For those of us in the United States, Thanksgiving Day is coming up on Thursday. I personally love Thanksgiving – it’s been my favorite holiday since moving to the U.S. in 1999. I love it because it’s not overly commercialized, we get to spend time with people we care about, think about what we’re thankful for, and eat a yummy dinner, which for us is roast turkey. There is lots of anticipation about the dinner part – lots of planning, lots of cooking; and it’s soooooo delicious in the moment. But then, an hour later, we can be sitting like a blob on the couch, or lying down in discomfort, because it all tasted so good and we overdid it. Here are 6 tips for surviving food overindulgence, and being able to enjoy Thanksgiving without eater’s remorse! If you are reading this outside of the U.S., please feel free to apply these tips and principles to any holiday meal, or occasion where you eat too much!
- Get up that morning and do some exercise – exercise helps to stimulate the metabolism during the workout, and most importantly, for several hours afterwards. Getting up a going for a brisk walk or run, or swimming a few lengths, can give your metabolism the boost it needs to be able to break down and assimilate those Thanksgiving calories.
- Don’t starve throughout the morning. Many people eat their Thanksgiving dinner in the late afternoon or early evening. It’s tempting to not eat anything all day leading up to that, to save the caloric intake and make sure you’re properly hungry for the feast. However, this can backfire. If you haven’t eaten since the night before, that’s almost a 24 hour fast. Once that happens, you are likely to feel full quicker, and then feel overfull at the end of the meal. You may also be so hungry by then that you really do eat everything in sight, and that self-made promise of moderation goes out the window.
- Take digestive enzymes with the meal. Digestive enzymes can help break down our food, and just gives the body a helping hand with digestion. They need to be taken at the very same time as the meal is eaten to have the best effect. I love doTERRA’s Terrazyme – it’s a broad-based enzyme that helps with all the different food groups. People who are gluten intolerant may also want to supplement with an enzyme called DPP-IV, which helps break down gluten, just in case they had an infraction (knowingly or unknowingly!).
- Take a few drops of Digestzen. This is one of my favorite essential oil blends and it contains all the oils to help calm and soothe the digestive system – peppermint, anise, ginger, coriander and fennel. If you have the oil, you can either put 3-4 drops in water and drink it, or add the drops to a capsule and swallow it. Some people like to dilute the oil in a carrier oil such as fractionated coconut oil and rub it directly on their abdomen. If you have the soft gels, take 2 after dinner (and possibly another 2 before bed).
- Don’t beat yourself up – if you’re trying to follow a clean nutritional program, then the Thanksgiving meal may contain some temptations that you’re not accustomed to. I know for me, on Thanksgiving and Christmas I buy a no-sugar added Apple Pie, and I indulge. I add organic heavy cream, and I love it. That might be one of the the only desserts I eat the entire year – but I do it very deliberately and very mindfully, and don’t feel any guilt about it. Just hop back on the horse the next day and keep on going.
- Finally, make sure you give away most of the leftovers to friends and family who were at dinner with you. If you have hosted, you could find yourself with a lot of food in your fridge after the fact. Not wanting to waste food, and because it’s so darned good, you catch yourself eating those foods for a week afterwards. One indulgent meal probably won’t throw off your health goals too much, but one indulgent meal (or more) for the next week could be harder to bounce back from.
There’s no reason not to enjoy holiday and special event meals. They can usually be modified to fit food sensitivities and intolerances – for example, roast turkey with roasted vegetables, hold the gravy and stuffing, can still be delicious. Gluten-free pies are widely available, although so far I’ve had a hard time finding gluten free and sugar free in the same pie, usually it’s one or the other. But even if you step outside your normal guidelines, there are ways to mitigate the damage as listed above. So enjoy your day, enjoy your loved ones, and have a very Happy Thanksgiving.