Want to stay on track with your weight loss goals during the holidays? Use these 9 realistic tips for a happy & healthy Thanksgiving!
I love food, especially holiday food! My mouth waters just looking at the grocery ads in November – brown sugar hams, golden brown turkey breasts, mashed potatoes dripping with gravy, crispy green bean casseroles – I love it all!
When I was 100 pounds overweight, I always looked forward to Thanksgiving (hello, massive banquet of goodness!), but on the day itself, it was not a joyful feast.
I felt so guilty about loving the rich foods I did, especially in front of my family, that I tried to put on a happy, healthy mask for the day.
I pasted on a smile (while sitting up straight in uncomfortable clothes) and tried to eat the bare minimum while others were watching (but snuck food whenever I could).
I basically overcompensated in every way I could to distract everyone from the fact that I was overweight and loved food.
Thanksgiving ended up feeling uptight, stuffy, and full of shame and an uncomfortably stuffed stomach.
It’s a lot of work pretending to be something that you’re not.
It doesn’t have to be that way! You can enjoy the meal and the company while being genuinely you.
9 Thanksgiving Weight Loss Tips
1. Plan Ahead
You already know your Thanksgiving meal is going to be a big meal, so look at what time you will be eating dinner, eat a good breakfast, and plan some healthier snacks throughout the day.
It will keep you from feeling starving by dinner time and it will help prevent you from emptying the chip bowl as you wait.
We eat what we see, so try to keep snacks like fresh fruit and vegetables visible and available throughout the day.
And, most importantly, plan your meal. I’ll get into that more in the other tips, but planning what you are going to eat before the food is in front of you can be a powerful weight loss tool!
It can keep you from snacking all day long, it can make your meal even more enjoyable by giving you certain food to look forward to, and it can help you be intentional about not going off the deep end with your weight loss goals.
Make a decision on what will make the holiday satisfying to you.
You don’t have to fully deprive yourself, but you don’t need to binge and eat 5,000 calories in one meal either. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.
Instead of eating a calorie deficit (for weight loss) on Thanksgiving Day, I used to choose to eat the number of calories it took for me to maintain my weight.
That gave me the wiggle room I needed to eat more than my normal, but not overeat for the holiday.
Overeating is not satisfying and it’s not fun.
2. Add Healthier Options
Instead of removing the foods you love from your Thanksgiving feast, try to add in some delicious, but healthier options.
- We had a delicious sweet potato apple gratin in our family meal this year!
- Mashed sweet potatoes or butternut squash mac & cheese can be delicious additions!
- I love roasted vegetables, so roasted green beans or brussel sprouts are always a great addition.
- My mom has made an incredible salad topped with walnuts, dried cranberries, fresh apple slices, and a homemade apple cider dressing.
I don’t eat those foods regularly, so they feel special, but they’re also healthy!
Try to add those things to your plate first.
Then you are more likely to take smaller portions of the heavier foods. Don’t forget to drink lots of water as you cook and also as you eat!
It will help you to feel more full and it also helps to fight against the sodium-heavy foods in your meal. You can even make it festive by throwing in some cranberries and orange slices.
3. Make Sure To Move
Our family loves to do the Turkey Trot 5k in our town on Thanksgiving morning. Some of us run, some of us walk, but it’s become a really fun tradition and a great way to start the holiday with some exercise.
I know some people have traditional Thanksgiving family football games (like on Friends!).
Go on a morning walk to catch up with your Aunt Sally or spend time playing tag or hide and seek with your grandchildren.
It keeps you active while still enjoying family time!
4. Prioritize Your Food
Don’t eat things just because they are there.
I usually like to taste everything (because you never know when you might find your new favorite food!), but you don’t want to fill up on foods you don’t care as much about.
This took me a long time to learn! If you’d asked me 100 pounds ago what foods were important to me, I would have told you, “EVERYTHING!”
But when I actually started eating intentionally and really paying attention to what foods I legitimately loved, I had more preferences than I thought I did!
- I discovered my mom’s pumpkin biscuits were way more important to me than the cheese and crackers.
- I found I was so much more satisfied with smaller portions of mashed potatoes and green bean casserole (because I still wanted to taste them!) and more stuffing (because this is a favorite dish of mine).
- I learned that I can skip most pies and not really miss them, but my sister’s pecan pie bars are worth every bite.
I’ve noticed that I used to eat a lot of “filler foods.” Think about the chips on the table for Mexican food, cheese & cracker appetizers, and bowls of nuts.
I used to eat those simply because they were there and I could easily eat 2,000 calories of filler foods a day if they were available.
Eat the foods that you really want to eat and skip the others.
Skip the cranberry sauce if it’s not your thing or take a small spoonful of the green bean casserole if it isn’t your favorite.
If you look forward to your mom’s homemade stuffing all year long, make sure you’re not too full from munching on other dishes to enjoy it!
Eat what is important to you (and take the time to learn what those foods are!).
5. Savor Your Food
Let yourself enjoy your favorite foods!
This seems like it would be a given, but it really wasn’t for me. I felt so guilty being overweight and liking rich/unhealthy foods.
Like I said, I used to be very self-conscious about eating anything in front of my grandfather. I wanted him to see me enjoying “healthy” foods and I wanted him to think I didn’t enjoy unhealthy foods.
Savor your food.
Healthy or unhealthy.
Even if you don’t want to like that salted caramel pumpkin cheesecake as much as you do.
Taking the guilt out of eating changes everything.
It sounds counter-intuitive, but let yourself fully enjoy the foods you love.
Guilt will just fuel your overeating, secret eating, and other unhealthy behavior.
Thanksgiving is about being thankful for the blessings in your life, so be thankful for the wonderful food, too!
Give yourself permission to enjoy it.
6. Don’t Sneak Bites
I get it – feeling everybody’s eyes on you, judging you, as you reach for another roll.
I used to go into stealth mode to sneak food from the kitchen whenever I had the opportunity, but that’s a dangerous mindset to fall into.
Stop hiding your food choices!
As I mentioned earlier, hidden eating is unhealthy behavior. We let our insecurity and guilt drive us to eat secretly.
For me, my secret eating was a warning sign that my overeating had gone from a habit problem to a character issue. I was hiding, sneaking, and lying to the people I love – all for the sake of eating. And I wasn’t okay with that.
Don’t let those self-conscious feelings creep in, worrying about what everybody else thinks about your food choices – it just steals your joy and brings in a load of guilt every time you do it.
7. Stop When You’re Full
Enjoy the meal.
Eat the things you want to eat, but still pay attention to your body.
Don’t stuff yourself silly! It just ruins the wonderful food.
The first 3 bites or so of each dish let you enjoy their peak flavor, but after that, it tastes less and less wonderful (sensory specific satiety is scientifically proven!).
So, work on enjoying every bit of those first few bites and stop when you’re satisfied. This takes practice and paying attention (I go into this more when I talk about how I went from calorie counting to food freedom), but it is possible!
It just takes intentionality and shaking yourself out of autopilot (that allows us to continue mindlessly eating until our bellies are about to burst).
And that overly stuffed, bloated, too-full uncomfortable feeling just sucks the goodness from an amazing meal.
Stop eating before you hit that point so you don’t spend the rest of the day moaning and groaning on the couch.
8. Quit the Clean Plate Club
I know how hard it is to stop, especially when things taste good, but when you are full, STOP!
Stop when you’re done, not when your plate is clean.
Even if there are two bites of mashed potatoes left on your plate (it’s actually a really good weight loss tip to practice leaving a few bites behind).
You don’t have to waste it (I still struggle with wasting food!) – pack it up in some Tupperware to have later when it will actually taste good again.
Don’t ruin a good thing by eating out of obligation! Quit the clean plate club.
9. Be Unashamedly, Authentically You
Shame is a frequent companion with weight problems. It has a way of telling you that you’re not good enough. Add on those extra family dynamics with certain expectations onto our insecurities and it sure can suck the joy from your holiday!
I get it. My grandfather very outwardly disapproved of my being overweight and it killed me.
When we spent holidays with them, I worked hard trying to be impressive, likable, and agreeable.
It was a lot of work and made holidays incredibly difficult and tiring.
Give yourself permission to just be you, even if people disapprove.
Whether it is your food preferences or your parenting style, don’t be ashamed of being you.
Fight the fear that you should look, feel, or behave in a certain way just to fit the mold you think others expect you to fit.
Pull down the masks. Be kind, be authentic, and be genuinely yourself.