If you're anything like me, you start looking forward to Thanksgiving — or at least the food that will be served — weeks in advance. Come early November, I'm already dreaming of the sausage stuffing, marsala mushrooms, and fluffy mashed potatoes that make up my family's traditional feast (to be honest, I could take or leave the turkey). I start to think about which "healthy" dishes I can bring to seem virtuous, all the while knowing I'll ignore my steamed herbed broccoli and load my plate with anything doused in butter or cream, preferably both.
Even if I've stuck to Plan in the weeks leading up to the holiday, my restraint goes out the window when I sit down to dinner. I try to plan my week around the meal, eating light fare the rest of the time to save up for a marathon holiday eating session where I let myself enjoy whatever I want. I'm sure I must end up eating a whole week's worth of SmartPoints™ values that day. I can easily devour at least two servings of every side dish, plus a generous sampling of every one of the dozen desserts trumped out before my dad and uncle even have a chance to fight over the turkey carcass.
Of course, while I'm sinking my teeth into a second slice of pie, my skinny sister — who honestly cannot comprehend how people can overeat ("Why don't you just stop when you're full?") — shoots disapproving glances across the table. She doesn't say it out loud, but I can see her gaze asking, "Do you really need to be eating that?" I know her concern is genuine — after all, she knows I'm not happy being overweight and only wants to see me have success — but come on! It's Thanksgiving! I'm thankful for all the delicious food, a spread that would make a pilgrim blush! I have no intention of not enjoying the day.
Still, it’s not a free-for-all. This year, I'm aiming to limit my intake of all things creamy. I usually don't gain weight Thanksgiving week as long as I only really fill my plate on Thanksgiving Day itself. This approach fits nicely within my "don't lose, don't gain" strategy for the season.
Still, there's always something to stress someone out on Thanksgiving. I try to use my strategy to keep smiling and have an amazing day. But you don't have to go my route. If you're like me and truly enjoy rich food —or if you're prone to drown your sorrows in pumpkin pie — Colleen Gengler, family relations educator at the University of Minnesota Extension, has a few tips for truly enjoying a happy Thanksgiving … food, family, and all.
How to Survive the Holidays
1. Let comments roll off your back
If you're tired or stressed, you're more likely to feel insulted by even innocent comments about the food, your hair, what's on your plate, or anything else. If someone says something that makes you flinch, "don't take the bait,” says Gengler. “Keep smiling, say something polite, and change the subject. Initiate conversations about your guests' lives and interests."
2. Stick to a schedule
Maintaining your normal routine of meals, snacks, and sleep will help keep you (and your kids) on an even keel leading up to the big day. And tempting though it may be, don't starve yourself before the holiday meal; you'll probably feel shaky and on edge and you're more likely to overeat. Have a healthy breakfast, like scrambled egg whites with low-fat cheese on whole-wheat toast, to tide you over.
3. Don't try to do it all yourself
If you're hosting the meal, take your guests up on their offers of food and drink to save yourself some time. "Make them feel they're making a special contribution by asking them what they'd like to bring," says Gengler. "If they don't have ideas, you can suggest healthy options like fresh fruit, sparkling cider, or a tossed salad with a light dressing."
4. Steal some "me" time
Yes, you've heard it a million times before. But let's be honest — who actually takes that relaxing bath or goes for a massage? Especially around the holidays when every second is spent cooking, shopping, or telling a second cousin where the spare bath towels are. The trick is to sneak in a few moments of peace and quiet (or better yet, some exercise) whenever you can. Even if that means making up an excuse to run an errand so you can have some car tunes and then speed-walk an extra lap around the mall. It's worth the effort.