How to Survive Thanksgiving (and Christmas) Without Busting your Diet

If you are on a “diet,” you probably face a major challenge on holidays, especially Thanksgiving and Christmas, which are traditionally centered around an extravagant family meal, with the implicit feeling that if you try to curtail your eating, you will insult your host. That, in turn, leads to a “falling off the wagon” problem, where one day of splurge ends up with 10 pounds of extra body fat (or more), especially during a period where two major food-centered holidays come only a month apart.

My personal approach on this Thanksgiving Day is to make it a day of fasting, since Mrs. BBTB and I are empty-nesters, and we aren’t expecting any of our extended family to visit today (we do plan to visit family next month, though). One thing that makes fasting fairly easy for me is that I follow a low-carb Paleo diet, and one-day fasts are not a Big Deal for me. I actually look forward to my fasting days, because I know that they make me feel better in the long run.

But I know that for a lot of you, that approach is just not feasible.

There are still some things that you can do to limit the damage and prevent yourself from extending a “fall off the wagon” binge. I have personally used these techniques on major holidays with family and friends, and found them to be very effective.

Nobody Really Cares How Much You Eat

The most important thing you have to realize is that for the most part, nobody is going to be watching to see how much you eat. Even if your mother (or your great aunt) urges you to load up your plate, you can deflect that by simply saying that you are just sampling on the first round to see what you want for “seconds.”

Hit the Protein First

A really good strategy is to go for the protein first. Get a reasonable helping of the turkey (or ham, or roast, or whatever high-protein dish is available), and then load up on some salad, leaving only a small portion of your plate’s real estate available for the carby stuff. Protein (and fat) are very satiating, and greatly reduce the temptation to pig out on the other items.

Wait Before Going for Seconds

Once you have loaded up on (preferably fatty) protein and green veggies, take your time to finish them. Enjoy the company of your family and friends. Engage actively in dinner conversation. And remember the first point — nobody is really watching to be sure that you scarf down your meal quickly. This technique allows your body time to realize that it has actually eaten, and generate the hormones that tell you that you aren’t hungry any more.

Go Small on Seconds

If you do decide to go for seconds (or that really extravagant dessert), go for a small portion. In the (unlikely) event that anybody notices, just say you are leaving room for that (or a different) extravagant dessert. If you have followed the previous step of eating slowly, you will not really want much more anyway. And take your time eating the second round, too.

I have found that following this procedure greatly reduces the amount of food that it takes to fill me up. And there really are other things about dinner with family and friends that are just as enjoyable as eating!

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