Moist, succulent turkey. Fluffy mashed potatoes dripping with butter. Creamy green bean casserole topped with crunchy, salty onion rings. The food on that plate next to yours looks appetizing, doesn’t it? Too bad you’re on a diet.
If the most indulgent course of action you plan to take on Thanksgiving Day is picking up the remote to switch off the Cowboys-Redskins game, take note: the above scenario is unnecessary. As is that idea that caring about your weight makes you unworthy of the mighty position of turkey carver. The proper tools for a healthful holiday are quite similar to the strategies you take along to the fantasy football draft: keep your pride in check, be sure to have a plan and don’t compromise on a key player.
Dr. William Pollack, director of The Centers for Men and Young Men at McLean Hospital, a Harvard Medical School affiliate in Belmont, Massachusetts, says that because diet and weight topics have been designated feminine territory, men are discouraged from talking about them.
“The way [men] maintain emotional connections is by having buddies,” Pollack says. “If they can share the concern about this issue, it reduces the shame and it makes the man feel like he has support.”
With such support, it becomes easier to navigate a holiday diet. Barbara Mendez, a registered pharmacist and nutritional consultant based in New York City, advises men to consider both liquid and solid calories. In order to prevent dehydration and feel your best for the main event, Mendez suggests fueling the body with low-sugar electrolytes, such as coconut water, on Thanksgiving Eve. She also recommends low-calorie vodka drinks, such as vodka and seltzer water, in place of beer or wine, given that the latter two tend to be more difficult to stop drinking once you have started.
When it comes to the other culprit, eating, Mendez says, “Look at the bookends of the meal. Try to cut out [appetizers and desserts].”
She also stresses the importance of keeping your appetite manageable. Don’t skip meals. This leads to overeating at the main event. Start the morning with a hearty breakfast of scrambled eggs with sliced tomato and a drizzle of olive oil. Keep this course in mind the rest of the day: Load up on lean proteins and vegetables rather than carbs to prevent insulin levels from spiking. Guilty pleasures, such as stuffing and mashed potatoes, need not be denied, however. Dole out small portions and tell yourself you can always go back for more.
The other half of your plan doesn’t have to be a hurdle, either. James Cipriani, owner and certified head trainer of Cutting Edge Personal Training in Brookfield, Connecticut, suggests a relatively simple exercise routine.
“You can get a good workout with five different exercises. A proper warm-up is important, so you don’t injure yourself. [Then] one exercise per major muscle group. I’ll have [clients] do push-ups, grab a chair and do a tricep dip, some sort of crunch or sit-up, a lunge and then a squat. All of those are very functional movements for your core.”
Cipriani recommends training a minimum of three days a week, preferably allowing a rest day in between each, allowing the central nervous system to recover from the stress of the exercise and your body to fully reap the benefits. Allow a seventh day for total rest, but those in-between days can be put to use by incorporating 25 to 30 minutes of intense cardiovascular exercise.
In terms of cardiovascular exercise, there is no reason to end your running, biking or hiking routine come winter just because you live in an area that sees cold weather.
In fact, exercising in the cold actually has many benefits. Here are just a few:
You burn more calories:
As the body works harder to regulate its core temperature among the elements, you’ll burn a few more calories during your wintry workout compared to one conducted indoors.
You build your heart muscle:
While cold weather makes the heart work harder to distribute blood throughout the body, which is clearly not good for someone with a bad heart, regular exercise with cardiovascular endurance can make the heart muscle even stronger with cold-weather sessions, better preparing the body for more strenuous workouts in the future.
You get some much needed Vitamin D:
Studies vary. Some say 40% of Americans are deficient of Vitamin D while others say it’s as high as 70%. Bottom line…Americans are deficient of Vitamin D. Many people who live in states with cold winters move indoors for their exercise come the colder months. Exercising outdoors means much needed exposure to sunlight during a time of year when you don’t get enough.
No matter who you are, it’s crucial to remember that the attitude that you bring with you to the meal means everything. With the appropriate strategies and a motivation to treat yourself right, anyone can make this Thanksgiving a day to give thanks for their health.