your stomach hurts and feeling bloated and sluggish? Focus on taking enjoyment from the quality of your Thanksgiving dinner, rather than the quantity. Savor every bite, and eat slowly to focus on the flavor.
Martial arts is all about balance. Just as under- or overtraining will hinder your progress, so will under- or overeating. Don’t stress if your Thanksgiving meal is still a little larger than what you normally eat – just appreciate the food, and the company, and come back to training feeling healthy and ready to go!