Ideas for Thanksgiving Dinner: Just Let Loose!

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What’s your favorite holiday?

Mine is Thanksgiving. I simply love the holiday. Compared to the others, it’s relatively low maintenance. Christmas has become so commercial and hectic that Thanksgiving is a nice chill out holiday that actually lets you enjoy the food. True story: I once had a client take time off from training so she could finish her Christmas shopping. This wasn’t a financial issue, but a matter of time. She felt that spending an hour improving her health, getting in shape, and de-stressing could be better spent at the mall. You don’t have to worry about stuff like that on Thanksgiving.

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In fact, I’ve tried developing my own personal Thanksgiving traditions. Most people aren’t up for a game of touch football at 8 o’clock in the morning on Thanksgiving. So instead, I actually treat myself to a zone out period of watching the very best James Bond movies. Yep, that’s right – I park it on the couch (until I need to help my wife with the cooking), and watch two different 007 movies every year. Here’s the criteria: I have to watch one classic one and one from the new school. If I’m really cheery and into the holiday spirit, I may even check out a Roger Moore one.

So this concept of being a bum on the couch has carried over into my dietary practices for the day. In fact, I have to avoid the news that week because I get so sick of the press coverage in regards to how to have a healthy Thanksgiving. I’ve had clients come up to me and ask me what they should eat on Thanksgiving. Here’s my response, and for the record it will never change:

Enjoy yourself.

Thanksgiving is a holiday and holidays are meant to be enjoyed. Someone just slaved in the kitchen all day and the last thing you want to do is be that guest who refuses to eat certain foods.

Okay, here’s the scoop. Obviously if you have a condition, like diabetes or you take certain meds in which food is a contraindication, then by all means, arrange your specific plate of food to meet your needs. Also, if you’re a college wrestler and the division finals are the following week, then maybe you want to make sure your plate is somewhat measured. Those are my exceptions. For everyone else, I say that it’s time to kick back and have a good time. I’ve been running a business, training hard, and eating clean – so I’m giving myself a day to enjoy myself. I encourage you do the same.

Those who are suddenly concerned about counting calories on a holiday are the same students who decided to finally start studying for a final the night before the big test. At this point, having the one perfect meal isn’t going to fix weeks of a poor diet and lack of training. Your job is to spend the other 300+ days eating like you should. If you’ve been training and eating right consistently during the year then one meal isn’t going to do much damage.

Here’s the real kicker…for most, a Thanksgiving feast is actually the best meal that many people eat. Ideally, it’s a great performance type of meal: adequate protein, plenty of vegetables, and a bit of fat. You can actually get pretty lean eating a diet like that. If I had the choice, I would tell a client to eat Thanksgiving leftovers over what they normally do, which is skipping meals, eating energy bars, or slamming cups of coffee for a bit of energy.

For people who are so worried about overindulging on Thanksgiving, I respond with the question of what the heck are you being served? Is your main course a bowl of Skittles with a side of hot fudge and a pitcher of Kool-Aid? Have you ever met anyone to stuff themselves full on carrots and broccoli? Probably not. So load your plate with turkey and vegetables and you’ll probably have just enough of an appetite for a small slice of pumpkin pie.

Here’s my last bit of advice: have fun that day. Most clients I see have so much stuff going on in their lives that they end up being big giant overworked stress balls. Stress is your ultimate enemy, as it leads to inflammation that can weaken your heart, bring on disease, and force you to gain weight. Many clients go on vacation and eat what they want and somehow manage to drop a couple of pounds – all because their body finally gets a chance to unload some stress. My suggestion is that you carry this practice over to your holidays.

So with that being said, enjoy your Thanksgiving feast. Besides, it only lasts one day: you have 364 days of healthy eating ahead of you, right?


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