You can get through the Thanks giving food fest and partake of beloved, savory dishes that grace your family table without overindulging. All you need is a dash of self-control and a pinch of sound planning.
• Do NOT — and this is a big, fat, huge no-no — go hungry all day in anticipation of the Thanksgiving feast. That goes for whether you're scheduled to sit down at noon or 7 p.m. This loony tactic will make you so starved you won't be able to control yourself when you get that first whiff of succulent turkey, stuffing with sausage or whatever other Thanksgiving dish usually turns you into an eating machine.
Eat something light and low-calorie a few hours before the big meal, but make sure you feel full enough to keep your hunger pangs in check. Try a bowl of oatmeal or lean meat on whole-wheat bread.
• Do not wear super loose-fitting clothing. Leave your belt buckled. Don't torture yourself with a waist-binding outfit. But this is no time for your fat pants. You might not be tempted to eat as much if you're feeling slight pressure on your belly from wearing something a little more form-fitting.
• Drink water. Keep drinking it throughout the day to stay hydrated. It's also an easy way to feel full so you don't keep shoveling food into your mouth.
• Rely less on your dominant hand. Try this trick only during the cocktails-and-hors d'oeuvres phase of the meal, since things could get a little sloppy. If you're left-handed, hold your drink of choice in your left hand. Put your drink in your right hand if you're a righty. Then, head for the hors d'oeuvres tray and see how much more difficult it is to pick up food with your weaker hand. The clumsiness of it all could make you eat less — or at least provide some comic relief.
• Don't overdo the booze. One mixed drink will cost you about 250 calories. A glass of wine is worth 120 calories, and a bottle of beer is typically 150 calories. Consider sparkling water, which is calorie-free.
• Eat what you love, just eat a little less of it. Use some portion control. You can easily visualize properly sized portions this way: Try a fist-size helping of your favorite side dishes, such as cranberry sauce, stuffing and potatoes; a serving of meat that's equal in size to a deck of cards and a palm-size serving of pie.
• Serve yourself. This isn't always possible, especially if you have a well-meaning host who never sits down because he or she wants to pile more food onto your plate. By politely assuming temporary control of the serving spoon, you could save tons of calories you don't want or need.
• Take a walk. Exercise allows you to regulate your appetite and make room for more calories. Plus, it gets you away from all that food. A brisk walk is a good choice of exercise, especially if you don't have much time. If you're used to taking a 30-minute walk every day, but you don't think you can do it all at once because of company or cooking, break it up into 10-minute blocks. If it's possible, you can schedule your walks as a family in between courses.
You can also start the day off with a walk — or a bike ride or a run — before you get too busy.
• Pick your battles of the bulge. Get a panoramic view of the smorgasbord that's been spread before you. Decide which dishes you really, really want to eat and which ones you can skip or have just a little of — you don't want to waste calories on foods you can eat any old time.
Keep in mind that a typical Thanksgiving meal can run about 2,000 calories, but your body can only process about 700 calories at once. Your body tends to store the excess calories, which can turn to fat, according to the American Council on Exercise.
Also, you can avoid overeating if you fill up a tad on the lower-calorie stuff first. Try eating your salad before digging into the main course.
• Be strategic with seconds. If you want to go back for more, go ahead but don't do it right away. Give yourself a break for about 10 minutes. You might discover you're not hungry for another helping, after all.
• Mingle. Chatting up your dinner partners will keep too many forkfuls from flying into your mouth.
• Eat something tart. This is a good strategy if you want to limit your intake of sweet desserts. There's nothing like an orange or a pickle to neutralize your urge for sweets.
• Try this if you throw all caution to the winds and stuff yourself silly: Take a mild, over-the-counter antacid and go for a stroll to settle your stomach.
• Don't hate yourself too much if you overdo it Thanksgiving Day. One day isn't going to wreck your waistline. But you can wallop yourself upside the head if you decide to chuck your last vestiges of self-control and spend the next several days eating and eating and eating. That, friends, is the perfect recipe for packing on pounds.
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