Thanksgiving Day Can Destroy Your Diet

Yes, feasting equals excess, and too many calories will tip the energy expenditure scale. No, one day- or even one weekend of relaxing your dietary limits will not undo a healthy lifestyle. The key is a healthy baseline and healthy habits.

A day or two of indulgence is negligible if you continuously practice healthy habits.  We are indeed, what we continuously do- and what we continuously eat.

So this Thanksgiving, resolve to practice what Council Member Mark Faries, Ph.D. in Behavioral Medicine and a Master of Science in Exercise Physiology, refers to as flexible limits and heed the advice of Board Member Kathleen Zelman who reminds us that, “The holidays are no time for diets! Strive for social weight maintenance which allows for small indulgences of your favorite holiday foods and beverages.  Follow the 80/20 rule and indulge — but just a little, and no second helpings.”

Flexible limits come with two parts.  First, you have your baseline limit.  In the case of dietary habits, this might mean you typically avoid desert.  The second part, is flexibility.  During the holidays, you might be flexible in this limit by allowing yourself one piece of pie for desert.  It is important to set realistic limits and to honor the limits that you set. One piece of pie, means one serving- not half the pie, because you only cut once.

The 80/20 rule is a no-nonsense way to use flexible limits and can be used every day- not just on the holidays.  Focus on following a healthful diet 80 percent of time and genuinely enjoying your indulgences.

Because habits matter more than a few days of excess, its important to regulate emotions, and not beat ourselves up or turn a day of sweets into a week of cakes and bacon.  Changing our behavior isn’t always easy, but begins with practice.

Dr. Faries advises that behavioral changes are achieved by changing behaviors. Chicken meet egg? Not necessarily; Dr. Faries talks about the practice of changing behavior- and warns against perfection being the enemy of good.

One way to practice behavioral changes and avoid falling off the wagon is to practice positive reframing. Basically, find a silver lining and use that feedback in productive ways.  This way, we can actually gain confidence from our mistakes.  Rather than beating yourself up for eating two pieces of pie instead of one, reframe the situation.  Did you enjoy the pie?  Did you share the moment with friends?  Next time, will you stick to just one slice?

Remember, nothing and no-one is perfect, and allowing perfect to be the enemy of good, can rob us of enjoyable moments and set us up for future failures, rather than future successes.

So, NO, thanksgiving day will not destroy your healthy goals.  Maybe this year, rather than focusing on calories, try refocusing your attention on time with family, appreciation and celebration- for an added health boost.


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