Think fast: what’s your favorite holiday dish? Is it the delectable pumpkin pie your aunt bakes to perfection, or the creamy mashed potatoes that always seem to disappear first? Maybe it’s a hefty turkey leg served with a generous helping of cranberry sauce, or maybe you’re just like us and can’t pick a favorite, so you go all in— until you’re so full, you practically fall asleep sitting up.
Thanksgiving is known for doing some serious damage to your caloric intake. Some studies suggest that the average American consumes up to 3,000 calories during the meal, and that’s not including festive drinks, desserts, and appetizers. And leftovers? Don’t even get us started! Once it’s all said and done, the entire Thanksgiving event can easily total 10,000 calories.
Okay, now that we’ve scared you with some numbers, let’s hit you with some good news. While Turkey Day is infamously fattening, nutritionists agree that one day of overindulgence isn’t enough to completely derail your health and fitness goals. However, it’s important to handle the weeks following Thanksgiving (and other holiday happenings) with care, so that your break from an otherwise healthy lifestyle doesn’t snowball into an entire season of overindulgence. Luckily, your friends here at uCribs have just what the doctor ordered: 4 great ways to get back on track after an epic Thanksgiving binge.
Start Moving ASAP – But Don’t Force It
After putting down your fork for – hopefully – the last time, you’re probably more inclined to doze off on the sofa than lace up your walking shoes and head outside. But making an effort to walk off your lavish meal is one of the best ways to jumpstart your metabolism and get back on track sooner rather than later.
Notice that we suggested “walking” here – not jogging, sprinting, or any other type of physically demanding activity. While you may be tempted to exert yourself a bit more vigorously than usual to counteract all the calories, subjecting your body to too much activity shortly after eating a large meal will only make you feel worse. And that’s certainly no way to kick off your Thanksgiving recovery regimen.
As a light, low-impact exercise, walking is extremely helpful for accelerating digestion and reducing uncomfortable belly bloat. It also prevents your blood sugar from acting erratically and causing a strange mix of fatigue and cravings. Even better? All you have to do is walk for 15 minutes to start feeling these positive effects, so you can get back to the party and enjoy the rest of your evening guilt-free.
Enjoy a Full Night of Shut-Eye
Here’s one tip we know you’ll have no trouble enforcing: sleeping off your overeating. Yes, eating what feels like a million calories and then dozing off for hours seems like it would only worsen your bloated state, but there are a ton of science-backed reasons why sleeping is the secret weapon against further food binging.
As you and your peers probably know from experience, sleep loss is clearly linked to overeating and increased appetite. When you’re exhausted from class, work, and other commitments, appetite-regulating hormones rebel against your body and certain cognitive functions decline, making it harder for you to resist delicious, high-calorie treats, a.k.a. foods that the clear-minded you would normally turn down. Additionally, research shows that sleep deprivation increases blood levels of a lipid connected to cravings for high-fat snack foods – such as cookies, candy, and potato chips. With these less-than-nutritious foods clogging your system, it’s only a matter of time before you’re heading to Starbucks for another iced coffee.
If this sounds like a vicious cycle, you’re right. Getting ahead of your body by resting up after your Turkey Day binge will not only allow you feel recharged and awake the next day, but it will also help you to make smart decisions regarding diet and exercise – which is paramount when you’re trying to brush off a binge, like Thanksgiving’s.
Don’t Skip Any Meals
There seem to be two types of post-Turkey Day feasters: the ones who can’t wait to crack open the leftovers and the ones who are ready to swear off fatty food forever. While the first person is excitedly planning epic Thanksgiving-themed turkey sandwiches, the second is taking a break from eating altogether in an effort to counteract their caloric intake from the day before.
‘Fess up – are you person one or person two? While we certainly understand both perspectives, we must say that skipping meals – even after Thanksgiving – is bad news for your turkey recovery plan and could spell disaster during a time when you’re supposed to be getting back on track. Let us explain.
Your body needs a steady diet to keep energy levels high and stave off hunger. When you skip meals, you send your body into survival mode, which slows down metabolism and increases cortisol, the hormone responsible for “hanger” – yep, it’s real! Because your body is accustomed to a regular diet, you’ll become increasingly hungry until you give in – usually resulting in a binge. See how your plan to skip a few meals can quickly spiral of control? Do yourself a favor and eat a day’s worth of healthy, filling meals instead of skimping on calories when you need them most.
Head Back to the Gym
It’s tempting to take a hiatus from your regularly scheduled exercise regimen in the name of holiday festivities. Thanksgiving is just a stone’s throw from Christmas Day and other winter holidays, which also celebrate – you guessed it – food, sweets, and everything in excess. Combine this with a hectic finals schedule and end-of-year parties, then you’ve got a million reasons to put off going to the gym for just one more day.
We’ve all been there, so no judgement on this side of the dinner table! But if you really want to get back on track after a holiday binge, you’re going to need to commit to doing so, even when the going gets tough. Enlist a gym buddy who can hold you accountable or find a way to responsibly reward yourself after your first week back on your fitness grind. No one is saying that you have to run a marathon tomorrow – you just need to make exercise a part of your regular routine again amongst all the holiday stressors and temptations.
Feeling like you can’t drag yourself to the elliptical, no matter what you do? During a holiday haze, it can be helpful to consider why you’re committing to a healthy lifestyle in the first place. Remember, you’re not pursuing health in order to guiltlessly splurge on your next binge. Instead, you’re making concrete steps towards becoming a better you—a journey that continues year-round. Reframing how you feel about exercise and nutrition will remind you of your true motivation, making it a bit easier to turn off Freeform’s annual 25 Days of Christmas movie marathon.
Hands down, one of our favorite aspects of holiday time is all the amazing food you can enjoy alongside family and friends. But too much of a good thing can quickly derail your healthy habits if you don’t begin to take matters seriously come December. With these tips in mind, you can conquer yet another day of holiday feasting, while remaining focused on your fitness goals. And that, friends, is definitely something to be thankful for.