Thanksgiving Dinner is the first of the big blowout holiday meals, the ones that fill you up with regret, bloat and gluttonous guilt to the tune of a heart-stopping 1,200 calories, on average.
But who wants to be average? Not us. That's why I want to give you very special instructions this year for surviving not only Turkey Day, but all the holiday meals that follow over the next five weeks. From Hanukkah latkes to Christmas fruitcakes to all day New Year's nosh, if you don't have a plan for getting through the holidays with discipline and determination, you will welcome in 2011 3 to 7 pounds heavier. So listen up, and please take notes, the En/X Holiday Survival Guide starts now:
EXERCISE YOUR PLAN. Train for the excesses of holiday parties the way you train for a marathon — with purpose and a passion for positive results.
Take Thanksgiving, if you haven't already. Thanksgiving dinner is usually a fabulous feast of favorite foods. It's great to exercise restraint — small portions, no seconds or rich sauces, lots of vegetables — but just as smart, schedule yourself for an hour of exercise before the festivities begin.
Look ahead for the next five weeks, and plan for a minimum of five one-hour exercise sessions a week. Mark down workouts in your calendar, just the way you would an appointment at the doctor or, god forbid, the dentist. Take vigorous walks, ride your bike, do your yoga. Remember: To avoid gaining weight this holiday season, you have to burn more calories than you take in, so if you're eating more, exercising more is a must!
EAT BEFORE ARRIVAL. Did you know that eating just one super-size high-fat, monster-calorie meal can quadruple your chances of a heart attack within two hours of the feast? One clever way to avoid overindulging at a holiday gathering is to have a healthy snack before it begins. A pre-party apple, a handful of raisins or 10 adorable almonds will help curb your appetite. And if you find yourself unable to resist the starters, limit yourself to two. Take five deep breaths after the first. Sit comfortably on your hands after the second.
CHEW SLOWLY. This is the oldest trick in the book, and oh, boy, does it work. It takes 15-20 minutes for your stomach to register fullness so the faster you shovel it in, the more likely you'll overindulge.
Instead, take modest portions, chew with awareness, and if you really want to earn a gold medal for disciplined behavior, rest your fork between bites. Other dining out tricks, just as jolly? Eat your salad first, very lightly dressed. If you can't skip the pecan pie, limit yourself to thee bites. Watch your alcohol intake, and for every glass of wine, drink a glass of water.
DEVELOP THE ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE. Think about giving thanks daily this holiday season and every day thereafter. Why? Because your mind and your body are connected, and the more grateful you are for the life you have, the healthier and happier you'll be.
Thanksgiving is the perfect time to start a gratitude journal — a daily reminder of the little things that make life so rich, so worthwhile. Keeping track creates awareness; the more you look, the more you find. If you're not sure where to begin, do what clinical psychologist Blair Justice does, and end the day by asking yourself: 1. What has surprised me? 2. What has touched me? 3. What has inspired me? Keep this up between now and New Year's, and you'll ring in 2011 with less stress, improved sleep and a heart filled with joy.
ENERGY EXPRESS-O! ENOUGH IS ENOUGH
"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more." — Melodie Beatty