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3 Strategies to Avoid Gaining Weight over Thanksgiving

3 Strategies to Avoid Gaining Weight over Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving marks the beginning of a joyous holiday season that includes spending time with family, exchanging gifts, and reflecting on the blessings of the past year.

It also marks the onslaught of delicious meals that are capable of completely derailing your fitness. Ugh—you can almost feel your waistband getting tighter…better loosen up that belt.

Here’s the good news: If you put the right plan in place, you won’t come out of Thanksgiving and other big holiday meals carrying 10 extra pounds with your diet in shambles.

This piece includes the exact strategies you need for before, during, and after the big holiday meal. If you can master each of them, you won’t have to refuse a piece of grandma’s famous pumpkin pie.

Three Strategies for Surviving Thanksgiving

As we approach the holidays, we all fall into one of three categories:

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  • You’ve already hacked your fitness and are maintaining a lean physique. You can employ a few of these strategies to minimize the fallout, but since you’ve put in the hard work all year, the holidays should be a breeze.
  • You’re smack dab in the middle of a cut and you’re dreading having to face the holidays just as you’re starting to see some upper ab definition. You contemplate moving out of the country and converting to another religion to protect your fitness progress.
  • You’ve struggled with fitness all year and, quite frankly, you’re sick and tired of messing with it. After all, 2017 is just six weeks away. You decide to f*ck fitness, enjoy the holidays, and deal with the fallout starting January 1.

If you fall into category 1 or 2, I have to applaud you for being proactive about the impending holiday binge and looking for strategies to minimize the potential fallout. You’ve come to right place. We’re going to get you through the holidays with minimal fat gain.

These strategies work better if you’re already eating clean and lifting heavy (although you can still use them if you’re not) and can also be employed for any big cheat meal, not just holidays.

Strategy 1: Make the Holiday a Workout Day

Your first step is to make sure the holiday meal falls on a workout day.

You want to do this because you’re allotted a higher calorie budget on workout days, and when you’re facing the prospect of a big meal, you need the biggest budget you can get.

If you’re not lifting heavy, just get some kind of workout in, whether it’s a lift or cardio. Even if you just burn 100 calories at the gym, that’s 100 more calories you have for dinner.

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Strategy 2: Employ Eat Stop Eat the Day Before

An advanced strategy for the holidays is to employ Brad Pilon’s Eat Stop Eat fasting protocol where you actually fast for 24 hours before the big meal.

For Thanksgiving, you would eat a big dinner Wednesday night and then begin your fast. You won’t eat anything on Thursday until the big Thanksgiving dinner is served.

This strategy isn’t for everyone, but if you’re already used to fasting or have serious mental discipline, a 24-hour fast will seriously help you minimize your holiday weight gain.

Strategy 3: Save Your Carbs & Fat for the Big Meal

If you can’t handle a 24-hour fast, use the lunch before your big meal to get in 75-80% of the protein you need for the day and save your carbs and fat for dinner.

Protein is always hard to come by during holiday meals. Aside from the turkey, everything else at Thanksgiving dinner will mostly be carbs and fat. By focusing on protein during lunch, you can afford to indulge during dinner with sweets and starchy dishes like mashed potatoes, stuffing, and all sorts of bread.

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This strategy works even in the off season if you’re just eating at a restaurant because protein is usually the most expensive item on most menus while fat and carbs are abundant in the side items you order. If your big meal is happening at a restaurant, research the menu beforehand so you know exactly what you’re going to order and how many calories the meal will cost you.

Regardless of where you’re eating, if you need to eat a second, smaller meal right before dinner, that’s totally fine. I call this tactic “pre-eating” and actually recommend this strategy for a couple reasons:

  • If you don’t get all your protein in during lunch, you can get the rest during this meal.
  • You’ll go to dinner with a full stomach and will be less likely to indulge.

What to Do About Booze

Alcohol tends to go hand-in-hand with any sort of celebration, and just like food, it has the potential to negatively impact your fitness if you’re not prepared.

You should avoid beer due to the carbs and pass on sugary mixed drinks. If it’s frozen or has an umbrella sticking out of it, give it to your friend who’s waiting until January 1 to tackle fitness.

Stick with red wine or a hard liquor with a zero-calorie mixer like Coke Zero or club soda. As we’ve previously covered, you really do lose when you booze. But if you’re selective with what you drink, you’ll have a higher chance of keeping your diet intact and avoid a hangover.

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The Day After Ultimately Dictates Your Success

The single most important part of any celebration or binge holiday meal is the day after. Whatever unfettered gluttony happened the night before, you have to bounce right back the next day and resume your regular diet and exercise routine.

No Bloody Marys or greasy burgers for lunch. You had your fun the night before. There’s a limit on how much fat you can add in a 24-hour period. Even if your Thanksgiving dinner was 10,000 calories, you’ll only add a limited amount of new body fat. Basically, you won’t come out of Thanksgiving 10 pounds heavier.

But if one bad meal becomes a second and a third, and you throw in the towel and decide to start again with your diet on Monday, you’re venturing down a slippery slope. This kind of mentality is the fastest way to end up 10 pounds heavier come January 1.

All that said, you shouldn’t be afraid of cheat meals like Thanksgiving. Life is too short to stress over meals that are about bringing people together to celebrate a joyous occasion. Remember, preparation is the key to being in control of every situation you face in life.  So plan accordingly, be thankful for all that you have, and have a happy Thanksgiving!

Featured photo credit: thekrazycouponlady.com via prod-cdn.thekrazycouponlady.com

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Last Updated on May 22, 2019

10 Simple Morning Exercises That Will Make You Feel Great All Day

10 Simple Morning Exercises That Will Make You Feel Great All Day

There are lots of studies that show if you do some exercise in the morning, you will be in a better mood all day long. You will have more energy and you will certainly be a better colleague, friend or partner.

One psychologist at Duke University has researched the effects of exercise on depressed patients and he has come to the conclusion that exercise has a definite role in treating this condition and has an important role in preventing people from relapsing.[1] According to the New York Times, scientists have now established that exercise also boosts your brain power.[2]

In addition, there are studies from the Appalachian State University which show that blood pressure can be reduced by doing regular morning exercise.[3]

Here are 10 simple morning exercises that will help you feel great the whole day long. You can include some of them in your morning exercise routine or do them all at home without having to enrol in a gym. Consult your doctor before starting any form of exercise routine if you are new to this.

1. Cat Camel Stretch

Stretching exercises are useful for muscle toning and also preventing arthritis. They can either be dynamic or static.

Dynamic ones such as the cat camel stretch, are particularly useful for doing other exercises in the morning. They are also beneficial at other times of the day, especially after long periods of sedentary work. This one is great for spinal flexibility and is a good warm up exercise.

Kneel down on all fours. Start by rounding your back just like a camel so that your head will try to meet your pelvis. This is the camel position. Then lower and lift your head so that your lower back is arched. This is the cat position. Do these movements slowly and smoothly. About 4 or 5 times.

Here’s a video to guide you through:

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2. Go for a Walk or a Run

This is better done outside so that you can connect with nature but running inside on a treadmill is almost as good. You can time yourself and increase length and time according to your fitness program.

Always have new goals to reach. Start with brisk walking and work up to running. At my age, I am still walking!

The health benefits are considerable. You can build stronger bones and you can help to maintain your weight.

Also, you are helping your heart to stay healthy and keeping your blood pressure low.

Learn more about the benefits of running here: 8 Benefits of Running 5 Minutes Every Day You Didn’t Know

3. Jumping Jacks

Michelle Obama is a great fan of this exercise and has become “Jumper in Chief.”[4] They are great for cardiovascular health and also for toning muscles especially the calves and the deltoids.

Stand with feet together. Jump while spreading your arms and legs. Return to first position and keep going! You can start with doing these for 1 minute and then gradually build up to the number you are comfortable with. Here’s how:

4. Abductor Side Lifts

Watch the video below to see how to do this exercise. These muscles are important because you use them everyday to run, get into the car or onto and off a bicycle. They are very important also for your core stability and prevent the pelvis from tilting.[5]

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Do about 10 to 15 raises for each side like this:

5. Balancing Table Pose

This is a classic yoga pose. It benefits the spine, balance, memory and concentration.

Start with the table pose (hands and knees). Breathe in before starting each movement. As you exhale, raise your left leg parallel to the floor as you raise the right arm, also parallel to the floor. Breathe in as you lower arm and leg. Repeat for the other side. 10 repetitions on each side is a good starting point.

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    6. Leg Squats

    Not just legs are involved but also hips and knees.

    Stand with your feet a bit further out from your hips. Arms are out in front of you. Then lower yourself as if you wanted to sit down until you reach a 90 degree angle. You can go down further if you want to. Then return to the starting position. Repeat 15 times for 2 sets for beginners.

    The benefits are that these exercises help with knee stability and can benefit the leg muscles such as quadriceps, hamstrings and calves.[6]

    7. Push Ups

    You start lying down (face down) but with your body held up at arm’s length. Your hands should be in line with your shoulders. Breathe in as you lower your body. That is fairly easy. Now, as you exhale, you have to get back up to the starting position.

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    An easier version to start with is to bend your legs at the knees so you do not have to lift your whole body.

    Beginners may take up to a month to be able to do 100 push ups so you will have to start with a very small number and gradually increase it.

    This exercise is great for strengthening the chest, shoulders and the triceps. It is a great strengthening exercise for many muscle groups. In fact, most muscles from the toes to the shoulders are being used.

    8. Bicycle Crunches

    There are numerous crunch exercises targeting the abs. The bicycle crunch is a variation where you work more muscle groups. Aim for 15 to 20 reps to start off with.

    Watch the video to see how this is done correctly:

    9. Lunges

    Stand with feet shoulder width apart. Place your hand on your hips. Take one giant step forward with the right leg. Make sure the knee does not go too far forward, that is, past your toes. The left knee will go down to almost floor level. Alternate the legs as you go on.

    Try to do a set of between 8 and 12 reps for each leg. It is important to allow for a day of rest, so this exercise should be done on alternate days, especially if you are using weights.

    This exercise is great for strengthening and toning the quadriceps, glutes and hamstrings.

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    10. Bicep Curls

    You can do this sitting down so if you spend a lot of time on the phone, this is a great exercise to do.

    Choose suitable dumbbells or another household object that you can easily hold. Sit down with the dumbbell in your hand. You need to sit forward a bit so that your triceps can lean on your thigh to give you support.

    Then bring the weighted arm up to shoulder length and then down again. Exhale as you lift the weight and inhale as you lower it.

    Here’re some important notes before you start doing this exercise:

    Try to do one or two sets of about ten repetitions for each arm and then switch arms.

    These exercises are really useful for toning the arm muscles.[7] In addition, they can strengthen and tone the brachioradialis muscle located in the forearm. These are the muscles we use to pick up things when we flex the arm at the elbow so we use these muscles countless times a day.

    You may have to build in a rest day for the heavier exercises, numbers 6–10. On the rest days, you can do gentler stretching exercises and also some walking or running.

    Morning exercise is not only a great mood booster, but will help you keep your weight down and also sleep better![8] Start including one or some of these exercises in your morning routine!

    More Articles About Exercises for Beginners

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

    Reference

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