Five Ways to a Healthier Thanksgiving and Holiday Season

As Thanksgiving and the holiday season fast approaches, the health coaches at LightenUp Fitness wanted to share some ways we prepare our members for the holidays.  Don’t try to accomplish all of them at once.  Focus on a couple this holiday season and see how you do.

Celebrate relationships, not food

The origin of Thanksgiving came from the celebration of the harvest or the ending of a drought.  Typically, all of these celebrations revolved around food because food was scarce.

Fast forward to our modern society, we now have the privilege to live in a time and place where food is no longer a concern.  The days of hoping the weather cooperates so our family does not have to go hungry is behind us.  We now, as a society, have too much food and, in some cases, starved for meaningful relationships!  So, how can we rethink Thanksgiving and the holidays?

Well, like our ancestors, let us celebrate the items which may be more scarce like food was during the first Thanksgiving.  Generally, as a society we tend to spend too much time working, watching TV or engaging in electronics.  This year, let’s make Thanksgiving about celebrating the relationships in our life, not the food we share.  Here are three ways to celebrate your human relationships.

  • Restrict yourself to no more than an hour of electronics, TV or computers for the day.
  • Start your Thanksgiving dinner by each member stating what they are thankful for this past year and what they are looking forward to next year.
  • As a family, play a non-electronic game.  Connect with your love ones in a more meaningful way than playing video games or watching TV.  Try charades, cards, dominoes or one of the 100 other games lining an aisle at your local department store.  Remember, this does not have to be anything extravagant or expensive.

On Thanksgiving Day, exercise that morning!

The cool part about this one is that more and more communities are hosting turkey day runs.  Also, your local fitness center or lifestyle improvement center may also be hosting some great Thanksgiving day workouts.  


Why is working out on Thanksgiving morning so important?  There are two important reasons: burn extra calories leading up to the Thanksgiving Day feast and exercising with love ones is a great way to start off any day. The cool part about exercising Thanksgiving morning is you have already done so much to improve your health, the last thing on your mind will be to figure out ways you can overindulge at Thanksgiving. It just won’t feel as good when you have exercised that morning.  If you still find yourself eating too much, at least you still have burnt off a couple hundred more calories so the effects still won’t be that disastrous!

Here are some great activities to incorporate into your Thanksgiving Day celebration.

Eat a healthy breakfast and lunch

Healthy Breakfast

Like the first suggestion, starting your day off right is critical to your success.  This works everyday, but best on holidays.  We typically hold off on eating anything till the feast!  So, what happens?  We eat way

more than we should and feel terrible afterwards. Instead, eat a smaller breakfast and lunch so that when you sit down to the dinner table you are not a ravenous monster, but more like your more-controlled self.

Schedule a reason not to overindulge

Arrange to go to your fitness center, group exercise class, or hike on the morning after Thanksgiving or a holiday party.  This will give you a reason to stay focused on your decisions as the consequences of not making good decisions become more impactful to your next morning commitment. If you want to turbo charge your commitment make sure you are going to meet up with someone that next morning at the center, class or trail.  

Here’s the reason why this works for most people.  Think about how you plan for your profession.  Have you ever had a time when you have had a commitment the next morning and needed to take it easy that night so you could perform at your best the next morning?  This is exactly what you can do relative to your personal life as well.  When you know you are going into a situation that will be more challenging from a willpower perspective, plan on an activity early the next morning to keep your commitment high.

Be conscious of your food or drink intake

Healthy food

Avoid getting into situations where you can’t believe you ate all of this or drank all of that.  Here are some simple steps you can practice to help yourself avoid overindulgence.  

  • As previously stated, make time to exercise the morning before a big get together.  Also, eat a healthy breakfast and lunch to reduce your hunger when you show up at your event.
  • Avoid grazing over the appetizers.  Grab a small plate and put a few of the items on the plate that you want to eat.  Once this plate is done, you are done.  This can also be applicable with the main meal.  Avoid seconds.
  • Limit yourself to have only three items at the Thanksgiving meal.  In the book Mindless Eating, Brian Wansink, PhD discusses how his findings demonstrate that the more variety we have at a meal, the more we tend to eat.  By limiting yourself to three items, you are reducing your variety and reducing your risk of overeating.

I hope you find the holiday season enjoyable.  Focus on strengthening your key relationships and not food and drink.  Use these techniques to avoid overindulging in food or drink this holiday season.  

As always, please feel free to share in the discussion section some other ways that you find helpful when confronted with the many food and drink options available during the holiday season.

Wishing you good health and good choices this holiday season!



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