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Can Thanksgiving be Healthy?

Posted Nov 22 2010 11:50am
Thanksgiving is just a few days away and I've noticed that many WLS folks are already starting to freak out. Some are mourning the loss of stomach capacity for hug pig-out-fests and some are mourning their body's inability to eat sweets due to dumping syndrome. Some think they can't participate in Thanksgiving dinner because of all the food choices. I'm here to help with the freak-out.

There is a way to survive Thanksgiving after WLS. There is a way to stay true to your healthy lifestyle but still enjoy your holiday. There is a way to eat traditional Thanksgiving treats and not sabotage your entire weight loss plan. Here are a few guidelines that I follow for my own Thanksgiving Dinner experience.

  1. Thanksgiving Dinner is Only One Meal -- Nobody ever got fat by eating a single holiday meal. And we need to remember that Thanksgiving dinner is only one meal. If we eat 3 meals a day all year long, that's almost 1,100 meals a year. Of those 1,100 meals we can count on about 12 holiday or special occasion meals per year (Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, weddings, family gatherings, etc.). Did we become morbidly obese from 12 meals a year? No, it was the other 1,088 meals that brought us to morbid obesity. So if we behave during the other 1,088 meals, we can splurge on the 12 special meals without compromising our healthy lifestyle choices.
  2. Eat Normally the Rest of the Day -- Our family has Thanksgiving Dinner planned for 3:00 in the afternoon. There will be appetizers available before the meal (veggies/dip, cheese ball, ham/cheese) and a spread of desserts afterward, of course. But essentially, Thanksgiving is only one meal out of the entire day. So I'll eat a normal protein-forward breakfast right outta bed (probably my typical Hot Protein Chai Tea ) and I'll eat a light mid-morning breakfast or brunch type meal around 11:00 a.m. (which might end up being the appetizer spread). Then I'll eat Thanksgiving Dinner mid-afternoon and later in the evening, while still socializing with family, I'll make myself a plate of leftovers for a dinner that focuses on protein. So essentially, I'm planning to eat  normally for all of my meals throughout the day except the actual Thanksgiving feast where I'll eat whatever I want.
  3. Thanksgiving Dinner Breaks the Rules -- I will eat whatever I want to eat at Thanksgiving Dinner. My pouch capacity will limit the quantity, but otherwise I will not limit myself on what foods I choose. I'm going to eat excess carbs. I'm going to choose foods that have more fat than I'd normally choose. I'm going to eat sugary stuff. I'm going to eat one of my mom's homemade cinnamon rolls. I'll follow my basic WLS rules of eating protein first (2 bites of protein, 1 bites of something else). But otherwise, I'll eat a bite or two of whatever food is being served that I want to taste or enjoy. I'll follow the rules of my pouch to a certain extent by choosing protein first.... but after that, there are no rules. I'll eat whatever the heck I want to eat.
  4. Eat Dessert -- Yes, you  heard me right. Eat some dessert. You might need to wait an hour or so after your Thanksgiving meal to actually  have enough pouch-room for dessert, but I highly recommend you actually eat something for dessert. Two bites of pumpkin pie does not contain enough sugar to make you dump (a full slice of pumpkin pie has about 20g sugar, so 2 bites small bites might contain about 5g). Or if you truly want to do sugar-free dessert -- make your own WLS-friendly recipe and bring it to share with the family. This new WLS lifestyle is not about deprivation, it's about learning to live a normal life and have a healthy relationship with food. If you deprive yourself of a lovely few bites of dessert at Thanksgiving dinner, your brain will just start to obsess about the fact that you didn't get anything and a couple weeks from now you'll finally give in to the cravings and binge on something you shouldn't be binging on. But if you eat a tiny sliver of pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving, the craving is satisfied and you can move on with life as normal.
  5. Drink Lots of Water & Take your Vitamins -- When we get busy it's really easy to forget our need for water and vitamins. Make a conscious decision to hydrate well before your Thanksgiving dinner and bring your water bottle with you to the family gathering so you can refill it often.  Also remember to take your vitamins on Thanksgiving even in the midst of all the chaos of family gatherings. Set special alarms on your cell phone or whatever it takes to remember, but don't let these two important WLS tasks slip your mind in the excitement of the day.
  6. Black Friday - Back to Normal -- Remember that I said Thanksgiving Dinner is only one meal. So that means the next day (Black Friday for us shoppers) we are right back on track with our normal eating schedule. If you choose to eat leftovers in the week following Thanksgiving then give away all the simple carb-based foods and  only  keep the healthy choices from dinner. Turkey, veggies, salads.... those are the things you can eat in the week after Thanksgiving. But don't let Thanksgiving creep into the days after the holiday. Get right back on track!

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!
~Pam
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