According to the New England Journal of Medicine, when the dust settles from the holidays, the average American will have gained a single pound that they will never lose. Over 10 years, those 10 new pounds come with a measurable increase in cholesterol, blood pressure, heart attack risk, and cancer risk. Ten added pounds also comes with a measurable decrease in lifespan and sex drive.
You don’t have to do permanent damage to your health to enjoy this special time with your family. It’s traditionally referred to as Thanksgiving Dinner. Dinner. Singular. As in one meal. In my opinion, if we all held ourselves to that, the impact on our health wouldn’t be so easily measured.
If you want to eat Thanksgiving food like everyone else, here one potential approach:
Get one full sized dinner plate. Put as much of whatever you want on it. Wait. Stop. Bruh... Not so much that it’s literally falling off the sides. Mom already has enough cleaning to do. Ok. go sit down next to your uncle and listen to him rant about politics. Eat all of your food while you pretend to agree with him. Now go grab a salad plate. Get one big piece of your favorite dessert. The correct choice is pecan pie with vanilla ice cream and if anyone tells you different they’re a terrorist.
Now stop. You’ve just enjoyed a cheat meal. You can resume your healthy lifestyle and focus on enjoying family and football. It doesn’t have to be a cheat day or a cheat weekend or a cheat “I’ll get serious on January 1st”. That kind of self justification and acceptance of mediocrity is the kind of thinking that got you where you started. Despite Grandma’s incessant demands to eat leftovers, this meal doesn’t have to turn into 4 straight days of dunking rolls into ranch dressing between naps.
It varies significantly but repairing the damage done from this meal should only take one or two days of nailing your macros and getting in some good training sessions. Based on my experience, these are the times it takes to “recover” back to your where you were before falling off of the wagon:
Cheat Meal: 1 day
Cheat Day: 3 days
Cheat Weekend: 6 days
Cheat Week: 3 weeks
Now let me add this: It’s entirely possible to stay on my nutrition program and still have a wonderful meal with your family on Thanksgiving Day. I have done it more than once on major holidays and if you didn't know about me or my program, you wouldn't even be able to notice that I still nailed my targets.
I wake up at 5:00 am, go to the gym, train hard, and have a couple scoops of whey protein afterward. When everyone sits down to eat together I'll have a big plate of food that includes a heavy portion of any available veggies and protein as well as some of the "fun" foods. I also enjoy a small desert. Around dinner time I will have another protein shake.
I end the day under my caloric target and hit my macros. Most of my family doesn't even notice. There's nothing wrong with being at a point in your training that your goals are more important to you than a second plate of food or trying some of every dessert.
If your goals are your priority and adhering to a program is more appealing to you than a food baby, THEN DO IT! Don’t you dare let the selfish insecurities of others make you feel guilty for being exceptional for one second.
Don’t let occasions/holidays scare you. Learning to navigate them is an absolute necessity. Weekends, birthdays, championship games, holidays, etc. are a part of the puzzle. With all the nonsense we celebrate these days, about half of your life is going to be spent facing situations and temptations outside of your typical groove. If you haven’t already heard it a million times, Murphy's law states "whatever can go wrong, will go wrong." If you’re on a nutrition plan, you’re going to fall off of it at some point. It’s a fact.
Success is all a matter of developing the discipline to fall off less often but equally important is learning to get back on it quicker and quicker!
Think of your relationship with food like a smart phone. Letting a cheat meal turn into a cheat day, a cheat week, or just quitting is the equivalent of dropping your phone, noticing a small scuff on the corner of it, and stomping on it until the screen is shattered and it won’t turn on.
What an immature response to a tiny little bump in the road. Wipe the dirt off of that thing and take care of it!