Thanksgiving Night: How Do You Want To Feel?

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, it’s high time dieters begin to think about how they’ll handle their eating on that day.  While Thanksgiving is considered by many to be a day in which it’s just too difficult to control their eating, it doesn’t have to be that way.  When we help dieters formulate their Thanksgiving plan, we always ask them to think about one important thing: How do you want to feel going to bed once Thanksgiving is over?

Asking dieters this question reminds them that the experience of Thanksgiving is not limited to the time when  they’re eating with family and friends. The experience also extends to how they feel afterwards.  Dieters often have sabotaging thoughts such as,  “If I have to limit how much I eat,  I just won’t be able to enjoy myself.” If they then overeat, they may wind up feeling sick – physically and psychologically: physically, because they consumed way too much food and psychologically, because they feel out of control and guilty for overeating.

When we ask dieters how they want to feel once Thanksgiving is over, they usually say  something along the lines of, “I want to feel full and satisfied and I also want to feel good about myself.”   We then ask, ” Will getting off track and overeating on Thanksgiving lead you to feeling that way?”  Because the answer is no, we suggest  coming up with a plan that will make them feel good.   It makes sense to dieters that they simply  can’t have it both ways: They can’t way overeat during Thanksgiving and still wind up feeling proud and in control – these are incompatible goals.

We remind dieters, that it’s not all-or-nothing. It’s not as if they can eat every bite of food that they want or they can’t eat any food that they want; in fact, there is a huge middle ground between these two extremes. While it’s true that they may not be able to eat as much of everything they want and still go to bed feeling good that night, it’s also true that they can eat reasonable portions, enjoy every bite that they take, and feel really good.

Halloween Survival Guide

We sent this out last year (if you want to receive our free e-newsletter, you can sign up here), but there are probably people who haven’t seen it before and/or people who would benefit from reading it again! Here are some Halloween-specific strategies that will help you stick to your plan this October 31st and the days surrounding it.

Remember: Candy is available year-round! Dieters tend to load up and eat lots of candy on Halloween, saying to themselves, “Well, it only occurs once a year.”  That’s true, but Halloween is once a year, every year, and candy is available every day of the year. Drug stores and supermarkets sell fun-sized candy bars year-round, so you don’t need to load up now. You can buy candy any time.

Don’t buy candy until you need it. This may seem like an obvious piece of advice, but it’s an important one. Many people buy Halloween candy a few weeks in advance, perhaps rationalizing that “it will be good to have that task over with,” “I won’t have to worry about stores running out,” and “I can get the candy on sale.” And then what usually happens? They end up eating some (or all) of it before the big day. Even when dieters are able to wait to break into the candy until Halloween itself, it can be a daily struggle to resist. There is a very simple solution to this problem: Don’t purchase candy in advance.  Even if it adds a small amount of cost or an additional chore on your already busy October 31st, isn’t it worth not having to worry about giving in and expending the mental energy to resist until it’s time?

Buy candy that you don’t like so much in bulk and just a single serving of your favorite candy.  You’ll obviously have the most trouble resisting your favorite candy, so buy candy in bulk that you don’t enjoy as much—you’ll have an easier time resisting it, and when Halloween is over, it will probably be easier for you to throw away the leftovers, give them away, or donate them. You can and should buy a single-serving of the candy you like the most. This way, you’ll be able to savor your favorite candy without worrying about having to stop yourself from going back for more.

Remember, the Halloween experience lasts for longer than one day. Even though the holiday itself is just a day, it is highly likely that you will come in contact with Halloween treats on the days leading up to and following October 31st.  Be on the lookout for the common sabotaging thought, “I’m going to eat a lot of extra candy on Halloween, but it’s okay because it’s only one day.” This thought does not take into account the candy that you come in contact with before Halloween, the candy you might have left over, the candy in your office kitchen, at your friends’ homes, and at the parties and events you attend, before and after October 31st.  If you’re making a plan for Halloween, it’s important to factor in the days before and after, too.

Get rid of left overs!  If extra candy is in your house, you’re likely to be tempted to eat it at some point.  If you want to avoid having to resist leftovers, there are plenty of ways to get rid of them. Give them away, donate them, bring them in to work, or simply throw them away.  If you have the sabotaging thought, “I can’t throw the candy away because it would be a waste of money,” remind yourself, “Either way the money is already gone. Eating the candy won’t bring it back.”  One way or another, if you can limit your amount of exposure to leftover candy, you’ll make it so much easier on yourself.  And if your kids go trick-or-treating, it’s also a good idea to immediately get rid of the candy they don’t like or can’t eat. If you keep it around, you may end up eating it or struggling to resist it.  Remember, even though it may cost you a bit, in the long-run, you’ll probably  end up saving yourself thousands of calories by getting rid of extra Halloween candy and instead buying yourself a single serving of your favorite candy that you’ve planned to eat. This will help guarantee that you enjoy your favorite treat, when you really want it, and without the guilt.

Are You a Social Eater or a Secret Eater?

In my work with dieters, I find that many of them tend to fall into either the category of “Social Eaters” or “Secret Eaters.”  Social eaters are those who have a lot of trouble staying in control when they are out and eating with other people.  They are highly influenced by what everyone around them is eating and drinking and often feel deprived if they don’t eat in the same way.  By contrast, secret eaters often have a much easier time staying in control when they are eating in front of other people and tend to lose it when they are back at home, alone.  Regardless of which type of eater you may be (and some dieters fall into both categories), your greatest defense is figuring out in advance what sabotaging thoughts you’re likely to have in either situation and come up with responses to them.  Here are some examples:

Social eating sabotaging thoughts

Sabotaging Thought: It’s okay to eat this because everyone around me is eating it.

Response: My body doesn’t know or care what everyone around me is eating; it only knows what I eat. So just because everyone around me is eating a lot, doesn’t necessarily mean that I can.

Sabotaging Thought: I’ll be deprived if I can’t eat what everyone around me is eating.

Response: Either way I’m deprived. Either I’m deprived of some food some of the time (but not all food, all of the time), or I’m deprived of all the benefits of losing weight. Which would be the bigger deprivation?

Sabotaging Thought: It’s not fair I can’t eat normally like everyone else.

Response: I have to redefine my definition of “normal” eating. In fact, I am eating 100% normally for someone of my age and my gender with my weight loss goals.

Secret eating sabotaging thoughts

Sabotaging Thought: I was so good when I was out and there so much food I didn’t eat, so it’s okay to eat this now.

Response: My body doesn’t know all the food I didn’t eat, it only knows what I do eat. So just because I turned down lots of food before doesn’t mean that I can eat extra now.

Sabotaging Thought: It’s okay to eat this because no one is watching.

Response: Although it may feel okay to eat extra because I’m alone, the reality is that my body doesn’t know if 100 people are watching me eat or if no one is watching me eat, it processes all calories the same. So it’s absolutely irrelevant whether or not I’m alone when I overeat – overeating is overeating.

Whether you’re a social eater or a secret eater, another helpful technique is to make a plan, in advance, of what you’ll eat in those situations. For social eaters, if you know you’re going out to dinner with friends, decide in advance what you’re going to eat and then respond to sabotaging thoughts in the moment to ensure that you stick to your plan. Remember that, if you want to lose weight, what everyone else around you is eating has no bearing on what you eat. Stick to your plan and you’ll be so happy, once the event is over, that you did.

For social eaters, plan in advance what, if anything, you’ll eat when you arrive back home.  If your plan is to eat nothing, avoid the kitchen entirely.  If your plan is to have either a snack or a mug of hot tea when you get home, get everything together before you leave (for example, put a tea bag in a mug on your table) so that way when you get home, it will be easy to remember exactly what your plan is and you won’t have to go rooting in the cupboards.  Respond to sabotaging thoughts that would encourage you to eat something you hadn’t planned to eat.  Stick to your plan and you’ll be so happy, once the night is over, that you did.

In Session with Debbie: Getting Back on Track

I recently had a session with my client, Allison, with whom I’ve been working for a few months.  In session, Allison told me about an experience she had over the weekend that she wasn’t feeling very happy about.  Allison explained that one of her close friends was moving out of state and so over the weekend she had a goodbye party. At the party, there were drinks and passed appetizers.  Allison found herself taking appetizer after appetizer and eating them while talking with her friends. Midway through the party, Allison realized that she was overeating and that she had lost track of how much she had already had.  Allison told me that she went to the bathroom and read her Advantages List and her Response Cards, both of which she keeps on her phone.   After taking a few moments to fortify her resolve and refocus, Allison went back to the party and didn’t eat another bite.

When Allison explained this to me she, she expressed disappointment over getting off track during the party. I, on the other hand, had a different view of the situation.  Even though Allison had gotten off track during the party, she did something that can be extremely difficult to do: she got back on track in the middle of the party.  She didn’t say to herself, “Well, I’ve already blown it for the party, I might as well keep eating whatever I want.”  She also then didn’t go on to say to herself, “Well I’ve blown it for the day so I might as well keep eating whatever I want and get back on track tomorrow.”  No! The moment Allison realized she had gotten off track, she immediately turned herself around and didn’t wait for the end of the party/the day/the week/the month to get back on track.  I pointed out to Allison how significant this was because she has now proven to herself that whenever she gets off tack, she never has to wait even one moment longer to get back on track.

I reminded Allison that the most successful dieters and maintainers are not those who never make mistakes; rather they are those who make mistakes but get immediately back on track.  Allison and I discussed the fact that she will continue to make mistakes for the rest of her life, but as long as she recovers from them immediately (as she did at the party), they will remain very minor and won’t negatively impact her weight. 

Allison and I also took a few moments to assess the situation and figure out what had led her to get off track in the first place. Allison realized that the major problem was that she hadn’t gone into the party with a strong plan. She went in thinking she would have “just a few” bites to eat, but had nothing specific in mind. Allison also realized after the fact that she overate partly because she didn’t have a plan, partly because she was distracted talking to her friends, and partly because she was feeling upset and emotional about her friend leaving town.  In order to better prepare herself for a similar situation in the future, Allison decided that she would ahead of time formulate a strong plan and make the effort to deliberately eat everything slowly and mindfully. And, if she knew that she might be going into a potentially emotional situation, like a good-bye party, Allison decided that she would read Response Cards ahead of time that specifically reminded her that eating for emotional reasons  ultimately always has the opposite of the intended effect, meaning it  makes her feel worse, not better. 

 

In Session with Debbie: Mindset Change

In session last week, my client Joe told me about a big conference dinner he would be going to the following week in which there would be passed appetizers, soup, salad, bread, multiple entrees and sides, alcohol, and tables of dessert.  Joe wasn’t sure how he would handle all that excess of food, so in session we made a plan for him to follow. 

When making a plan for this dinner, the first thing we considered was the fact that it will be in the middle of a four day conference during which he’ll be eating lots of meals in restaurants and be out of his regular routine.  Because of this, and the fact that it was Joe’s goal to not gain weight on the trip, we knew that Joe simply couldn’t go overboard and still maintain his weight because he would already have so many other opportunities to take in extra calories.  Bearing this in mind, here are some of the components of Joe’s plan for that dinner:

1.  No appetizers. Joe decided that since there would be so much other food being served, he would rather not use up calories during the cocktail hour when the time could be better spent mingling and networking with other conference attendees.  Joe also knew from past experience that he gets much more satisfaction from food that he eats sitting down as opposed to food he just pops in his mouth standing up (which he’s likely to forget even having eaten by the time he sits down to dinner).

2. Joe will have salad with dressing on the side and no soup.  Knowing how many calories are in salad dressing, Joe decided that he would make sure to request his salad with dressing on the side, so he could be sure of how much he was having. Joe also decided to forgo the soup, knowing that the salad would be enough food before dinner.

3. When Joe’s entrée plate comes, he will immediately decide how much to eat and section off the rest. In doing this, Joe is at much less risk for cleaning his plate because he’ll know from the get-go how much he’s having. Also, if Joe winds up getting involved in conversation, he’s less likely to overeat because even if he eats mindlessly, he still won’t take in more calories than he had initially planned. If Joe is tempted to keep eating after he has finished his allotted portion, Joe will remind himself, “I’ve already had enough to eat. The only reason I want to eat more is because it tastes good, but if I continue to eat, it won’t taste nearly as good as the first part of my dinner because I’ll be feeling guilty as I’m eating it. Guilt tastes bad!”

4. Joe will have one alcoholic beverage, one dessert, and no bread. Joe decided that once he’s actually at the dinner, he’ll decide whether he wants to have a glass of wine during the cocktail hour or with dinner.  He also knew that with everything else he would be eating and drinking, he probably didn’t have enough calories to have bread and dessert, and Joe decided that he would much rather forgo the bread in favor of dessert. If Joe was really tempted by the bread, he would remind himself, “It’s worth not having bread now because I’ll get to have dessert later. Besides, I’ve had bread before, I know what it tastes like, and I’ll definitely have it again.”  If Joe is tempted to have a second dessert, he’ll remind himself, “I definitely will later regret having a second dessert, but once the dinner is over, I definitely won’t regret not having eaten more dessert. Do I want to have regrets or not?”

5. Joe will eat everything sitting down, slowly, and mindfully. Joe knew that this was extra important during this dinner because he’ll likely be eating less than many other people, and therefore he wants to draw out and enjoy what he is eating for as long as possible.

In session with Joe this week, Joe and I discussed how it went and he told me how helpful it was to have a plan because it allowed him to feel in control and confident during the whole dinner.  Joe also told me that even though he knew there would be a lot of food served, he was still somewhat astonished by how much there was and how much everyone else was eating.  Joe said that he looked at all the food and just knew, “No question, of course I’m not going to eat it all.”

I asked Joe how his eating during this dinner was different from how it might have been six months ago, before we started working together. Joe replied, “Oh, I would have eaten everything. No question.”  In saying this, Joe demonstrated a fundamental mindset shift he has made over the past few months. He went from, “No question, of course I’m going to eat all this food,” to, “Of course I’m NOT going to eat all this food. No question!” 

 

In Session with Debbie: Exceptions to the Rule

Over the past few weeks, my dieter, Jennifer, has been working hard on all of her initial skills, like reading her Advantages List every morning (and often right before dinner, too), eating everything sitting down, slowly, and mindfully, and giving herself credit.  She has also been working on limiting junk food to just one portion per day, after dinner, and adding more fruits and vegetables to her diet. 

In session this week, Jennifer told me that she is going on vacation with her family next week and one of their traditions is to get ice cream in the afternoon and walk around while they eat it.  Jennifer really loves to do this with her family, but she was concerned because it would mean eating standing up.  Jennifer and I discussed this and we agreed that, while she was on her trip, it was perfectly fine to eat ice cream standing up before dinner as long as she planned to do so in advance.  I pointed out to Jennifer that wanting in the moment to eat something standing up and telling herself, “It’s okay to have just this one thing standing up, it won’t matter,” is very different from deciding in advance when and where specifically she would eat something standing up.  In the first case, it would mean exercising her giving-in muscle and listening to sabotaging thoughts.  In the second case, it wouldn’t be exercising her giving-in muscle at all because it would just be part of her plan. 

Similarly, it’s fine for Jennifer to plan to have junk food before dinner while on vacation because she’ll be deciding to do so in advance.  Again, this won’t be a case of Jennifer seeing a junk food that she really wants to eat and spontaneously deciding to have it before dinner, which would definitely strengthen her giving-in muscle.  Rather, it will be a deliberate and thought-out exception to her rule.  

Jennifer also decided that, once she was back from her trip, she would go right back to not having junk food before dinner and wouldn’t let exceptions filter into her everyday life.  If Jennifer started eating junk food before dinner on a normal day, it would become so much harder to resist (as it was when she first started working on this skill) and every time she saw junk food she would once again enter into the painful and exhausting struggle of, “Should I have some? No, you know you shouldn’t. But it looks really good. But you don’t have it before dinner. But I had it yesterday before dinner and it was okay, so maybe now it’s okay, too, etc. etc. etc.”

So you can see that, at times, it can be 100% fine to make exceptions to your rules, as long as you decide to do so in advance and don’t give in to momentary sabotaging thoughts. But, like Jennifer, if you do decide to make an exception, it’s important to set parameters (like only having junk food before dinner on vacation) so that you’re not tempted to make an exception (and have to struggle about whether or not to) every time it comes up.

In Session with Debbie: Easter

Last week, my dieter, Kim, and I spent time in session coming up with a strong Easter plan.  This week, Kim reported that not only was she able to follow through with her Easter plan, but she felt great about it, and she lost weight this week – something that would have been unheard of in years past.  What did Kim do that made her Easter so successful?

1. Kim made it a priority to read her plan and Response cards before she left for the day.  In session last week, Kim and I had written out a plan for how she would handle Easter.  Usually coming up with a mental plan doesn’t work as well because it’s much easier to erase and cross out things in your mind than it is when it is actually written out. Not only did we write down the plan, but Kim made sure to review it in the days leading up to Easter (so it would be etched more firmly in her brain), and right before she left to go to her sister’s house that day.  She also read Response Cards about cravings, holidays, and reminding herself how she’ll feel if she stays in control.

2. Kim looked at all of the food being served before deciding what to have.  Although Kim had a pretty good idea of what was being served (she had contacted her sister ahead of time and asked what the menu would be), when it came time to eat, Kim made sure to survey all the dishes and decide deliberately what she would have.  This way, she didn’t end up eating a full plate and then see something else she really wanted to have, and end up overeating.

3.  Kim was also careful about how much food she served herself.  Kim and I had discussed how important it would be for her to only put on her plate what she intended to eat.  In doing so, she could eat everything that was on her plate and feel satisfied, and not have to question whether or not she was eating too much or whether or not she should go back for more.

5. Kim had no candy and only one portion of dessert.  Deciding how much, if any, candy and desserts Kim would have on Easter was a big part of the plan. Kim is a self-proclaimed chocoholic and loves any and all Easter candy and desserts. Kim told me that in Easters past, she would go overboard on sweets and end up snacking on candy all day long. Kim and I decided that, for her, the best course of action would be to have no candy on Easter and one portion of whatever baked good she wanted. We decided on this plan because we knew that if Kim got started snacking on Easter candy, it would make it very easy for her to continue going back for more and more.  The baked goods being served (mainly cupcakes) were already portion-controlled, and not as easy to keep dipping into.  This way, Kim wouldn’t have to struggle against whether or not to have more candy and instead she could focus on enjoying her cupcake. Because Kim really likes candy, we also decided that she didn’t have to deprive herself of all candy – she just wouldn’t have any on that day because she was eating so many other delicious things. We also planned that post-Easter she would buy her favorite Easter candy (on sale!) and she enjoyed it even more the day after, when she could really appreciate it.   When Kim was tempted by the candy on Easter, she was able to tell herself, “I don’t need to have this now, I’m going to have some tomorrow, instead. Besides, I’m having a cupcake today.”

6. Kim made sure to eat everything sitting down, slowly, and mindfully.  By doing so, Kim told me that she was able feel very satisfied (even though she was eating less than previous years) because she really took time to savor and enjoy every bite that she ate. She also didn’t feel guilty about what she was eating, which made the food taste better.

7. Kim didn’t take home any leftovers.  Kim knew that it might be difficult for her to control herself if she had lots of Easter leftovers lurking in her refrigerator, so she decided that his year she just wouldn’t take any home, thus eliminating the potential struggle altogether.  Kim reminded herself that if there was something there she really liked, she could either wait until next year to have it again, OR make it for herself at some point in the near future.   It wasn’t as if she either had to have it right then, or she’d never get it again.

To sum up her day, this is what Kim told me:  “At the end of the day, I felt great. I didn’t feel deprived about what I didn’t eat, because I did get to enjoy good food, and instead I really did feel proud and happy about staying in control and following my plan. I was surprised that I also didn’t struggle much because I just knew, ‘If it’s not on my plan, I’m not having it.’  It made the day so much better.”

The Year In Review

Over the past year on the Beck Diet Solution Blog, we’ve written about many topics dealing with everything related to dieting/healthy eating, losing weight, and keeping weight off.  In case you missed any of them, or if you’re dealing with some issue in particular and want a quick reference of articles to read on that topic, we’ve broken down some of the posts we’ve written from the past year into separate categories.

Cravings
In Session with Deborah: Do Cravings Really Go Away?
Ask the Diet Program Coordinator: Sugar Cravings
A Peek Inside a Diet Session: Cravings

Getting Back on Track
In Session with Deborah: Green Days
Ask the Diet Program Coordinator: Getting Back on Track Today
Ask the Diet Program Coordinator: Getting Back on Track

Dealing with treats
Ask the Diet Program Coordinator: Office Treats
In Session with Deborah: I Deserve a Treat
In Session with Deborah: Tempting Treats

Response Cards
In Session with Deborah: Reviewing Response Cards
How to Write Response Cards

Getting through Hard Times
5 Strategies to Get Through Hard Times
Ask the Diet Program Coordinator

Eating Out
In Session with Deborah: The French Fry Plan
In Session with Deborah: The Hangover Effect

Motivation
In Session with Deborah: Regaining Focus
Ask the Diet Program Coordinator: Staying Motivated

Making a plan
Components of a Thanksgiving Plan
In Session with Deborah: Making a Food Plan
In Session with Deborah: Birthday Plan

Going on Vacation
In Session with Deborah: Vacation Goals
A Peek Inside a Diet Session: Going on Vacation

If you have any questions or topics you’d like to see covered on our blog, please email us: dietprogram@beckinstitute.org.  Stay tuned for more in 2013!

In Session with Deborah: The French Fry Plan

This week I had a session with my dieter, Sarah.  Although in recent weeks Sarah has been doing well with her dieting skills, she told me that one food in particular keeps tripping her up: french fries.  Sarah has two young children and she and her family often go out to eat. Sarah told me that she usually goes into meals with the plan of not having any french fries, but more often than not ends up eating some off of her kids’ plates.  Sarah told me that most children’s meals in restaurants come with french fries, and since her kids never finish what’s on their plates, the fries call out to Sarah until she eventually gives in and eats some.

When Sarah came to see me she was feeling distressed because, although she knew continually overeating fries was a problem, she didn’t know how to control herself around them.  The first thing I discussed with Sarah is that she needs a French Fry Plan – she needs to plan in advance whether or not she’s going to have fries each time she eats out.  I reminded Sarah that since she really likes fries, it’s not reasonable to expect that she’ll never eat any.  The goal isn’t to never eat fries; rather it’s to plan in advance when she’s going to have them and when she’s not so she’s able to stay in control. This way, she doesn’t have to sit through meals looking at fries and struggling about whether or not to give in and have some, because the decision will already be made.

I also discussed with Sarah that during the meals when she plans to have fries, it’s crucial to order her own fries separately. Even if the meal she orders doesn’t come with fries and her kids’ meals do, she still needs to get her own side order. The reason for this is so that Sarah can start sending herself the message that it’s never okay to eat fries off her kids’ plates. If she’s going to eat fries, it means that she eats her own fries.  This is important because if Sarah some of the time allows herself to eat her kids’ fries (and there leaves the possibility of doing so open), then they will continue to call out to her, even during meals when she’s planned to not have any.  If Sarah has the rule, “I never eat fries off my kids’ plates,” then it will be much easier to resist every time they eat out because she won’t have to even consider (and therefore struggle about) whether or not to have some of theirs.  Sarah and I discussed the fact that, while this may end up costing her a few extra dollars, it’s 100% worth it because it will drastically reduce her french fry struggle (not to mention helping Sarah reach her enormously important weight loss goals).

I then asked Sarah what sabotaging thoughts she is likely to have during the meals when she hasn’t planned to have fries but is tempted to do so. Sarah said that some of the thoughts she may have are, “I’ll just have one. One won’t matter,” and “I really like fries and I just want to eat them.”

In response to these sabotaging thoughts, Sarah made the following Response Cards:

French Fry 1RC french fries 2

By the end of session, Sarah had a very clear plan of how to deal with her french fry troubles.  Here are the steps of her plan:

1.  Always plan in advance whether or not to eat fries at any given meal.

2. When I am going to have fries, make sure to order my own.

3. Remember – the fries on my kids’ plates are completely off limits. I just never eat them.

4. Read my French Fry Response Cards before meals when I haven’t planned to have fries.

5. Enjoy meals out even more because I’ll no longer be struggling about whether or not to eat the fries on my kids’ plates.

Components of a Thanksgiving Plan

If you’ve read our newsletter, our Daily Diet Solutions, or past blog postings, then you probably know that we are strong advocates of having dieters make a plan for potentially difficult situations, like events, vacations, and holidays.  We push for this because we’ve found, time and again, that when dieters have a plan (even if it’s a general one), they almost always do better than when they have no plan at all and have to continually make spontaneous decisions about whether or not to eat something. Spontaneous decisions are often the hardest to control because they require a lot of on-the-spot thinking and self-discipline.  Any decisions you make ahead of time (like whether or not to have dessert, and if so, how much) means you don’t have to expend the mental energy and willpower in the moment deciding what to do. 

If you’re going to make a Thanksgiving plan this year, consider adding the following components:

Practice good eating habits.  Especially during days when you’re spending a lot of time cooking and have food around you all day, it’s extremely easy to take in hundreds of extra calories by just grabbing a bite here and there.  You can really cut down on this type of extraneous eating by continuing to make it a point to eat everything sitting down, slowly, and mindfully. This may mean that you’re pulled away from your preparations briefly, but isn’t it worth it if it means you’ll actually get to enjoy what you’re eating and feel so much more satisfied?

Exercise. Even if you’re very busy on Thanksgiving Day, it maybe worth it to figure out, in advance, where you can carve out 15 minutes or half an hour for exercise.  The point of this is less about calorie burning (although that is a good benefit), but more about taking some time for yourself during a busy day. It can also be an excellent stress reliever!

Thanksgiving Dinner.  Obviously any good Thanksgiving plan will include what you will actually eat for Thanksgiving dinner. If you know what’s going to be served, then you can make a specific plan to have x amount of Turkey, salad, stuffing, potatoes, etc.  If you don’t know what’s going to be served, then you can make a more general plan: x amount of Turkey, x amounts of 3 to 5 different side dishes, etc.

Set a range for alcohol/caloric beverages.  It’s perfectly reasonable to plan to have alcohol/caloric beverages during Thanksgiving, but it’s important to decide in advance what your limit is so that you don’t go overboard. Consider setting a range for the day, such as planning to have 0 to 2 glasses of wine.

Decide about dessert.  Again, it’s reasonable to have dessert on Thanksgiving, but decide in advance how much you’re going to have.  If you know exactly what’s going to be served, then you can make a more specific plan, like “Have one small piece of pumpkin pie and one small piece of pecan pie.” If you don’t know what’s going to be served, your plan can be more general: “Have one bigger portion of dessert or 2 to 3 small portions.”

Don’t go back for moreAnother helpful guideline to have during Thanksgiving is committing in advance to not having any seconds.  If you plan a reasonable Thanksgiving dinner and then go back for more, you’ll likely end up feeling overly full.  This year, if you want to avoid that uncomfortable feeling (and avoid possible weight gain), decide in advance what seconds, if any, you’re going to have.  That way, after you finish eating, you don’t have to struggle to decide whether or not to go back for more because the decision will have already been made.

Think about the rest of the day.  Since you likely won’t be eating Thanksgiving dinner until midafternoon or later, it’s important to think about what you’re going to eat before dinner begins.  Many dieters find it helpful to plan in advance what to have for breakfast and lunch (and it may be smaller than normal breakfasts and lunches), and then make sure they take time to sit down and eat what they have planned.  This way they don’t take in too many calories early in the day but they aren’t starving, either.