Your Guide to a Healthy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a day for enjoying time with friends and family, reflecting on the year and of course eating. From turkey to stuffing to pumpkin pie, Thanksgiving is a day of endless indulgence and this should be enjoyed, not cause panic.

To help you manage eating stress this week, Jonathan Ross, the ACE Senior Advisor on Personal Training and ACE Certified Personal Trainer and Behavior Change Specialist gives his top tips for having the best Thanksgiving yet.

Maybe even share it with your students, so they can also maintain a healthy mindset throughout the holidays.

1. Make a single choice one – or avoid one endlessly

Everything we say no to becomes something we focus our energy on. Instead focus on saying yes to the healthy, pleasant things you enjoy about the holidays. If you make a healthy choice, it’s made. If you are avoiding making an unhealthy one, you’ll likely be fighting that battle all day long.

2. Define what “enjoyment” means to you

If you love everything that erodes health, you will continually struggle to find health. It’s important to learn to love healthy thing, which can be a process. Go into Thanksgiving this year determined to enjoy the health elements of the holiday — either a new healthy recipe, getting active, or playing a fun game that gets you moving.

3. Remember that it’s a single day

Enjoy the holiday. If you worry about eating too much on this single day, the reality is that one day won’t make or break your health plan. Unfortunately, most people start a pattern of daily “treats” in some form or another or skip exercise due to visiting relatives, which then somehow continues from Thanksgiving through the end of the year. Enjoy the holiday, but don’t let it go from a day of indulgence to a month of indulgence that leads to unwanted habits that go beyond Thanksgiving and the holiday season.

4. Eat until you are 80 percent full

The idea of Hara Hachi Bu is a Japanese Zen philosophy of eating until you are 80 percent full. This eating approach increases mindfulness through the dining experience and leaves room for life. You’ll be satisfied without developing the physical discomfort that comes with eating too much.

5. Ask yourself: “Am I really still hungry”

To help you hit that 80 percent mark, start to ask yourself when you’re nearing the end of your first plate of food, “Am I still hungry? If, so how much do I need?” There are so many other reasons we reach for food, so ask yourself, “Am I really hungry?” If you are not, give yourself the gift of what you are really in need of, whatever that may be.

6. “I Don’t…” vs. “I Can’t…”

If you make your choices about identity, they are easier to make. When making a choice to decline eating something, if you say, for example, “I don’t eat dessert right after a large meal,” you are more likely to make a healthier choice in the future than if you say, “I can’t eat dessert…” Saying “I don’t…” empowers you by framing the choice as a decision connected with your true self — your identity — rather than one imposed on you by what you “should” do.

7. Get Defensive

One phrase that is overused and frequently used just to diminish a point of view is when someone says, “You’re being defensive.” Well, you’ve got to play some defense when the other side is being defensive. If you’re an individual attempting to make a healthy, sensible choice surrounded by others around you who are not, you’ll often find yourself getting attacked. When you’re attacked, you need to protect yourself be reestablishing boundaries with the boundary-challenges individuals you may frequently find yourself around.


Emily Harbourne was a previous editor for Campus Rec Magazine.

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