Friday, November 18, 2011

Thanksgiving Dinner - Short Term Pleasure - Long Term Food Debt

Thanksgiving is just around the corner which means celebrations, family gatherings, tons of food and long term food debt.  And no, I'm not referring to the cost of preparing a feast (though that van be pricey as well) I'm referring to the calories you are likely to consume over the course of the holiday.  The reality is that there is a heavy price to pay for all that eating, which is akin to taking on debt, because you are going to have to work longer and harder to burn it all off.   And worse yet, Thanksgiving is just the beginning of an extended period of potential weight gain that stretches all the way to early January.  And in case you haven't noticed, its a lot easier to put on weight than to get rid of it!

The really sad thing about eating too much stuff, is that its a short term pleasure that has long term consequences.  One of the things I practice is reminding myself that while it tastes great right now, fifteen minutes after I finish eating, all the pleasure will be gone.  Though it took a while to instill that in my brain, I am pretty good at using it to limit my food intake.  Think about the regret BEFORE you eat, rather than later when you feel the need to loosen your clothing and take a nap due to the over-indulgence.

Now is a good time to start paying attention to the calories that come with traditional dishes associated with Thanksgiving.  A cup of cranberry sauce can easily be 400+ calories.  A large slice of turkey clocks in at 300 calories.  Add a healthy heaping of mashed potatoes for another 240 calories, plus a mound of stuffing that cashes in around 400 calories.  And lets not forget the bread and butter - 250 calories. And who can turn down pumpkin pie with a healthy shot of whipped cream?  Try 400 calories.  Grand total food debt from just these basic items - about 2000 calories.  But considering that I have never seen a Thanksgiving Dinner with that few food choices, I'm willing to bet the total calories will climb much higher.

We all know that debt is bad and the best way to avoid it is to spend within your means.  Translating this to food debt, eat within your daily calorie limits.  And yes it can be done with Thanksgiving!  You don't have to deprive yourself of a good meal, you just need to pre-plan your approach in order to keep things under control.

To be successful, there are two key factors that need to be addressed: overeating & high calorie foods.  Here are my approaches to handling both areas:
  • Commit to eating very slowly in order to allow yourself to fill up quickly.  Then stop when you are full.
  • If you eat slow enough, you may even lose your appetite, which makes it even easier to avoid the temptation of eating everything in site.
  • When you have the urge for "seconds" remind yourself that it will take a lot longer to burn off that extra food than it will to eat it.
  • Grandma might be offended if you don't go for seconds, thirds, etc.  Eat slowly, but make it look like you are eating a lot.  If there is always food on your plate, she will think you too are overeating like everyone else.
  • Take an active role in meal preparation and focus on lighter fare.  There are plenty of traditional dishes that can be created in such a way as to maximize flavor while minimizing calories.
  • Know your food calories!  Take smaller portions of high calorie items and larger portions of low calorie foods.  Try to fill up on the low calorie stuff.
  • Plan some form of exercise immediately following the meal.  Avoid couches and recliners, no matter who is playing football.  A 30-45 minute walk isn't enough to burn off the meal, but its a simple way to start attacking the food debt that you took own.
This Thanksgiving, do not be led mindlessly to the food trough like millions of other Americans.  It's just a meal!  Focus on enjoying the time spent with others, rather than than eating a big meal that will have no positive impact on your life.  Remember, its a only short term pleasure that comes with term conequences.  Is it really worth it??????????????

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