pumpkinpieTurkey, stuffing, and pie…oh my!  We have all been there, secretly unbuttoning the top button of our pants while moaning that we’ll never eat that much again. Some of us head out to Thanksgiving dinner wardrobe equipped with an elastic waistband, only to realize that after dinner it doesn’t matter, and that elastic is starting to pinch. (And no one should ever wear sweats to turkey dinner, no matter how casual your family is.)

It’s the food hangover that is Thanksgiving (or Christmas, or Easter, or any major holiday that involves eating, which, just so we are clear, is every holiday). Thanksgiving seems to be the worst though. That golden brown bird, perfectly carved is too good to pass up. And look at those mashed potatoes! They always need more butter. Where is the butter? Oh right there, next to the stuffing.  Two kinds?  We’ll try both please. Even those of us that are semi-disciplined healthy eaters go off the rails at Thanksgiving.

Here are some simple tips to help you to have a sane, food-coma free holiday season. And if by chance you end up waking the next day with a turkey wing beneath your pillow and have no idea how it got there, here’s a bit of advice on how not to hate yourself the morning after.

1. Pre-Game. If you are going to someone’s house or out to a restaurant all the advice givers (aka-kill joys) will tell you: Eat a big lunch of healthy vegetables or things that fill you up.  It’s true. It works.

2. Hydrate. Drink water and lots of it. It makes you feel full. You’ll eat less. Pretty simple.

3. Carry-Out. No hostess worth his or her apron is going to turn you away if you bring your own containers. In fact, they’ll love it. You never get those things back anyway.  Dish a normal portion and when you back your chair away from the table to get seconds, grab those containers and load ’em up. This also saves the host/hostess from binging on leftover stuffing at 3am. Everybody wins.

4. Potatoes exist all year. Remember that any food you eat on any holiday doesn’t magically disappear into thin air until the next holiday rolls around. You love mashed potatoes? Make them next Tuesday. The only food that takes the longest to prepare is the turkey and hey…you can get that at any good supermarket prepared foods section. I think one of the reasons people over-eat at holidays is we’ve tricked ourselves into believing this is the one and only day food like this is made.

5. Save room for dessert. No, really…save room for it. How enjoyable is that piece of pumpkin pie if you are choking it down on top of an already bursting at the seams tummy? OK, fine, it’s still good. Just not as good as it could be if there was some actual real estate in your gut. Again, get up for seconds and put those seconds in your to-go box.

6. Walk it off. Some families actually have a tradition of going for a walk after the meal, but this is often so they can “clear room” for round two.  Not sure how that works physically (it doesn’t), but the idea is good. Start that tradition with your crew. Even just a short brisk walk creates some bonding time and burns some calories.

7.  Be kind to yourself.  Try to plan ahead and schedule a session with a trainer if you have one, or take a class, or plan a run or hike for the following day. Perhaps team up with someone so you are accountable.  And what if all of your best-laid plans are ultimately thwarted by that evil-mastermind Gravy Boat? Or what if  the button on your pants pops itself free and shatters a window? (That’s why you should bring a belt.)  Ultimately don’t beat yourself up. It’s just one day.  Go back to eating healthy meals the next day.  Depression usually leads to more eating, and you can’t afford to lose any more pants.

Happy Holidays!

Jessica Kuiken is a Los Angeles based Pilates instructor. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram

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