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Saturday, November 23, 2013

Minimize Thanksgiving Damage with these 10 Strategies

Indulgence doesn't have to equal utter dietary debauchery
I reached for a second helping of free-range, locally raised turkey while my friend discussed how she grew organic Swiss chard in her backyard. “We picked the Brussels sprouts and fresh berries yesterday at a nearby orchard,” she continued, and I replied how fragrant the quinoa stuffing smelled.
Then I woke up.
Pleasant as my dream was, reality is nowhere near that idyllic. Chaos reigns during Thanksgiving as family members bicker while the TV blares in the background. Second and third glasses of whatever alcoholic concoction they’ve created for the festive occasion only make them more obnoxious.
As for the food… Well,
it almost becomes a contest to see how many calories they can shovel in: sausage stuffing, gravy, pumpkin cheesecake, deep-fried vegetables, and every other holiday-dinner atrocity you could imagine.
Any of this sounding familiar? At least during Christmas we have gifts to distract us. Thanksgiving is just food, football, family, and lots of alcohol.
Be Honest with Yourself…
I always roll my eyes at those women’s magazine articles that tell you how to keep your calories low, or how to make an entirely organic feast, or some such nonsense that nobody actually does on Thanksgiving. What planet do these writers live on!? I often wonder as I read this stuff.
Let’s be brutally honest: even if you eat perfectly the rest of the year, you’re going to splurge on Thanksgiving. Settle up ahead of time: give yourself permission to not feel guilty for indulging.
Obviously, you don’t want to wake up the next morning feeling like a bloated cow. Over the years, I’ve developed 10 strategies to indulge whole hog – pun fully intended – on Thanksgiving yet wake up in the morning with your dignity and skinny jeans intact:  
1.     Sleep well. I'm not just talking about napping (perfectly acceptable on Thanksgiving!), but also deep, quality sleep. Among its many benefits, sleep optimizes your fat-regulating hormones so you’re burning rather than storing those pumpkin-cheesecake calories. Insulin is a fat-storing hormone you especially want to keep in check: chronically elevated insulin levels, brought on from eating too many empty-nutrient carbs, store fat and keep it locked up. One study found just a single night of poor sleep could increase your risk for insulin resistance, obesity, and diabetes. Not cool. Especially when you’ll indulge the next day, aim for a solid eight hours’ slumber.
2.    Drink green tea. After your java jolt gets you going, swap the black stuff for appetite-curbing green tea. One study showed that, combined with protein, caffeinated green tea increases fat burning and helps you keep that weight off.  I steep organic tea bags with stevia and refrigerate so I have a pitcher of iced green tea to sip throughout the day.
3.    Don’t skip meals. You’re certain you’ll reach for seconds (and maybe even thirds) of your aunt’s famous pumpkin pie after a huge meal, so you might as well save up calories for the feast, right? Wrong! Skipping meals crashes your blood sugar, setting up a roller coaster that stores fat while it crashes your mood and energy levels. Have protein shakes throughout your day to steady blood sugar levels and keep hunger at bay as you anticipate the big dinner. I throw frozen berries, coconut milk, raw kale, and coconut milk into my shake to zap cravings and hunger.
4.    Get in your workout before you eat. My gym is always packed Thanksgiving morning, and I know why. These folks are planning to eat big the rest of the day. A hard workout makes your body more efficient at processing sugar, preferentially storing it as muscle glycogen rather than as fat. So work out hard and keep the end result in mind: whipped-cream loaded pumpkin pie!
5.    Watch your alcohol. Why is it that one margarita makes someone relaxed and chipper but three turns that same person into a rambling idiot? Never mind the hangover: drink enough alcohol and you’ll also be much less judicious about what you eat during Thanksgiving. If you drink, save your alcohol till dessert and have two glasses of water for every alcoholic drink.
6.    Load up on fiber. High-fiber foods signal your brain to stop eating sooner. One study showed even with no other dietary changes, people One study showed even with no other dietary changes, people who ate just 14 grams of fiber a day lost four pounds in four months. Great choices include leafy and cruciferous veggies, berries, nuts and seeds, and legumes. Here’s a little secret to eat less and blunt your blood-sugar overload at dinner: about 30 minutes before you eat, stir a scoop of fiber into a tall glass of water.
7.     Start with protein and veggies. Oh, I know: the marshmallow-topped sweet potato casserole and sausage stuffing look so much more enticing, but start with the good stuff and work your way towards the starchier carbs and sugary desserts. You’ll eat less, you won’t get that immediate blood sugar spike, and you won’t have that ugh I just ate four servings of stuffing so I don’t want any Brussels sprouts feeling.
8.    One meal and you’re done. You know the scenario. It all starts with those mini pumpkin-maple tarts – you’ve got to be polite and taste-test one, right? – and suddenly you’re noshing throughout the day. By dinnertime, you’re hardly hungry. Don’t make Thanksgiving dinner an all-day affair. Have protein shakes throughout the day, enjoy your big meal, and be done. Don’t let 9 p.m. “cleaning” in the kitchen become a leftover pumpkin pie binge.
9.    Move more. Make this your mantra for Thanksgiving: I will not sit on my ass all day. Surely you saw that study that showed even if you worked out for an hour, sitting all day could undo that hard work. Eat, watch the ballgame, nap, and enjoy the day, but make sure you move more too. Some guys in my family (if they aren’t too drunk!) usually line up a touch-football match. I like to take a nice walk after dinner and…

10.  Reflect on what you’re thankful for. Each of us has so much to be thankful for. Really stop and consider those things on Thanksgiving. This is a great day to start a gratitude journal. Give someone a random call and tell that person how much he or she means to you. Gratitude is contagious, plus it provides a euphoric rush with no lingering guilt (unlike that second piece of pumpkin pie!).
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Fitness expert and strength coach Jini Cicero, CSCS, teaches intermediate exercisers how to blast through plateaus to create incredible transformations. Are you ready to take your fitness to a whole new level?  Find out now!  Take Jini's "Are you Ready?" Quiz at © 2011 Jinifit, Inc.

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