These tips will make you feel less guilty on Thanksgiving

Holiday meals are tough on diets, but there are ways to get around the endless temptations.

Several years ago, I decided to stay on track with my healthy, disciplined eating right through our family Thanksgiving feast, and not go one smidgen off course. I had enough willpower to eat only white meat, no gravy, a dollop of stuffing, no mashed potatoes, a giant pile of steamed broccoli, and one bite of someone else’s dessert. And damned if I did not succeed.

Awesome, right?

It was the worst. I spent hours fretting about what I could and could not eat. I tried to steer clear of the kitchen to avoid temptation. I even went outside to escape the aromas. A holiday I normally spent embracing life, family and delicious food, I instead spent being stressed out, abstaining and feeling deprived.

Equally demoralizing (probably more so) is doing the exact opposite: On more Thanksgivings than I care to admit, I damn near ate myself into a coma. I gobbled down everything in sight until my stomach was distended. I ended up comatose on the couch, feeling like I was digesting a bowling ball.

So how do we handle the endless temptation and enormous portions of fattening foods that are presented to us each year at this time? I recommend the following:

Get rid of the all-or-nothing mentality. Either one will lead to a disappointing Thanksgiving. Whether you are refraining from eating anything “bad” or gorging yourself silly, the end result is frustration.

Don’t get snockered. By all means, imbibe in some fine wine, a quality cocktail (I’ll take a dry gin martini, please), a shot of Wild Turkey, whatever does it for you — but limit yourself. There is a definite link between consuming alcohol and overeating, and we all know that good judgment and self-control go out the window when we’re plastered. Furthermore, you’ll likely blow off Friday morning’s workout thanks to the rotten hangover you’ll be dealing with.

Make yourself this promise. You can eat whatever you want and enjoy every bite without guilt, on one condition — you will stop when you are full. Minimal damage is done this way. Yes, you might consume extra calories, but not enough to cause lasting weight gain. Put small amounts of everything on your plate, then go for seconds — even thirds — if you are still hungry. Heaping 2,000 calories worth of food onto your dish pretty much ensures a gut bomb, as we tend to eat everything set in front of us.

Slow down. The food isn’t going anywhere, unless you wolf it down in minutes, in which case it will likely end up on your hips and belly. Take your time eating. The pumpkin pie will still be there in an hour or two; no need to cram a wedge into your stomach immediately after a full dinner.

Save it for later. If you are a guest at someone’s Thanksgiving dinner table, let them know you are too full for the triple-berry cheesecake, but would love a slice to enjoy later. I have never been turned down on this request. On the contrary, most hosts are happy to be relieved of leftovers.

Exercise, exercise, exercise. Staying active is so important through the holiday season. Blowing off workouts to shop or party can easily lead to weight gain and overeating, creating a vicious cycle that is hard to break. Stay the course with your workouts, and make time for them.

Above all, enjoy yourself. Don’t let fear of overeating ruin what is meant to be a wonderful occasion. And, if you go into it with the right attitude and still binge, well, it happens. We are human, and even with the best of intentions, we go off-course. Ditch the self-judgment and loathing, don’t starve yourself the week after — that will surely backfire. Let it go, and resume your healthy lifestyle.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Count your blessings, cherish your loved ones — and please, love your body. It is the most glorious instrument you will ever own.

Catherine Bongiorno is a personal trainer, nutritional therapist and owner of Lift To Lose Fitness & Nutrition. Email her at or visit for more information.

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