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Happy, Healthy Thanksgiving!

November 23, 2020

Tips, tricks & mindsets for a happy, healthy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is around the corner and even mid-pandemic, this time of year can be tough if you’re focused on your nutrition. Having a “healthy Thanksgiving” feels and sounds like an oxymoron, don’t you think?

So, I’m republishing (read: copy and pasting from my own blog – so it’s allowed, people!) an article I wrote for healthythankyoumoreplease last year and throwing in a few COVID considerations;)

A bit of background

For as long as I can remember, my family has (mostly) celebrated Thanksgiving with my mom’s side of the family. Think family reunion and holiday season kick-off wrapped into one amazing day of gift swaps, trading stories, and the infamous football game where the only enforced rule is that everyone either needs a drink in their hand or a kid on their shoulders. All through my childhood, the fourth Thursday of November was my favorite day of the year.

COVID CONSIDERATION: Are you feeling disconnected from your friends and family this holiday season? Make sure to CREATE CONNECTION… It won’t create itself. Our family is taking our annual Thanksgiving Quiz online and zooming together after the fact for all the teasing and gloating!

Enter high school, body image issues, and extreme anxiety about every little thing going into my mouth. ​

A day that used to be focused on family with a side of food quickly became ALL about the food with a very meager portion of family. 

Time spent playing games and chasing cousins up and down staircases was replaced with calculating how many miles I would have to run tomorrow to “burn off” the chocolate truffle I just ate. I had trouble staying present in my conversations because I was so distracted by the food around me.

Many years later (along with a whole lotta learning, a nutrition degree, and coaching clients through exactly what I used to experience) and I am happy to share that Thanksgiving and I are on much healthier, happier terms.  It took a lot of trial, error, and habit/set building to get here, and hopefully, these tips will help you skip right to the good stuff;)  

Buckle up! I’m about to let you in on some (not so) secrets you can put into action for a happy, healthy Thanksgiving.

Added bonus? You can put them into practice this week and through the rest of your holiday season. These have truly been game-changers for me and have allowed me to reconnect with the joy I used to feel for the holiday when I was little, before the world started telling me what I should or shouldn’t look like or eat. ​

Before the big day

Decide how you want to feel.
What does it feel like to wake up on the morning after a holiday shindig? Close your eyes and pretend you are in that moment right now. Ask yourself:

  • What are you thinking?
  • How do you feel in your skin?
  • Are you proud of the choices you made last night?

When you define and envision exactly how you want to feel heading home from a party or waking up the next morning, you can connect BACK to that immediate goal/feeling when you’re making food decisions at the moment.

This “goal feeling” is much more tangible than a longer-term goal that you can “get back to tomorrow”. When you make choices because of how you want to feel, they’ll come from a place of love, not fear.

COVID CONSIDERATION: If you’re not going to a party and you’re spending time at home, this is even EASIER. Ask yourself “how do I want to feel when I get in bed in a few hours?

Choose your language wisely. 
​The holidays can be an incredibly overwhelming and slightly nerve-wracking time if you are dedicated to nutrition. Cake in the break room, cookies that your coworker brought to the office and jars of candy on every surface. It is so tempting to go straight into victim mode in food situations and think “poor me, I can’t have xyz.” The fact of the matter is that you can eat whatever you want, you may just be choosing certain foods over others.

​When you use words like “can” and “can’t” you’ll automatically start labeling your choices (and often, yourself) as “good” or “bad”. This can lead to intense feelings of guilt and shame. Tell yourself that you can enjoy the foods you want to in moderation.

When you’re deciding what you want to enjoy, ask yourself “what will I feel like when I finish my last bite?” Need a quick in-the-moment gut-check? Try one of my favs: “A treat isn’t a treat if it makes you feel like crap.”

Aka – a happy Thanksgiving is a healthy Thanksgiving for your mind and body.

Optimize your routine.
There will be plenty of opportunities to indulge over the holidays so make sure you’re really crushing your routine and sticking to whole, healthy foods where and when you can. 

The holidays do not need to become an entire month of going overboard. If you have one holiday party each week between now and the end of 2019, that is still only 5-6 days out of 30+ (that’s only 20% of your month!).

Think of all the other time you have to optimize your nutrition to create a baseline of health and make it happen!

This will give you more wiggle room to intentionally enjoy some treats here and there while creating a healthy holiday season overall. ​

Healthy Thanksgiving day-of

This will give you more wiggle room to intentionally enjoy some treats here and there while creating a healthy holiday season overall. ​

Clearly, thinking ahead is a game-changer! And, there are still plenty of things you can do day-of to set yourself up for success like…

  • Start the day “voting in favor” of your vision. Get a great night’s sleep, hit a solid workout in the morning, eat lots of veggies and protein at breakfast, and drink at least 8oz of water before goin’ for your coffee. This way, you’ll already feel proud and healthy when you head off to your celebration. Do not underestimate the power of confidence!
  • Don’t socialize over the snack table. You’re more likely to mindlessly pick at foods if you’re standing or sitting right next to tempting treats. Out of sight, out of mind is the name of the game. If you want to enjoy a few things make yourself a plate and move away from the bottomless crackers and dips. 
  • When you serve yourself a meal, make sure you know what ALL your options are lookin’ like. Now, you can choose the things you want to eat the most. There is nothing worse than being halfway through a meal and realizing there is something you wanted to eat more.
  • Fill your plate with protein and veggies first! This way, you’ll already be on your way to full when you go back for smaller portions of the foods that aren’t quite as healthy.  It is easier to go overboard on the unhealthy stuff when you’re really hungry. 
  • Bring a dish (or dessert) to share! If you pick a healthy Thanksgiving recipe or two, you’ll have some great options that you feel confident eating. Make sure these are dishes you’re excited to eat so you don’t feel “left out”! 
  • Choose the special treats that you don’t have access to on the reg.
    Grandma’s carrot cake? YES PLEASE! Skip the boxed cookies you can get whenever, wherever. Give yourself permission to enjoy these once-a-year goodies and eat them slowly without distraction.​​
  • Hydrate…especially if you’re gonna have a few adult beverages! Staying hydrated will ensure you feel full and satiated (which keeps treats feeling a bit less tempting) but it will also make the next morning much more enjoyable;) Bring some other non-alcoholic options that you can enjoy as well.
  • If you’re a macro tracker and feel comfortable putting it away for the day (or at least your meal) DO IT! Still create an intention and vision for your day and use that as your measure of success. The holidays come around once a year. If you feel as though tracking is going to pull you out of the present, it is worth using this time as a chance to put your hard work into practice.
  • Plan a non-food related activity. Go for a long walk as a family, play some football, get into a new game. Create new traditions that aren’t food-centered. 

COVID CONSIDERATION: If you’re doing workouts at home, check out THIS post and download the LOTS Home Workout Guide.

Remember that it is 100% possible to enjoy your day (including a few treats) without going overboard. A slice of pie (or even TWO!) is really NBD in the grand scheme of things. If you enjoy them slowly, intentionally, and optimize your nutrition and health whenever you can.

There is no room for guilt and shame on the holidays. Realistically it is healthier for you to enjoy a few treats and MOVE ON! Then, you can get back to really connecting with the people you love!;) 

HAPPY, HEALTHY THANKSGIVING! We’re spending the weekend up at Sam’s family’s camp in the Middle of Nowhere, Vermont. Vlog coming soon:)

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Hi, I'm Ali! Photographer, dog mom, daily walker, reader, and wife to a busy maker. I'm the voice you hear and read at Life Outside the Shop.

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