Drink, Eat and Do Not Diet on Thanksgiving

And other helpful hints to de-stress the holidays

Thanksgiving is all about family. Without the distraction of religious ceremonies, shiny presents or scavenger hunts for decorated eggs, Thanksgiving offers no other incentive to celebrate except being with each other. I’ve heard of those families that do healthy things like play football before Thanksgiving dinner. My family is not among them. In my world Thanksgiving is the holiday where family members eat and drink until they fall asleep in front of the TV, others work continuously like field hands, many gesture so wildly when they talk that they drop food on the carpet, and others stand outside smoking smelly cigars while pretending not to notice the nieces and nephews are chasing the dog. While sometimes it feels like we may be the remnants of a genetic experiment gone awry, Thanksgiving is the holiday that celebrates the mysterious ties that bind us as a family. And I love it. However, this is also the holiday of unpredictable weather, cleaning, shopping, entertaining, and increased traffic. On top of all that, every time someone posts another article to Facebook about creating a low fat Thanksgiving and prioritizing getting to the gym, a wave of guilt swells over my budding sense of holiday magic. No wonder holidays are stressful.

I spend my days teaching yoga and helping people reduce their stress, find their joy, and bring more balance into their lives. The holidays can present a great opportunity to accomplish all of these goals, but you need to start by releasing some of the pressure you put on yourself. Instead of wasting your holidays trying to channel the ideal combination of Martha Stewart and Giada De Laurentis, here are some more practical (and more yogic) tips on how to bring joy back into your holiday:

1. Hit delete. Immediately. Whether it’s a growing file you keep buried in your side drawer or an icon on your computer desktop, get rid of the collection of well intentioned advice columns you’ve been saving for that perfect Sunday when you have nothing else to do. If you didn’t find time to make over your garage or turn Aunt Milly’s favorite placements into a bedspread ensemble in June, it’s not going to happen during the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Years. Chances are you’re never actually going to get around to alphabetizing and laminating Grandma’s old recipes, let alone finding low fat substitutes for the ingredients. And now is a good time to let go of the fantasy that this year you’re going green by painting your own wrapping paper. Just by letting go of these self imposed expectations you drop 5 pounds of stress.

2. Stop beating yourself up. If your workout schedule gets a little lax as you prepare for your holiday gathering, don’t worry about it. Shopping is a great calorie burn. Every hour you spend taking laps around the mall burns 160 calories. Make that extra trip (or three) back and forth between stores. You’re not being overindulgent, indecisive or forgetful; you’re trimming your waistline. Just make sure you power walk straight past the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte. It would require a very large budget to shop off that 390 calories.

3. Do not diet on Thanksgiving. You are about to embark on the Tinsel Marathon. Now is not the time to sit at a table filled with people and food you love while you snuggle up to a carrot. Most people do not gain 7-10 pounds during the holidays. It’s a myth perpetuated by the creators of trendy diet books, pills and pastel colored supplement drinks. The average weight gain is actually 1-2 pounds, and that’s not just from your one Thanksgiving meal. Holiday weight gain accumulates in the weeks of mingling between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve. You can eliminate the worry of gaining that pound by reducing your daily intake by about 100 calories. If you just replace your morning bagel with a bowl of oatmeal every day for the month after Thanksgiving, you’re gold.

4. Finally, drink. Yes, liquor. No, I’m not kidding. Having a holiday cocktail can help relax your nerves and reduce some tension. This is your time to laugh (which is incredibly healthy) and enjoy the moment (which is very yogic). That being said, this is not a great time to get trashed and try to teach Uncle George how to line dance. The results of having more than one holiday cocktail can dramatically increase morning after stress, so hold to a one is enough limit.

The messages you tell yourself about how you’re not doing it well enough, you’re not accomplishing everything you should, and you’re somehow falling short of expectations have a much more toxic and long lasting effect on you than the sugar content in Aunt Doris’ apple pie ever will. If you’re blessed to have people around you whose only reason to get together is some mysterious, intangible, extraordinary bind of wanting to be together, it’s pretty fabulous that cousin Mario laughs so hard he spills coffee on the couch.