Tips for Conquering Overeating during Your Thanksgiving Holiday

Try these strategies to avoid overeating this Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is the all-American holiday:

  • Food
  • Football
  • Family

All of these are good things, but too much of a good thing can be…well… too much.

This year, before Thanksgiving, as you sit down to organize your recipes, take some time to create a mental menu. First, think about the reasons people tend to overeat in general:

  • Stress
  • Skipping meals
  • Going too long without eating
  • Not being connected to your body’s messages

Thanksgiving, on the other hand, seems to be the dangerous trifecta for all of these triggers. Let’s break them down and troubleshoot them one by one.

Thanksgiving Tips to Prevent Overeating:

Plan for Food Ahead of Time

When you rush around cooking and cleaning, it’s easy to forget to eat. While you’re picking out what to make and buy for the big Thanksgiving Day meal, also plan what you’ll eat for breakfast, lunch and any snacks. Make sure each meal and/or snack is full of of protein and fiber (think fruits and veggies), and try a schedule of eating every 3-4 hours to stay fueled. Going into Thanksgiving Day hungry is just asking for a stomachache — even if it’s done with the best intentions.

Pay Attention to Liquids

Once you’re at your Thanksgiving festivities, keep water with you at all times. If you keep your mouth busy and your hands full, it can help you save room for the big meal. If you intend to drink alcohol, have a plan. Remember that after weight-loss, and especially after bariatric surgery, our tolerance changes. Count your drinks, alternate with water and identify a safe driver.

Don’t Arrive Hungry

Navigate any appetizers with ease by not coming to the party with an empty stomach. Place yourself away from the small bites and don’t let Aunt Susie bring you any closer. If we’re chatting or distracted, we’re more likely to eat mindlessly and consume more than we intend to or are aware of. This can cause us eat beyond our body’s natural fullness signals.

If you’re hosting an event, ask someone to make you a plate so you don’t forget to eat. Fill a smaller plate with ¼ protein, ½ veggies and your favorite Thanksgiving “must haves.” Wait at least 10 minutes after your first helping to check your fullness levels.

Eat Thanksgiving Foods Year-round

Make your motto, “I will eat these foods again.” Thanksgiving foods are delicious and we don’t always eat these foods year-round, so we get tempted to overeat.  Instead of feeling like you have to fit in EVERY dish on one day, plan to include some classic Thanksgiving staples in meals throughout the year. That way on the big day, you can save space for your favorites. Have mashed potatoes on a boring Monday and open yourself up to stuffing on a regular Thursday. Prioritize whatever floats your gravy boat!

Find Safety and Support

Map out some safe spaces:

  • People you feel comfortable talking to
  • Safe topics for those who start tricky conversations
  • Places at the party that aren’t too close to food and drinks

If you don’t have a party pal, talk about your plan with someone you trust before heading into the event. Plan to check in with your buddy during the day and touch base about your emotional state. Text about the food options or set-up quick calls to break-up challenging conversations.

Take Some Breathers

Parties can be a lot… lots of people, lots of emotion and lots of attention. Schedule an alarm to alert you for moments to breathe and assess how you’re doing. Encourage yourself with positive self-talk and affirmations. This can also be a good time to reset if things are going south. Keep a motivating word, phrase or picture handy to rely on during these “refreshers.”

Give Thanks and Move on 

At the end of the day, Thanksgiving is ONLY one day, and you can be thankful for that. Holiday weight gain doesn’t come from one day or one meal. It comes from throwing in the towel and giving up all healthy routines. Black Friday leaves you with a blank slate and a free pass. Don’t beat yourself up, and certainly don’t skip eating on Friday!

I wish you a truly happy Thanksgiving. Make sure you give plenty of thanks for all that delicious food, the company of your loved ones, football and your journey toward improved health! For more healthy Thanksgiving tips, check out these posts about Food, Travel and Assertiveness. 

About the Author:
Melissa Majumdar, MS, RD, CSOWM, LDN, is a registered dietitian who has been specializing in weight management and bariatric surgery for the last 12 years. She is the bariatric coordinator for Emory University Hospital Midtown and is a mother of two. She starts her Thanksgiving with a turkey trot and saves space for butternut squash mac and cheese.

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