Tips Toward a Triumphant Turkey Day

Many of us try to avoid holiday weight gain. On Turkey Day, we are faced with massive quantities of delicious food. You may think, “I’m going to take control of this day!” but with the whole family piling their plates high, the temptation can easily get the best of you. Many of us tend to over-eat on Thanksgiving Day and then are faced with the leftovers and approaching festivities of the holiday season. Thanksgiving can start a domino effect of splurging on fatty foods and desserts for nearly six weeks.  Without an increase in physical activity to counteract it, the surplus of calories translates to additional fat cells, and the weight gain begins. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t enjoy your holiday celebrations. Go ahead and eat what you want on Thanksgiving, but be wary of the weeks of splurging that can result in weight gain. Here are some tips for a healthier Thanksgiving and holiday season.

1.       Stop at Satisfied, Not Full

  • Did you know that it takes about 20 minutes for the stomach to signal to the brain that it’s full? This is why you feel stuffed to the point of discomfort when overlooking this signal (MacDonald, 2010). If you stop at satisfed you will thank yourself later; just think of all the extra calories you avoided in the process.
  • Helpful Hint: Go slow! The meal most likely took a long time to prepare, so take your time, put your fork down between bites, catch up with your family, and enjoy it. You’ll likely skip the second helping.

2.       Post-Meal Walk

  • A post-meal walk can aid digestion and burn calories in the process. Furthermore, the post-meal walk has been shown to improve blood sugar levels. A 20-minute walk, 15 minutes after a meal, can help prevent large spikes and variations in blood sugar levels (Colberg et al. 2009).
  • Helpful hint: Broadcast your walk before the meal and get the family on board. A group setting with exercise increases adherence – that way, you won’t drop out!

3.       Next Morning’s Workout

  • While everyone is shopping for hot deals, you might hit the gym or your favorite hiking trail all to yourself. Instead of feeling lethargic and guilty from indulging on all the goodies and desserts the day before, start your day with a workout. You’ll feel energized!
  • Helpful Hint: Schedule this morning’s workout with a friend, and you’ll have to avoid those extra glasses of wine with dinner (exercise and hangovers usually don’t agree with each other).

4.       Eat Breakfast

  • Thinking of saving calories for the big meal? Think again! Start the morning with a well-balanced breakfast. A good breakfast can take the edge off your appetite before the feast, allowing you to be more discerning in your food and beverage choices.
  • Helpful Hint: A nutritious breakfast with protein and fiber, such as an egg with a piece of whole wheat toast, will do the trick.

5.       Be Selective

  • Once at the table and dishing up, survey the scene. Fill up your plate with foods you cannot live without rather than foods readily available throughout the rest of the year. It’s a day to indulge in your seasonal favorites.
  • Helpful Hint: Dish up your favorites so that each serving would fit in the palm of your hand. This means you may have room for the pumpkin pie!

Updated Article by Alex Gawel: November 21, 2022

Original Article by Sam Skelton: October 31, 2013


Colberg, SR et al. (2009). Postprandial walking is better for lowering the glycemic effect of dinner than pre-dinner exercise in type 2 diabetic individuals. US National Library of Medicine National  Institutes of Health. 10 (6), 394-7.

MacDonald, A. (2010). Why eating slowly may help you feel full faster. Harvard Health Publications

About the Author:

Sam Skelton has his B.S. in Kinesiology with an emphasis in Exercise and Fitness from San Jose State University. He is an ACSM Certified Health Fitness Specialist and enjoys helping others attain a healthy lifestyle. Sam has been surfing since he was eight years old and raves about the “five waves a day program.” He also loves music and enjoys playing guitar in a cover band. Most of all, Sam delights in spending time with his wife, Julie, and 1-year-old son, Henry. Sam loves outdoor family time. From hiking in the redwood forests of Nisene Marks to combing the beaches of Santa Cruz, the Skeltons love the sights nature offers.

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