Many people often get plenty of exercise in the summer and early autumn, but Thanksgiving can represent a turning point into the weight-gaining season of dark evenings and comfort foods.
The effects of overeating at Thanksgiving are thus compounded by unhealthy eating habits during the Christmas season, and by reduced activity due to the winter weather.
Thanksgiving dinner can be laden with calories.
According to the Calorie Control Council (CCC), many people consume over 4,500 calories during a Thanksgiving gathering.
The recommended daily intake for a moderately active woman over 25 years is 2,000 calories, and for a moderately active man, 2,400, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
It is not necessarily the Thanksgiving dinner itself, but the additional treats that cause the problem.
For many people, for example, the feast does not last just one day. It often starts with the week of Thanksgiving and continues throughout the entire holiday season.
Pile on the veggies
During the meal, piling on the vegetables first will encourage a healthy and balanced intake, because there will be less room for the fattening foods, and high volume foods like vegetables can help a person to feel full.
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends eating the same size plateful that one would normally eat. It should consist of one half fruit and vegetables, one quarter starchy foods, and one quarter lean protein.
One way to lower calories is to avoid the turkey skin, because turkey skin is mainly fat and it is high in calories and low in volume.
Mixing high-calorie vegetables with items low in calories, for example replacing 25 percent of the mashed potato with cauliflower, can lighten the calorie load.
Even vegetables can contain hidden fats, for example butter in the green beans, mashed potatoes, and some soups, can help to keep the calories down. Whoever is cooking may agree to leave the butter on the table for people to add their own, or perhaps a light version can be offered.
Chewing slowly reduces calorie intake per minute, and the body will feel full quicker, reducing the likelihood of overeating. Focusing on the flavors of the food can be more satisfying than eating quickly.
If a person knows how to recognize when they are satisfied, and how they define "full," they will control their eating more easily. It is a common mistake for people to eat until they are full. Full can range from satisfied to bursting at the seams. It is not a good idea to eat until it is uncomfortable.
The hazards of side dishes
Focusing on the main meal of lean turkey and vegetables will help people to limit the side dishes. These may look like tasty nibbles that to enjoy without consequence, but side dishes can quickly add up to a high number of calories.
Variety can increase intake, so it is a good idea to choose favorite side dishes that are not often available, and to avoid those that are not so special for the individual, or that are easily available throughout the year.
Another strategy is to avoid finger foods unless they are healthy or have limited calories. Food that needs a knife and fork takes longer to eat, while finger foods lead to faster eating, and higher consumption.
Water is necessary for hydration, and it does not contain any calories, while alcoholic drinks, sugary sodas, and sweetened coffee can be laden with them. Sparkling water with ice and lemon is a healthy alternative to soda.
A little of what you fancy
Those who attend more than one Thanksgiving dinner should not overeat at every event. Most Americans will sit down at two or more big meals during Thanksgiving. One way to avoid repeated bingeing is to select what to eat in one meal, and trying different items in the next.
Second helpings can be a problem for portion control. Having eaten slowly, chewed carefully, and drunk plenty of water, no-one should be hungry enough for a second round. If the hosts insist, guests should politely stand your ground and say "No, thank you."
Avoiding favorite foods, for example, can lead to craving. Taking a small portion is a better idea. Portion control is the secret to long-term success in weight control. The AHA recommends choosing just one dessert, choosing wisely, and taking a small piece.
Burning it off
Following a few strategies for Thanksgiving Day can help to avoid weight gain.
A one-hour walk before dinner will use up 250 calories.
Starting the day with breakfast lowers the chance of arriving at the meal feeling extra hungry. Being hungrier than usual can lead to overeating during a feast. Consider doing your community's Turkey Trot to start the day on the right foot.
If it is not possible to do the Turkey Trot, a one-hour walk on Thanksgiving morning will burn up 250 calories before the meal, or 10 percent of a 2,500-calorie meal.
Those who follow a regular exercise regime could burn from 30 percent to 60 percent of their festive calorie intake by spending 2 hours on a cross trainer before the dinner, depending on the intensity of training and how much they eat.
Vigorous exercise continues to burn calories for a long time after the exercise is finished compared to less intense exercise.
Eat sensibly and enjoy the holiday
Weight maintenance is a more realistic goal than weight loss during the festive season. It is a time of celebration and feasting.
Eating carefully, doing some exercise to counter the excess calorie intake, and controlling portions should make it possible to maintain a steady weight.
Aiming to lose weight during the holiday and not achieving it can undermine motivation. This raises the risk of giving up.
Find out more about avoiding overconsumption and food poisoning at Thanksgiving.