Game Time: You vs. Thanksgiving

Are you prepared to take on Thanksgiving this year? No, I’m not talking about all the planning, the cooking, the family drama, and the overall stress of the season. That’s a whole other ballgame. What I want to know is if you are ready to do what it takes to prevent the holidays from derailing your fitness goals. Haven’t thought about that yet? Well, chew on this: the average American consumes 4,500 calories on Thanksgiving Day! Um, that’s more than two days worth of calories, and the negative impact of overindulging during Thanksgiving can lead to an unhealthy holiday season. So, let’s talk strategy.

I’ve got a realistic game plan for you this year that starts today, so you can truly enjoy your holiday and not feel guilty for being a bit indulgent when surrounded by family and friends.


Pre-Game Tip #1: Extra Calorie Burn

While it might seem like you’re gaining time by skipping your workout this week, you risk gaining extra weight from the big meal on Thursday if you don’t adjust your overall weekly calorie burn. Instead, ramp it up! Follow your normal exercise routine adding 10 extra minutes of the 5 simple moves below each day. Following the routine below Monday-Thursday will give you an additional calorie burn of up to 600 calories! Extra slice of pie with whipped cream? I think so.

Ready to burn 100-150 calories? Do as many reps of each exercise without stopping for one minute. Transition to the next exercise in 10 seconds or less and repeat the whole series!

Exercise #1 Jumping jacks with dumbbells

Exercise #2 Bent arm plank, transfer to straight arm plank, add a pushup

Exercise #3 Moving squat hops

Exercise #4 Mountain climb 10 times, add a pushup

Exercise #5 Alternating back lunge with shoulder raise

Pre-Game Tip #2: Lower Your Calorie Intake

Starting on Monday, pick one meal per day to cut in half. For example, if you’re usually eating a whole sandwich for lunch, eat half. Having two tacos? Try just one. These small cuts can save you a few hundred calories each day and really add up before the weekend! Remember though, you should never dip below 1,800 calories (men) or 1,200 calories (women) daily in order to keep your metabolic rate regular.

Game Time: Thanksgiving Day

Alright, you’ve worked hard all week to get here, and you’re ready for some fun and relaxation. That’s fabulous, but don’t let down your guard. Think of Thanksgiving as your game day. Here’s your game plan:

1st Quarter: Focus on Fundamentals

You might think that starving yourself all day will help offset that mega calorie bomb you’re about to ingest. WRONG! You’ll be miserable all morning and end of stuffing your face without enjoying the food. Instead, stick to the basics: eat a balanced breakfast and drink extra water throughout the day.

2nd Quarter: Avoid a False Start

Most Thanksgiving meals are going to include snacks and appetizers. Before diving in, scan and plan. Look at the spread and decide on the small bites that are special for this meal. A cheese cube? Skip it. You can have that any day. A traditional family dish? Go for it, and think “three and out.” Limit yourself to three bites, and remind yourself that you have lots of foods to try today.

3rd Quarter: Control the Game

When you control your portion sizes, you stay in charge of your whole eating game. The easiest strategy is simple: fill half of your plate with vegetables and eat them first. You will feel fuller and be less likely to overdo eating the most calorie-dense foods like sauces, gravies, and starches.

Here’s a quick guide to keep your portions in check:

  • 3 oz. of meat, fish and poultry = deck of cards
  • 1/2 cup mashed potatoes = 1/2 of a baseball
  • 1/4 cup gravy = about the size of a golf ball
  • 1/2 cup of stuffing = 1/2 baseball
  • 1 cup of green beans = baseball
  • 1/4 cup cranberry sauce = about the size of a golf ball
  • 1 piece of cornbread = bar of soap
  • 1 teaspoon butter = 1 dice
  • 1/8 of a 9-inch pie = about the size of a standard light bulb

4th Quarter: Pay Attention to Pacing & Avoid An Overtime Situation!

You’ve heard it before: slow down when you eat. Savor each bite, take in the conversation around you, and enjoy the time off from your usual routine. Pacing yourself will help avoid overeating and leave you feeling more satisfied with your meal. Once your meal is over, back away from the table! Loading up on seconds, picking at bits of leftovers, or snacking for the next few hours isn’t necessary. Your body has the nutrients it needs from the meal, so don’t make it work in overtime to digest even more food. Time for your victory dance!

Post-Game Recovery

You did it! You conquered Thanksgiving…almost. Yesterday was the holiday, so it’s time to move on and not let Thanksgiving become a holiweekend. High-fat and high-sugar meals like Thanksgiving dinner coupled with extra alcohol consumption will always lead to an increase in gut inflammation and toxins in your body. Just like post-workout stretching is essential to any strong exercise program, nutritional recovery strategies after any indulgent feasting will help rid your body of toxins and curb future sugar cravings. Check out these ideas for getting back on track quickly:

Get up. Get moving.

Whether your Black Friday is full of early morning shopping or more family time, find a way to sneak in some exercise! If you’re shopping, try wearing your workout clothes and tennis shoes to move comfortably and quickly. In between stores, walk briskly and sneak in some extra arm curls with those shopping bags. If you are hanging with family and friends, get outside! Plan your own turkey trot walk/run, take a group bike ride, or go run with the dogs at your dog park.

Eat. Yes, eat.

Feeling bloated in the morning usually makes us want to skip breakfast. Nope. Eat a light, balanced breakfast and think green for the rest of the day! For lunch, grab a crunchy, veggie-filled salad topped with lean protein, and for dinner, make sure vegetables are the highlight of your meal. Your body will thank you tomorrow.

Drink smarter.

Water, water, water. I know, when you are full, you just don’t feel like chugging the agua. Sorry, but it’s your fastest road to recovery. Add in some green juice and/pr green tea throughout the day for an antioxidant punch. For some extra debloating, try nettle or dandelion tea. Both are diuretics. Can’t wait for the water to boil? Mix 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar (we like an organic version with “the mother”) with 8 ounces of filtered water, and voila! The magic drink to beat the most severe sluggishness and bloat.

You-1. Thanksgiving-0.

What other tips do you have to beat out the holiday weight gain? We would love to hear your comments!




Shandi Rooney is a group fitness instructor and private trainer in Scottsdale, Arizona. She currently teaches at the Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia, and she offers small group interval training by appointment. For more information, call 480-652-6499.

Find StudioMixx classes at:

Follow Shandi on Instagram: @studiomixxaz

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