My little 3 year old likes to keep track of who finishes their meal first. He always calls out the "First Winner" and "Second winner" and continues on until every one has been accounted for. After guiding patients in weight-loss and body composition goals for the past couple decades, here's my best advice this Thanksgiving and holiday season:
1) Be the last winner- eat slowly and finish your plate last. We all know that it’s easy to get ahead of ourselves. We want our satiety to catch up with the rate we’re eating. The slower we eat, the less we eat. A tip to this is chewing three times the amount your normally do (great for your digestion too!) and to avoid drinking during the meal. (more on this when we get into optimal digestion)
2) Spoil your appetite. Fill up at least 50% before you show up- on healthy things, obviously. Load up on veggies, roughage, protein and healthy fats so your eyes aren't bigger than your stomach when you're serving yourself and chowing down.
3) Be hydrated! Start hydrating NOW. The goal is 1/2 your body weight in oz daily. If you need to stop reading this and go get yourself a big glass of water, do it!!
4) Don’t be a rabbit. Bring something you can fill up on. Do NOT rely on others to meet your dietary needs. Make sure you bring a plate that you can enjoy. Here's the rule: Bring something that, if that's the ONLY thing you can eat at the entire feast, you'll be ok. So, don't bring a veggie plate, you'll be super disappointed (and look like an ungrateful rabbit nibbling on veggies while others are diving into the carbs and giblets). And don’t get me started on giblets.
5) It’s about connection. Make the meal about the experience and connection with those you love (and those you might not love but are spending the holiday with nonetheless). If your focus is on the experience of gathering, giving and being thankful, the meal and gorging yourself is less emphasized. Learn something new about an older, wiser relative or friend.
6) Build in sweating. Plan an active family activity – one where you could break a sweat. Whether it’s a tradition of family football, baseball, a long walk or an aggressive game of charades, MOVE! And if you’d prefer to sit on your bum bum (another saying borrowed from my 3 year old) than sneak in a work out before the meal. Did you read the word “Before”? Because I used it for a reason. Get that sweat on before the event, you’ll thank yourself.
Bonus tip: If you really want to set yourself up for guilt-induced success: sign up for a Turkey Trot or fun run. Announce it to your friends and invite people to join you. It might not be your favorite activity, but you’ll be in good company and in addition to getting you sweaty, it goes to a great cause.