1) Use the time between Halloween and Thanksgiving to really focus on a strong exercise routine. Even the most successful fitness enthusiasts can't be good all of the time. A technique that is commonly practiced in the fitness world is the idea of "cheat days". These cheat days are generally treated as a reward for a designated period of consistent exercise or nutritional discipline. It is a very effective training tool for two reasons: it allows the person to decompress and indulge their cravings in a controlled, preplanned manner, and from the physiological side it replenishes glycogen storage and releases endorphins. It also serves as a motivational tool because it sets up a goal to reach for. So how can you use this? Well, you already know that Thanksgiving Day is the mother of all cheat days, so make the time between Halloween and Thanksgiving the mother of all discipline weeks. Keep a consistent workout schedule and disciplined nutritional program with the light at the end of the tunnel being Thanksgiving Day. (This also works well between Thanksgiving and Christmas; however there are usually a lot more little parties to contend with during that time. There will be more tips for surviving the December holidays coming soon)
The rest of the tips are for Thanksgiving Day:
2) Burn the calories before you eat them.
A great tradition that has developed is the Turkey Day runs. No matter where you are you're almost guaranteed to have a 5K race somewhere near by on Thanksgiving morning. We even do our annual Bird Burner Challenge on Thanksgiving morning for our members to get their calorie burn in. So if you like to run these races are a great way to burn some preemptive calories. If you aren't interested in the running at all, then just going to the gym the day before or Thanksgiving or the morning of, and doing a little extra cardio or strength training. Be sure that whatever you do is more than your normal training program so that you create a greater calorie deficit.
3) Snack on veggies before your Thanksgiving meal.
Eating veggies prior to your big meal will ensure that you don't go to the table ravenously hungry. Usually if you're starving, your eyes are bigger than your stomach. Then you end up loading up your plate with more food than you need, and with all of those relatives around, you'll definitely get the guilt trip from someone if your plate isn't clean at the end.
4) Remember that beverages can have a lot of calories in them.
There are a lot of calories in some of the beverages that we partake in over the holidays. Eggnog, for example, is loaded with fat and sugar. Apple cider has a lot of sugar as does any type of fruit juice. Try drinking water more than other beverages. Not only will it cut down on the calories that you consume, it will also curb your overall appetite and allow you to feel satisfied eating less food.
5) Start with small portions of what you like to eat.
When you are putting together your plate, be sure to take just a little of the things you like the most. That way you don't feel like you missed out on anything. The key is keeping the portions small and not waste calories on things that you're not so thrilled about.
6) Eat slow and wait a while before you go for seconds.
A lot of us, myself included, tend to eat quickly. Take the time to enjoy your food especially if you've worked hard to earn it. Not only that, but it also takes some time for the signal to get from your stomach to your brain to let you know that you are full. That means that if you eat fast and go right for seconds your brain hasn't gotten the signal that you're already full. That's one of the biggest reasons why everyone is loosening their belts and groaning over being stuffed after Thanksgiving meals. If you eat slow and wait to get seconds you can avoid this uncomfortable fate.
7) Don't linger around the table once you've finished.
Ideally you should put away the food as soon as possible once you've eaten your fill. The longer you leave the food out or linger around the table, the more likely you are to pick at it. You may be already full, but seeing the food in front of you will promote further eating. If you are not hosting the party then you probably don't have control over when the food comes out or gets put away. However, once you see that everyone is done you could offer to help put things away or perhaps suggest some type of activity that gets everyone away from the table.
8) Repeat #5, 6, & 7 for dessert.
If you've done a good job with tips 1 & 2 then you can and should partake in dessert and have no guilt about it. Taking a small portion of the things you like will ensure that you don't feel like you missed out on anything. It will give you closure on your cheat meal and allow you to get back on track with your exercise and nutrition in the following week. Don't hang around the dessert table afterwards or you will keep munching on those tasty treats.