It’s not what Thanksgiving is about… exclusively. Is it?
Thanksgiving is about seeing your loved ones, hugging those close to you, and making sure they know how much they are cherished. If you’re in the McCullough home there will be grazing stations that will start early, maybe even by noon. Nibbles of cheeses, salamis, olive bread, sourdough, rosemary crackers, olives, pates, pickles, a variety of wines that match and if necessary some veggies… you know… for the people that “can’t have fun.”
In and amongst the grazing hopefully you get to enjoy some catching up with loved ones.
In our home there will probably be considerable time spent erecting legos in some sort of Star Wars universe. This will inevitably give way to cracking open the Star Wars universe illustrated picture books, and probably involve at some point an initiation of one of the Star Wars movies on a spare Apple TV.
The main screen in the residence will of course be reserved for that hallowed and sanctified use of preliminarily scanning the early afternoon Detroit Lions football game, but the main event will be whether or not the Dallas Cowboys will or will not be victorious on their home field. This process will be then interrupted by the most important event of all.
The real food. It will have been cooking for hours, the house is fragrantly aromatically saturated in all that it is. And as you come through the kitchen and head to the dining room you get your first glimpse of it.
The fully dressed table.
There it sits, a beautiful scene of careful culinary expertise that if you’re not careful may end up adding 4000-5000 calories to your intake for the day.
In recent years I’ve been attending much more carefully to my overall health. In 2015 I completed a weight loss plan of 30 lbs in 40 days by more or less returning to real clean pure eating, balancing hormones, tempering sugar and carbs and getting fully hydrated. The experience was phenomenal and I will write about it at some point in the future. I had doctor supervision through the process and only ate actual real food. My plan was supervised by Dr. Carey Skorski, of the Bay Ridge Holistic Health Care in Brooklyn.
But losing weight for me was only a portion of my journey. With three wee ones–under the age of six–I began to realize that my level of activity (and hence my need for strength and endurance) needed some work. So I have begun a program of strengthening my core, and gaining strength through resistance weight training and conditioning. I have been humbled to have been given the help of a personal trainer but as I have seen results I am now taking the next step to the level of physical capability that I hope to maintain for the active childhood years that my kids need me. I am doing this for them!
So the setting goes like this, I began working on the resistance training in late summer roughly ten weeks later we are hitting the holiday stretch where now the temptation will be to lose ground and I desperately want to get through this stretch both enjoying the time with family–especially my wee ones–and not lose ground on the progress I continue to strive for in health improvement.
So I asked my personal trainer, Kellie Lynam CPT, for some thumbnail guidelines I can put into play for navigating that beautiful dinner table, enjoying the hard work of those that prepared the amazing meal, and still feel good about how I feel following the meal.
The helps are surprisingly simple:
- Before the day… get into the mindset of moderation and prepare mentally what I plan to eat, and what I plan to avoid. (Amazingly even just thinking it through in advance will help you not only make better choices, but feel better about what you decide to allow yourself to indulge in.)
- Start the day… get up and eat a healthy, high protein breakfast. This will help your metabolism begin to function at a strong consistent level and begin the process of burning calories earlier than if you go into a quasy “fasting” mode waiting for the one big meal.
- Throughout the day… stay hydrated. If your holiday gathering includes alcoholic beverages this helps you drink less and help offset the the dehydrating effect of each glass of wine. But it also helps your body not confuse thirst for hunger (whether you imbibe or not) and this in the end will help you manage caloric intake.
- At the big meal… fill your plate 50% with as many leafy, fibrous, veggies as possible, filled out with 25% protein, and yes 25% starches. The issue your aiming for is balance in enjoying the amazing hard work of the chef. Eating all salad may be interpreted as rude but more importantly eating the protein and carbs (after the high protein breakfast) will keep the metabolism churning. And if you go over the normal amount of what you eat on a given day this will be a helpful outcome.
- During the meal… Eat SLOWLY. It normally take nearly fifteen minutes for the stomach to signal to the brain that it is full. Being overfilled in a rapid fashion will leave you uncomfortable and the negative effects that come with that. Eating slowly allows the full enjoyment of all the flavors of each dish as well. Greater satisfaction will be achieved by taking your time.
- After the meal… Be the first one to jump up and offer to help. Getting up and staying active has a benefit of continuing the metabolic activity. And keeps you and the food from continuing to eyeball each other with those knowing, forbidden, lustful looks.
- Throughout the day/night… Watch the liquid calories. Sugary drinks should just be a no-no from the start. And if you imbibe, the clearer the liquor or just red wine are your best options.
This little checklist is simple, it’s easy, and I hope its super useful because the one downside of holiday gluttony is the physical way it causes you to feel about yourself, and sometimes that winds up getting reflected in how you end up ending the day with others.
Don’t let it.
Decide this holiday that you will own the way you think, plan, process, and end the day — proactively. And as you build the lego sets, play games, break out the Christmas music, or cheer the playoff bound Cowboys to glory you will take deeper fulfillment, greater meaning, and much longer lasting enjoyment from the day, the loved ones, and the memories that you will share for a lifetime to come.
Happiest of Happy Thanksgivings!