How to Cope with Thanksgiving Meals

This question arises often around this time of year; “How do you deal with Thanksgiving?” For me, it’s easy, because we host Thanksgiving at our home and my wife prepares Paleo-friendly foods along with the non-Paleo foods for our family and friends. However, that may not be the case for everyone else who has to go to someone else’s home for Thanksgiving. Some things I’ve learned at other holidays and parties will help during Thanksgiving or any other social event involving foods.

  • Bring your own dish (or two) to a gathering. The vast majority of the time, additional food is welcomed by the host as taking some workload off of them. Make sure to check with the host prior to showing up with food, though.
  • Stick to the most basic foods. Meats and vegetables without additional ingredients will be a safe bet.
  • Small portions help if there are no safe food choices. Just eat a little bit to show that you’re being polite to your host and acknowledging their effort in making the meal.
  • Pre-flight/post-flight. This one caveats off the last point. If you know that the menu will be 100% non-compliant with your diet, eat before you get there. I know this is normally considered kind of rude, but leave enough room to have some small portions of the meal your host provides. That way, like I said above, you can be polite. If you didn’t pre-flight, you can post-flight, which is to have some compliant food after the meal.
  • The very last option is to abstain completely from any non-compliant meal. I usually don’t recommend this one unless your diet is more ideological or religion-based, in which case this may be the only option available to you (Halal/Kosher/Vegan/etc).

Depending on how I’m feeling, where I am with my health/fitness, I sometimes allow a bite or two of non-compliant portions. I once had a family member make a side that I absolutely love and used to eat a lot of in the past. This side takes a lot of time to prepare and literally takes days to make properly. For me to say no to that side would have been extremely rude and disrespectful, so I had it. I didn’t even take a tiny portion; I took what I would normally take. I call this, “Taking a bullet.” It gave me some gastric distress, but in the end, I’ll take that bullet for a loved one.

You can get through Thanksgiving without going off the rails. For me, the hardest part of holidays isn’t the non-compliant menu items. My willpower is strong enough now to withstand the temptation. What I have the most trouble with is when there are snacks available. I find myself going back for more and more and more. My mind says, “But it’s just a little piece of date with bacon on it,” but that one turns into three or four or seven, and before I know it, I’ve eaten two days’ worth of calories in the leadup to the main event. Don’t be like me. Stay away from the snack table if this is something you have trouble with as well. I know I will do my best to avoid it.

“What do you do if you just threw your hands up in the air and had all the great foods at Thanksgiving anyway?” Good question. What I do is say, “Oh well” and start anew at the very next meal. That’s right; we all slip up. We all have moments of weakness, or we sometimes have to just go along and do things we don’t necessarily want to do. That applies to sticking with diets. Will you gain all 110 lbs you’ve lost over the last year back in one meal? No. Will that one meal cause a domino effect that will keep you from eating right from now on? Of course not. Just don’t beat yourself up emotionally for eating non-compliant foods. Enjoy it, have fun with your family, and at the next possible meal, get back on track. It’s easy. Just do it.

So, that’s my pep talk for Thanksgiving. You’ve got strategies and plans. Stick to them if you can, but if you can’t; so be it. I wish you all lots of love, friendship, and happiness over the coming days.

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