A common misconception during the holidays is that we should starve ourselves before and after meals. You should try and stick to your usual routines and here is why:
Don’t Skip Breakfast
Skipping breakfast on any day CAN lead to a higher intake of foods in carbohydrates, fats, and sugar in the evening. While this is important for our everyday habits, it’s especially crucial before Thanksgiving when we’ll be presented with food options that are higher in all three nutrients than our usual fare.
Couple this heightened desire for high-calorie foods with a raging feeling of hunger from morning starvation, and you have a recipe for calorie overload! Research shows that skipping breakfast doesn’t translate into lower daily calorie intake. People that skip breakfast tend to compensate for their lack of morning intake with larger intakes at lunch and dinner. The same is true on Thanksgiving day; however, the foods that you will be compensating with are much higher in calories.
Don’t Sweat the Calories
Another reason to treat the Thanksgiving meal like it’s just any other day is that our bodies are wonderfully built and can adjust for the rare calorie meal. It’s not hard to tally up a substantial calorie intake when you consider the gravy, side dishes, second helpings, alcohol, and dessert that usually accompany the turkey at Thanksgiving. The typical meal can range from a modest 1,000 calories up to 7,000 calories for the hungriest eaters.
If you are familiar with calories, you may remember that one pound of body weight is equivalent to 3,500 calories. The person that consumes that 7,000 calorie meal would, theoretically, be expected to gain two pounds after the feast. This isn’t actually what happens, though. Most people don’t gain weight after a single high-calorie meal.
This isn’t a reason to overeat every night, though. This one-off large meal can be easily handled by the body, but a habit of overeating can lead to the deposition of body weight.
Establish Healthy Habits and Enjoy the Day
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, developing a regular routine with eating that does not use food as a reward or punishment is essential for a healthy relationship with food. No meal should be a reward for fasting or dieting. It also should not warrant punishment by under eating the next day. In the long run, your eating habits day in and day out will have the greatest impact on health, performance, and longevity. Enjoy the meal and move on.
Celebrate Thanksgiving for what it is: a time to be thankful for the people, places, and things in your life. Don’t look at it as an opportunity to binge eat. Conversely, don’t fear the plethora of higher calorie items. If you are spending time with friends or family this Thanksgiving, let that be the focus, not the meal itself. Your overwhelming hunger should not distract you from the things you are thankful for! The next day, you should reflect on the positive aspects of the day, not the number of calories you ate.
Instead of trying to diet in the morning and overly enjoy the evening, start the day with a normal, balanced breakfast that’s complete with protein, carbohydrates, and fats. If you are eating a Thanksgiving dinner instead of lunch, have a smaller meal or snack 3-4 hours before the feast so you do not head into the meal with uncontrollable urges for everything on the table. A solid breakfast of eggs, oats, and fruit will do the trick!
Your health won’t be affected by one meal, and neither will your biomarkers. Enjoy!