The standard advice this time of year usually centers around ways to enjoy a bountiful Thanksgiving meal while sticking to your diet. Included in the suggestions are the usual substitution recommendations and instructions to share one serving of dessert between four people. As if! Finally, here is the Thanksgiving dieting advice you’ve always wanted to hear: don’t sweat the diet on Thanksgiving Day. Make it your cheat day for the week. That takes the pressure off so you can enjoy the holiday for once.
Cheat Day Wisdom
Most diets fail because it doesn’t take long before you start feeling deprived. That can lead to bingeing on portions and restricted foods and once that happens, the next step is throwing your hands up in defeat and giving up on your health and weight loss goals. That is why most experts recommend allowing yourself at least one cheat day per week. WebMD says cheat days actually boost the likelihood of successful weight loss with a diet. If you know you have a day coming up when you don’t have to measure portions, count calories, or say no to the punkin cheesecake, it’s easier to do all those things the other six days of the week. Plus, many diets can throw your system out of whack. According to Muscle and Fitness, essential things like leptin, thyroid hormones, and something called Insulin-like Growth Factor (IGF)–all essential for losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight–decline when you’re limiting dietary elements such as fat. However, indulging occasionally can get those levels back to normal.
No Regrets, No Guilt
Possibly the best thing about considering Thanksgiving a cheat day is the mental block it busts through. As an official, “legal” day of indulgence, you won’t feel guilty about every little bite you take. You can legitimately enjoy the mashed potatoes and gravy and have an entire slice of pumpkin pie all to yourself. It’s your cheat day, so WomensHealth says avoid the guilt trip. Eat what you want, reveling in and savoring every last bite, lick your lips, and go back to counting calories and limiting your carbs on Friday.
OK, there is one caveat to this long-awaited advice, and that is that although you can throw away the guidelines and limits for a day, you really do need to be reasonable. A cheat day isn’t a license to eat yourself into a food coma. The goal is to treat yourself, not try to eat a years-worth of calories in one sitting. Don’t eat just for the sake of eating. Don’t load up your plate with double the amount of everything just because it’s your cheat day. Take a deep breath, really see all the food set before you, and remember that, no matter how good it all tastes, your body is only capable of holding so much. Overeating on this wonderful, food-centered holiday won’t do any permanent damage to your dieting aspirations, but it will make you miserable. Eat what you want, but take your time doing it so you can really enjoy the flavors. Taking your time will also give your brain a chance to recognize when you’re full, so you can stop eating before you have to unbuckle your belt or slip into Phoebe’s old maternity pants. And give thanks that you live in a country where food is so abundant that weight is actually an issue.
Eat, drink, and be merry–and have a Happy Thanksgiving!