Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, macaroni and cheese, sweet potato pie, pumpkin pie, pecan pie....the list goes on and on! Wouldn't it be absolutely miserable to be at the table and watch your loved ones partake in this once-a-year feast while you sit there with a sad plate of green salad, topped with super-lite-low-calorie-air-flavored dressing and a nice cold bottle of diet water? Where is the happy medium? Is it possible to indulge in your favorite holiday treats without undoing weeks' worth of progress in a single meal (and probably the multiple left-over meals to follow)?
Of course it is! Here are a few tips to help you indulge without overindulging.
1. Use a Smaller Plate
At big meals, like Thanksgiving, it's very difficult to avoid the temptation to fill your plate to capacity with delectable goodies! Instead of trying to make your portions smaller, just make your plate smaller! Simply filling up a smaller plate instead of the average sized dinner plate can cut up to 500 calories out of your meal!
2. Drink Water
As you enjoy the your crisp green beans and succulent sweet potatoes, be conscious of what you're drinking. Limit yourself to one beverage of your choice, and then switch to water. Making sure that you stay hydrated throughout the day can help your brain to differentiate between actual hunger and dehydration. Often, many people confuse dehydration with hunger, and eat more without understanding why the feeling they are experiencing won't go away!
3. Put Down the Fork!
I know that I personally struggle with this one. I have a nasty habit of preparing my next bite while I'm still chewing my last one! If you have your mouth full of tangy-sweet cranberry sauce covered turkey, put your knife and fork down. Wait to prepare your next bite until you've finished the last one. This will help you to pace yourself, eat slower, and be more aware of the signals your body is sending you which will prevent over eating.
4. Take 5
Did you clean your plate and still find yourself eying another portion of grandma's famous macaroni? Take a break. Make yourself wait five full minutes before you reach for seconds. During that time, be aware of what's going on in your body. What's telling you to reach for more? Is it your mind and your taste buds attempting to overrule the "I'm full!" signals your stomach is sending? Or do you truly have room for a few more small bites? Take a break to re-evaluate before diving right back in. On the same topic, maybe consider a quick walk around the block to get some fresh air and get a good feeling for how dinner has affected your body before you jump right into dessert.
5. Remember, Quantity Does Not Equal Quality
Sure, your second-cousin's award winning pecan pie may be the stuff of legends, but the exquisite taste of all her love baked into that buttery crust isn't any less incredible if you eat half a slice instead of a full one. Treat yourself to all of your favorite holiday snacks this Thanksgiving, but always remember that the quality of the food does not increase the more you eat, and the flavor will not be any less delectable if you don't eat as much as you did last year.
Remember: moderation is the key to success. Think of how proud you will be to wake up the day after Thanksgiving without feeling any guilt or remorse AND still having been able to share in the feast alongside your family. You will have enjoyed a wonderful holiday, and you'll feel incredible about your self-control! How awesome is that?!
Dani Russell is a freelance health and fitness lifestyle writer living in Honolulu, Hawaii. She is currently working to complete a Master's Degree in Counseling Psychology and is a practicing student therapist. In her free time she can be found playing in the ocean, hiking and weightlifting. You can keep up with her daily quest to balance multiple jobs, fitness and graduate school via her tumblr.