How to Stay Healthy on Thanksgiving
A Diary on How to Indulge on Thanksgiving Without Feeling Guilty or Sluggish
Thanksgiving might be my favorite holiday. Besides being able to spend it with the people I care about, it's entirely centered around food, drink, and more food. And while I spend my days writing about health and wellness and a good number of my nights working out, all bets are off on Thanksgiving. There is no food shaming, no internal pangs of guilt for skipping the salad, and if all I want are carbs, carbs, and more carbs, so be it. But after too many Thanksgivings feeling uncomfortable in my clothes by night's end and nursing a hangover the next day, I knew I had to shift things around — at least a little. Here's my foolproof plan for feeling my best all through the day while still eating and imbibing my way through the evening.
9 a.m. Wake up. One of the best things about having the day off is sleeping in. During the workweek, it's easy for me to neglect this important aspect of my life, so I try to allow myself extra time in bed on Thanksgiving. Once I'm up, I start the day with coffee, water, and a simple smoothie (banana, almond milk, handful of nuts). I keep breakfast light since I have a workout scheduled.
10:15 a.m. Morning workout. It used to be that I spent all of Thanksgiving morning being lazy on the couch until stuffing myself with turkey and pumpkin pie. Not anymore. I now make sure that I always have at least an hour of strenuous exercise on the books. In the past, it used to be a hike, but my new tradition is to hit up SoulCycle's annual Turkey Burn. This 90-minute class is not only energizing, but it also helps to relieve any stress I might be feeling about dinner prep. It also doesn't hurt to know that I spent my morning exercising and burning calories before an evening of total indulgence.
12 p.m. Lunch. As soon as my workout is over, food becomes my focus. In the past, Thanksgiving was also a day of a decadent brunch, but I now make a point to put together a filling — but healthy — meal that focuses on protein and veggies. This helps keep my energy levels up until dinner and keeps things light and easy on my digestive system. Poached eggs, turkey sausage or bacon, and a sweet potato hash served alongside a simple green salad is a favorite of mine. And since I'm doing the cooking, I can make sure that my meal well-balanced and healthy. After eating, I take a quick shower and put a few drops of eucalyptus oil on the shower floor. It makes my bathroom feel a little like a day spa and the camphor-like eucalyptus seems to help ease any muscle tension I might have.
2 p.m. No rest — just go. Since my boyfriend and I host Thanksgiving dinner at our house, it basically means we spend the entire afternoon running around. Whether we're cooking, running last-minute errands, or getting the house ready, we are on our feet. We also keep a crudités plate out to snack on in case we get hungry — raw veggies make a tasty and healthy snack. I can tell you from personal experience that being drunk before the food is ready is not a good look and never really ends well. These days, we limit our drinking to a glass of Champagne each until guests arrive.
6 p.m. Guests are here! With dinner still cooking, our friends and I make a dent in the appetizers and cocktails. I pace myself a little bit because I want room to enjoy dinner and dessert. I'm also still up and about getting dinner ready, setting the table, and doing all the other last-minute things that go into hosting a dinner for 15 people.
7 p.m. Dinner is served. Once the meal hits the table, I'm officially in relaxation mode. I don't put a limit on what I can or cannot eat — my goal is to enjoy everything and to not make myself feel bad about it in the process. Given that it's a long night filled with food and booze, I do make a point to drink a lot of water (my body just can't handle hangovers the way it used to . . . ). I also give myself a little time to digest before heading in for a second helping of food. While not my intention, taking my time while eating often results in eating less. I'm also lucky enough to live near a park that offers stunning views of the San Francisco skyline and Golden Gate Bridge, so we have a tradition of doing a short uphill trek before dessert. Besides the views (and Champagne toast!), this walk really helps get rid of feeling overstuffed!
12 a.m. Time to call it a night. Chances are that if the Thanksgiving leftovers are in my house, I will continue to eat and snack on them for days on end. This often results in multiple pumpkin pie breakfasts and night after night of turkey and all the high-calorie, fat-laden trimmings. And while I don't put any boundaries on myself during Thanksgiving, I do like to get back to my normal eating habits once it's over. To avoid this scenario, we usually pack ourselves a (normal-sized) meal or two worth of leftovers and thank our friends for going home with the rest.