Healthful Holidays: Thanksgiving

I can hardly believe Thanksgiving is over and that we are now less than a month away from Christmas. Alex and I spent the weekend in Sacramento with my family and enjoyed the chaos that only eight adults, four children, and four dogs can bring. It’s madness and I love it!

Our Thanksgivings have changed a bit over the years; I went vegetarian a few years ago and in the summer of 2010, my sister became vegan and her husband became vegetarian – so our plates have gone from a plate full of sides to a plate full of delicious vegetarian/vegan main dishes like lentil loaf, shepherd’s pie and Three Sisters Stew (all of them are amazing). Plus my bomb ass gravy! I swear, it wins over everyone and it’s VEGAN! I will post the recipe soon.

We also included more physical activity in our holiday this year – meaning I had to eat more pie to balance it out! Alex, my dad, and I ran a Turkey Trot 10k on Thursday morning, something I never thought I’d do. In years past, I’ve always argued that Thanksgiving is a time to eat, watch football/parades, and sit around in sweats. But running the 10k in the morning was super energizing! It was the longest I’d run since the marathon, and it took me awhile to get into the groove. I didn’t PR which at first annoyed me because it was flat and I just ran a marathon, but then Alex reminded me that it was awesome that we got up to run on Thanksgiving morning at all! The rest of the family couldn’t participate because things were already in the oven at 9 am, so I hope to find a way to get everyone out next year!

My dad finishing his first race!!

It was quite a rainy turkey trot!

We also got moving by playing ski ball and going bowling:

And then a nice long walk at a nature preserve on Saturday with my parents. It was beautiful!


For the first time, I went into the holiday wanting to make conscious, healthy decisions – rather than saying “it’s Thanksgiving! Screw healthy living – I’m going to just eat whatever I want and get back on track next week!”  I didn’t  want to feel nauseous after every meal. Multiple pieces of pie per day were a given, so how could I do that without overloading my body with sugar? What were some ways to get moving even if I didn’t have the time/inclination for a workout? Here are the few things I learned:

1. Know that there will be leftovers. During the week when I make dinner, even if it’s particularly tasty, I have no problem leaving half for lunch leftovers. But for some reason during special meals where everyone goes all out to cook, I feel the need to load up my plate and get a full serving in, lest I miss my chance. This year, I filled up half my plate with salad first, and then got a little bit of everything else, reminding myself I could get seconds of something and that there would be leftovers to enjoy later.

2. Enjoy the food. In a similar vein to the above, when I wanted to get seconds because the first round tasted so good, I reminded myself that I wanted to eat when I was actually hungry so I would enjoy it, rather than just eating it mindlessly and feeling sick afterwards.

3. Eat smaller portions. I love pie and dessert and with so many pie options, I knew I’d be having several pieces for a few days. So I cut each slice very small and savored each bite, leaving me full of pecan/pumpkin/apple goodness without the sugar high and crash. And then went I went for my second (or third or fourth) piece later, I didn’t feel guilty.

4. Be compassionate to yourself. Even though I was trying to be mindful, I still ate my Thanksgiving meal faster than I would have liked, given how much time and effort went into preparing it. There’s nothing worse than spending 6 hours preparing a meal that’s over in 15 minutes. But instead of beating myself up about it, I accepted it as part of the holiday craziness and promised to stay as mindful as possible during future meals. Like when I’m shoving handfuls of candy corn into my mouth.

5. Get moving. Like I said above, maybe it’s a turkey trot. Maybe it’s tag with your family or mini golf or 15 minutes of yoga in your room before emerging to see family or turning some music on while cooking to get your dance on. And don’t forget cleaning! All that movement counts and will help digestion of the rich and delicious foods ever-present at holiday time.

These are just the things that worked for me – I achieved my goal of feeling indulged without going overboard. And it also means I feel good this morning and had enough energy to get up and hit the gym!

And now it’s time to move on from pie and pumpkin to Christmas cookies and gingerbread – I can’t wait!!!


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