If you gain only 2 pounds every year during the holidays, in 20 years you’ll be 40 pounds heavier — even if you don’t overeat at any other time of the year! This is not meant to scare you, but it’s a good reality check. Creeping weight gain is how a lot of people wake up in middle age, look in the mirror, and wonder what the hell happened.

Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be that way. While you don’t have to go overboard and be the “health nut” who “can’t eat anything” that is served at family meals, avoiding Thanksgiving weight gain is very doable with just a little bit of attention and planning.

Avoiding Thanksgiving Weight Gain

Here are a few simple tips for enjoying the foods you want without going overboard:

  • Plan ahead. This is your biggest “secret.” If you just wing your nutrition and exercise and do whatever’s convenient, you WILL fail. Put a little thought into it, and you’ll be fine.
  • When traveling, stock up on healthy, easy-to-carry snacks. These could include mixed nuts, various fruits, cut vegetables, protein drinks, and bottled water.
  • If you’re driving to see family, you can stop at a grocery store to hit up the salad bar instead of getting a nasty drive-thru meal.
  • Stay hydrated. Watch the alcohol, though. Match each serving of alcohol with a glass of water (that’s a good practice for anytime).
  • If you’re cooking, or waiting for the meal to be cooked, don’t fall into the trap of not eating at all before your late afternoon meal. This is one of the biggest ways you can ensure you’ll overeat. Instead, have a normal high-protein and low-sugar breakfast, followed by a couple light snacks later in the day. Save room for the big meal, but don’t let yourself just sit around and get ravenous.
  • Before you sit down for your Thanksgiving meal, make sure you’re hydrated. Sometimes your brain can misinterpret thirst as hunger, and having plenty of water ensures this won’t happen.
  • If there’s an option for salad (or any sort of vegetable, really) eat that off your plate first, and eat a lot of it. The fiber will slow digestion and keep you from overeating on other things.
  • Next, eat the turkey (or other protein). Like vegetables, protein will help control your appetite and provide quality nutrients to your body before you start in on the starchy or sugary stuff.
  • Lastly (here’s the part you’ve been waiting for), eat whatever else you want, but don’t make yourself sick. Gluttony is one of the least “thankful” things I can imagine. Eat till you’re full, and no more.
  • After the meal, don’t just vedge out on the couch the entire day. Get out and do something with your family! Go for a walk, play with the dog, get in on some neighborhood football, whatever you want.

One last bit of advice — Don’t be the person who constantly draws attention to their healthy habits. It’s not necessary to announce to everyone in your family that you’re actually paying attention to what you eat. If anyone asks about the way you’re eating, you can just say something like “It helps me relax and enjoy the holiday,” or, “I feel better when I don’t eat too much sugar.” No one can argue with that. Never try to impose your lifestyle on anyone else, just speak the truth for yourself. Any sentence that starts with “You should” is asking for a stressful experience!

If you’d like help with nutrition planning and accountability, contact Basics and Beyond for a free consultation. We’ve got an amazing online nutrition coaching program that can be done by anyone worldwide!