Put Down the Fork and Pick Up the Thanks

Want to avoid putting on your fat pants after you awake from your tryptophan stupor this Thanksgiving?  Then move on from the old-school style “gorge fest” (like licking the butter off your roll before you sop up the leftover gravy with it) and focus on a kinder, gentler holiday dinner that won’t play arterial pinball with the leftover lipids floating around in your blood.

The average American consumes over 4,500 calories and 229 grams of fat on Thanksgiving (says the Calorie Control Council, and yes, there is one!). Most people can also expect to gain five to ten pounds between Turkey Day and New Year’s.  Even though that keeps the fitness industry in business, it is sure to make the rest of you feel like cranky fat butts, and we don’t want that!

So listen up and make a pre-plan for your holiday feasts and parties to keep your eating under control.  Rounds of appetizing hors d’oeuvres and free flowing libations can wreak havoc on your gym efforts. The key is moderation. Variety is the spice of life and moderation allows you to have a little of it all. Simply sample small portions of your favorite selections, not necessarily one piece of every dessert, but petite portions of the spread.  You’ll have a better chance of avoiding a post meal coma and feel satisfied at the same time.

Of course, if you’re the cook then you have more control of the fat and calorie content and can opt for healthier design. Experiment with ingredients that create the same great taste, with all of the pleasure and none of the guilt.  Substitute whole wheat flour for all purpose flour, evaporated milk becomes evaporated skim milk and get the lower fat versions of butter and cream cheese.  You can also use two egg whites in place of a whole egg (unless the recipe specifically requires the yolk, like custards and puddings), use low-sodium, fat-free chicken broth in your mashed potatoes and stock up on fresh seasonal veggies such as green beans, sweet potatoes and winter squash.

However, if you are a muscle bound, health-conscious eater and you happen to be someone’s guest who isn’t, remember to mind your manners.  Avoid preaching to everyone about what they should or shouldn’t be eating.  That will get you about as far as a nickel’s worth of gas.  They might not care and you may not be invited back.  Try to lead by example if you can with your own portion control and food choices.  And don’t lift your shirt at the table to show off your six-pack to prove a point. That’s simply distasteful.

So let’s say you just ignore my advice and pig out like it is your last meal. Guess what you’re in for a dose of holiday reality because serious consumption leads to serious cardio repentance.

A 160 lb. person would have to run at a moderate pace for four hours, swim for five hours or walk 30 miles to burn off only a 3,000-calorie Thanksgiving Day meal, according to Dr. Cedric Bryant, ACE chief exercise physiologist. If this “Thanksgiving Repentance Marathon” sounds appealing, then dive right in for another piece of that pecan pie and then get out your running shoes.

So dump piggin’ out and encourage your friends and family to do the same. Just be reasonable about your choices and give thanks. Seriously, give thanks. There is a lot in your life to be thankful for: your friends, some family members, pets, great travels, second chances, being in front of the line, killer parking spots, a passing grade, a promotion or an unexpected bonus (does that really exist?). But most of all give thanks for your health; you wouldn’t be here without it, so don’t take it for granted.




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