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3 Strategies to Avoid Gaining Weight over Thanksgiving

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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 January 27, 2022

5 Reasons Why Food is the Best Way to Understand a Culture

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5 Reasons Why Food is the Best Way to Understand a Culture

Food plays an integral role in our lives and rightfully so: the food we eat is intricately intertwined with our culture. You can learn a lot about a particular culture by exploring their food. In fact, it may be difficult to fully define a culture without a nod to their cuisine.

“Tell me what you eat, and I’ll tell you who you are.” – Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1825).

Don’t believe me? Here’s why food is the best way to understand a culture:

Food is a universal necessity.

It doesn’t matter where in the world you’re from – you have to eat. And your societal culture most likely evolved from that very need, the need to eat. Once they ventured beyond hunting and gathering, many early civilizations organized themselves in ways that facilitated food distribution and production. That also meant that the animals, land and resources you were near dictated not only what you’d consume, but how you’d prepare and cook it. The establishment of the spice trade and the merchant silk road are two example of the great lengths many took to obtain desirable ingredients.

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Food preservation techniques are unique to climates and lifestyle.

Ever wonder why the process to preserve meat is so different around the world? It has to do with local resources, needs, and climates. In Morocco, Khlea is a dish composed of dried beef preserved in spices and then packed in animal fat. When preserved correctly, it’s still good for two years when stored at room temperature. That makes a lot of sense in Morocco, where the country historically has had a strong nomadic population, desert landscape, and extremely warm, dry temperatures.

Staples of a local cuisines illustrate historical eating patterns.

Some societies have cuisines that are entirely based on meat, and others are almost entirely plant-based. Some have seasonal variety and their cuisines change accordingly during different parts of the year. India’s cuisine is extremely varied from region to region, with meat and wheat heavy dishes in the far north, to spectacular fish delicacies in the east, to rice-based vegetarian diets in the south, and many more variations in between.

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The western part of India is home to a group of strict vegetarians: they not only avoid flesh and eggs, but even certain strong aromatics like garlic, or root vegetables like carrots and potatoes. Dishes like Papri Chat, featuring vegetable based chutneys mixed with yoghurt, herbs and spices are popular.

Components of popular dishes can reveal cultural secrets.

This is probably the most intriguing part of studying a specific cuisine. Certain regions of the world have certain ingredients easily available to them. Most people know that common foods such as corn, tomatoes, chili peppers, and chocolate are native to the Americas, or “New World”. Many of today’s chefs consider themselves to be extremely modern when fusing cuisines, but cultural lines blended long ago when it comes to purity of ingredients.

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Black pepper originated in Asia but became, and still remains, a critical part of European cuisine. The Belgians are some of the finest chocolatiers, despite it not being native to the old world. And perhaps one of the most interesting result from the blending of two cuisines is Chicken Tikka Masala; it resembles an Indian Mughali dish, but was actually invented by the British!

Food tourism – it’s a whole new way to travel.

Some people have taken the intergation of food and culture to a new level. No trip they take is complete with out a well-researched meal plan, that dictates not only the time of year for their visit, but also how they will experience a new culture.

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So, a food tourist won’t just focus on having a pint at Oktoberfest, but will be interested in learning the German beer making process, and possibly how they can make their own fresh brew. Food tourists visit many of the popular mainstays for traditional tourism, like New York City, San Francisco, London, or Paris, but many locations that they frequent, such as Armenia or Laos, may be off the beaten path for most travelers. And since their interest in food is more than meal deep, they have the chance to learn local preparation techniques that can shed insight into a whole other aspect of a particular region’s culture.

Featured photo credit: Young Shih via unsplash.com

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