Thanksgiving 101 (7 steps to navigate through the holiday feast)

Gobble up! It's one of the yummiest days of the year! It's also one of the most challenging. No matter where you are at with your nutrition, this day seems to bring up emotions. The rushing around begins weeks before with the hustle at the grocery stores, and if your lucky you only have to make one trip. That's if your lucky. But the day of is where we tend to fall off track. Best laid plans right? Well, as I'm sure there is a Google App somewhere that can help you navigate your way through the buffet tables of stuffing and pies, I'm also quite certain it's a tough path to follow precisely.  Why do we feel the need to overstuff our belly and brain to the point of food coma? It may be the pressure our family puts on us to finish our plate, "eat up, we made plenty for seconds, thirds, leftovers." There is something about this day, I dunno bout you but dinner begins earlier and earlier, as this year I think it's at 3:30? What's the deal with that?  I have a theory, the person hosting this day of thanks is so exhausted from weeks of planning and days of prepping and cooking that when the actual day of reckoning arrives they just want everyone to eat and then get the heck out. There are so many rounds of meals that if dinner were to begin at six o'clock, it would be after midnight by the time it ended. Have I struck a cord with any of this? What's the bottom line? This day is notorious for food abundance, family, overeating and sensory overload. It's also a time to count our blessings and be grateful for all we do have, so let's focus on our task at hand, enjoying the day and not trying to compete with the stuffed bird for who can fit more bread into their belly.

Many of my Food Athletes who are new to formulating their eating strategies are in a minor panic mode. If I'm entirely honest with you, and I hope you appreciate my candid approach, I'm in a slightly excited state myself.  I get anxiety just like some of you. It has taken many years, but I have learned to channel my nervous energy that leads me always to have some noshes at my fingertips. I like to say a little prayer before I leave for the festivities and do some meditation. Once I'm at my destination the planning and accessing happens the moment I walk in the door. Where are all the platters of snacks, a strategic position means that I'm not sitting directly in front of a bowl of nuts or a platter of cheese? I grab a glass of water, find the raw veggies and remind myself what this day symbolizes. Gratitude. Blessings. Family. Someone stop me if I'm wrong but isn't there a stigma attached to feasting until we are passed out on Thanksgiving. We do have choices, and we also have common sense. It's also in the realm of possibility to thoroughly enjoy yourself and at the same time keep it healthy. 

Navigating through Thanksgiving Day

Step One: Even if you have the day off still set your alarm. This isn't the day to try to clock more zzz's.  Have you ever had a day that you napped too much or overslept and your whole day was a complete fog? Today is not the day for this friend.  I don't mean wake up at 5 am, but set your alarm, so you have no more than 8 hours, maybe even go for 7, which is perfect. You're not going to make up for a week's worth of insomnia in one day.

Step Two:  EAT BREAKFAST!!! I'm the first to admit that I went for most of my life on a starvation Turkey Day Diet.  No breakfast, workout, no snacks, and boom, straight to the TG meal. My thought process? Umm, not any thought that had fact attached to it, just a lot of assuming that I was going to be eating a ton of food and I wanted to have an empty stomach to fit it all in. Wow, was I wrong about that one. 

Step Three: Stick to a schedule. Before your Thanksgiving meal plan snacks. Within forty five after waking up eat breakfast.  Something, anything. Doesn't have to be a platter of pancakes. Try a smoothie or juice and toast. Oatmeal. Yogurt and berries. Then a few hours later another snack. Few hours after that another snack. It doesn't have to be a meal; the idea is to take that schedule with you into your TG party. You'll probably see appetizers, cheese plate, crackers, veggies, dips.  I would take a pass on any bread or crackers and stick to veggies. I mean STUFFING is the best part right? Just be patient and wait for the meal to get into the bread and rice.

Step Four: Go workout! Don't skip that. Just eat your PRE workout meal, snack, something appropriate to the genre of exercise, HIIT, a short run, Yoga. Hopefully, you have a plan about that already. And YES, FUEL up POST workout. Again, depending on your athletic sport of choice I'm hoping you have knowledge of what and why you nourish your body. 

Step Five: Hydration!  Pace yourself but continue to drink H2O throughout the day. Especially if you are going to be partaking in alcoholic beverages, try to keep that to a minimum first, but have a glass of water for every drink.  Since you don't have control of the sodium content in the food, it's crucial to stay hydrated. 

Step Six: Stay Present & Practice Mindful Eating.  It's so easy to get caught up in the chatter, catching up with the family who doesn't live in town. Try these few tricks 1) Eat with your non-dominant hand 2) Chew your food 3) Sit for 20 minutes after you finish your plate and access if you are indeed hungry for a second plate or if maybe you have just enough room for dessert.  Always try to leave that 10% empty feeling. 

Step Seven: Portion Control.  Remember that three small plates could equate to 2 large ones.  Look at your plate, do you see half of your plate is veggies? Or even better start with your first plate and load up on veggies and salad. Eat that first and give your body a moment to evaluate how full you got from the vegetables.  The part we seem to lose control over are the portions and making the connection from our stomach to our brain.  We appear to miss or ignore signals of satiety. Go for protein and grains next. Allow yourself to enjoy the mashed potatoes and stuffing, and of course, you want to leave room for a slice of pumpkin pie. 

On Thanksgiving, a day of celebration and gratitude I am merely suggesting you continue to honor yourself. Your body. If you are considering planning a path of more deliberate nutrition, this is an ideal day to start. In my field it's often I hear, "I'm going to start tomorrow." "This week was difficult to start eating healthy." The truth is that there is never going to be an ideal time. Besides holidays, life is constantly happening, if your waiting for perfection in the form of time, the time is right now! Consider the possibility of the rest of the 364 days that are going to be achievable after you are successful on this special day. Rather than just surviving through another Thanksgiving holiday and spending the next day self loathing.  Allow room for all the miracles and be open to the spirit of this holiday. 

And in the spirit, I would like to say thank you to all of you who find meaning in health. It's because of you, your curiosity and your determination to find a healthier way of living that I get the good fortune to do what I do. My job isn't just a job. It is a privilege and an honor to be considered a valued person in this community who is dedicated to teaching wellness. 

Happy Thanksgiving Food Athletes!  I wish you a holiday filled with an abundance of love. 

Be Happy, Be Healthy, Love Your Body,

xo Jessi (Your Food Athlete) xo