Surviving Thanksgiving

Though I can’t believe it’s already here, I woke up this morning feeling excited of the week to come. Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays…a day to spend with family and the kickoff to one of my favorite times of year. Yet, in my job as a Health Coach and Personal Trainer, I’ve noticed that Thanksgiving either represents a really difficult day for those who are trying to “stay on track” with nutrition goals, or it becomes that start of “giving up” until after the holidays. I get tons of questions from my clients every year about surviving Thanksgiving without undoing all of the hard work they’ve put into training and nutrition, so I decided to jot down a few of my favorite tips…

But first, we must face the facts. Though not true for everyone, there are some downright startling statistics out there about what the average person consumes on Thanksgiving:

  •  On average, we consume 4,500 calories on Thanksgiving Day
  • 229 grams of fat are also consumed
  • One slice of pecan pie averages 503 calories. You don’t want to know the fat content
  • And sweet potato casserole: 460 calories per serving. In a side dish…yikes!

The average weight gain between Thanksgiving and New Years is 3-7 lbs. every year.

Ok, I’m done scaring you (and myself) now. And I would never want my clients to think that Thanksgiving is not a day to be enjoyed, and to be a little indulgent. But, after all the work you’ve put in to lose weight, get fit, change your eating habits, there are a few simple strategies to try this year:

  • Surviving Thanksgiving starts with a workout. Plan a really good workout on Wednesday and even on Thursday morning. It’ll make you feel good when you’re wearing that new outfit on Thursday, it will remind you of how far you’ve come, and it never hurts to burn a few extra calories when you know you’ll be indulging soon.
  • Make Thanksgiving dinner a meal, not a day. Eat a light breakfast and lunch/snack before you go out. Skip the appetizers. Stay hydrated. And enjoy that dinner!
  • If you are hungry before dinner is served, stick to fruits and veggies. Bring a healthy appetizer to share if you know dinner is served later and you’ll be hungry.
  • I’m a big fan of bringing a healthy side dish (translation: veggies), that haven’t been cooked in a ton of oil, butter or salt. Make veggies half of your plate…don’t worry, you’ll still have room for the good stuff.
  • Back to the sweet potato casserole. Personally, I’m such a lover of sweet potatoes, I’ve never understood adding an abundance of sugar/marshmellows/butter to them. But, if that’s how they’re prepared at your family meal, do me a favor and remove the marshmellows.
  • Thanksgiving is a nearly impossible time to limit carbs, but atleast keep it in control. Follow the “My Plate” guidelines by keeping carbs to approximately 1/4 of your plate. Either choose stuffing or mashed potatoes and save the other for leftovers the next day, or have a little of both…just make sure they stay in one quarter of your plate. (Reminder: piling up doesn’t count as staying to one quarter of the plate).
  • Speaking of exercise, round up some friends or family for a walk after dinner. My family has done this for several years, and I have to say, everyone enjoys it…husbands, kids, even Grandma. Or, there’s always the quick football game after dinner has been digested.
  • Choose white meat over dark. You know this one.
  • Drink a full glass of water in between alcholic drinks/apple cider/eggnog. It will cut down significantly on calories and might even fill you up so dessert isn’t as tempting.
  • And onto dessert…I promise, this is not the last time you’ll ever see dessert again. Plan as well in advance as you need to, and choose one to indulge in. It almost never works that you save calories when you have “a little of this” and “a bite of this.” You’ll eat more than if you stuck to one choice. My recommendation: take a reasonable slice of pumpkin pie and your drink of choice and step away from the dessert buffet. For good. If snacking is difficult for you, don’t choose cleaning up the dessert table as the time you volunteer to help. Why torture yourself?
  • After you’ve enjoyed your meal/drinks/desserts, enjoy time with family. Don’t feel guilty, but don’t think that eating more than usual at one meal means you should just give yourself the free pass for the day. Instead, focus on family and friends. Enjoy a group game, watch football or head out on another walk.
  • Plan ahead for an awesome workout the next day. Make a plan to meet a friend at the gym, go for a walk as soon as you wake up, sign up for a yoga class to de-stress after Black Friday shopping. Get back on track ASAP and realize that you don’t have to gain weight to enjoy the holiday season.

So, read these strategies over. Re-read them. Choose 2-3 and commit to them. I promise, you’ll still enjoy the holiday and you’ll feel a lot better come Friday morning.

A very happy Thanksgiving to you and yours…






Archana from Boston, MA

I have been working with Jessica Reynolds for the past four months and in that time, I have gained strength and lost weight. I have never truly pushed myself physically or even been too excited about working out. It has always been a means to an end. But ever since I started working with Jessica, I am not only excited to workout but have also seen great strides in my ability to do exercises I never thought possible. Recently she decided that I should try to run a 5K (something I thought was impossible) and has been preparing me slowly. I am running more than I probably ever have in my life. Jessica is a tiny little person and is very sweet but can also be a bit of a scary Sergeant.  It’s like she always knows what I need, whether it be tough love or understanding. But always very encouraging and motivating. Her workouts are the perfect balance between challenging and fun. Initially, my only reason for getting a personal trainer was to lose weight; I had no idea all the other great things that would come with it. I have more energy, my mood is better, I feel healthier, I am eating better and of course I am also losing weight.