Endless pies, casseroles, turkey, gravy — oh, the gravy! There are few things as tantalizing as the aroma of a warm Thanksgiving feast. It's the one day everyone looks forward to and knows it's not a meal worth holding back on. After all, how else are you going to be fueled up to take on the Black Friday stampedes?
We all come up with reasons we should indulge on Thanksgiving with reckless abandon, but do you even need to worry about how much you eat or if you "earned" your calories with a workout? According to a recent study, eating a high-calorie meal won't harm your health and can actually be beneficial for your fitness goals. The experts also agree that one meal won't even come close to the caloric catastrophe you're imagining. That Thursday workout can wait, too.
Should You Worry About the Big Meal?
According to Raphael Konforti, Youfit Health Club's national director of fitness, one meal or day doesn't define you. "One salad doesn't make you healthy just like one delicious Thanksgiving dinner doesn't make you unhealthy." Konforti continued to say that health and fitness is about consistency more than anything. "Skipping one workout or trying to make up for a missed workout isn't a formula for success. Trying to calculate how much you'll eat at Thanksgiving and trying to burn it off with a workout just isn't smart or healthy. Think of Thanksgiving as a rest day rather than a day you didn't work out."
McKenzie Flinchum RD, LD/N, certified personal trainer and owner of Flexible Dietetics, added, "Indulging on Thanksgiving will absolutely not ruin your diet. In fact, enjoying the holidays, events, and festivities is all part of living a balanced and healthy lifestyle. Rather than overindulging and going overboard on foods that you might not typically eat as part of a healthy diet, eat mindfully and enjoy the foods you are eating." Instead of taking a little bit of every side dish because it's there, get a satisfying serving of the foods you really love (yes, including pumpkin pie). Flinchum also added that consistency and getting back on track the next day is key to not having regrets.
How to Beat the Thanksgiving Food Coma
Getting back on track and in a healthy mindset after Thanksgiving is the real key to success. "After a big Thanksgiving dinner, you can get right back on track the next day by focusing on a new day. There is no need to add extra workouts to burn off calories or skip meals; just go back to your normal healthy diet and workout regimen. If you found yourself eating a lot of desserts and high-sugar and high-fat foods, perhaps focus on consuming a lot of veggies and lean protein the next day while still eating to satisfaction," Flinchum suggested.
There's a good chance you wake up feeling groggy the day after Thanksgiving, but it's totally worth the good food, drinks, and company. According to Konforti, a light, cardio-based or full-body circuit workout is the perfect way to snap out of turkey hypnosis. "The key is just to get up and move, whether that means running around stores on Black Friday or getting in a recharging workout. The main goal for Friday and the days after isn't to sulk and think about everything you ate or didn't do. We're all human; move on and get yourself back in a healthy mindset with a fun workout." Konforti also added that having a large meal every once in a while is proven to boost the body's metabolism. That's even more reason not stress and a strategy we can definitely get down with.
In Case You Still Want to Hold Back
We get it — you've been working hard and still might not want to go totally crazy, or maybe you want to but need a strategy. For that, Flinchum has a few smart suggestions. "Make mindful decisions about which foods you want to indulge on rather than overeating everything just because it is there. Make sure to stay hydrated, put your food on a plate rather than pick at everything, and enjoy yourself mindfully."
Remember that even if you go in with the intentions of holding back but indulge, there is absolutely nothing to worry or feel ashamed about. Thanksgiving is about enjoying good food, friends, and family. Take advantage of this valuable time and worry about diet and exercise the next day — you've earned it!