Losing weight is challenging enough.
But keeping weight off when your options are turkey, dressing and your grandma's pecan pie? No way.
Thanksgiving is the start of a festival of eating, and the beginning of a lengthy challenge for people trying to lose weight or sustain weight loss.
Karen Massey, a dietitian at Integris Health, answered a few questions about how Oklahomans can enjoy the holidays, despite obstacles in their diets.
How should people approach dieting during the holidays?
During the holidays, it might be easier to focus on sustaining a weight, rather than continued weight loss during the holidays, she said.
That way, you don't gain weight, but you also allow yourself a few more calories here or there.
It's also important to remember portion control. Massey said she generally recommends filling half your plate with fruits and vegetables, saving a corner for starch and another corner for protein. This can help you make better choices about what you will eat.
“You're particularly looking for the items you're treating yourself with and skipping over the things that are going to be at every potluck dinner,” she said.
What are some ways people can set themselves up for success?
Preplanning is important. As silly as it might sound, it's helpful to make a mental picture of what you're going to eat before the meal. Holiday menus are generally the same for most families, so pick out what your favorite things are and how you'll fill your plate with them.
“If you've already planned and given yourself complete permission to eat it, then when it's all over, you've stuck with your plan and feel proud that you've stuck with your plan,” she said. “Even if your plan was a few more calories than you normally allow, you've made a reasonable plan and you stood with it. Be proud of that.”
It can also be helpful to bring a healthy option, such as a veggie tray or salad. This ensures that you will have fresh vegetables to eat — and someone else from your family likely will appreciate it, she said.
Also, focus on the menu items that are important to you, family traditions that you don't usually get to eat.
“There are all kinds of commercial candies and treats that mean nothing,” Massey said. “They've only been around the past decade and can't possibly have deep-rooted meanings in your family. That's the stuff I'd shirk.”
What are common mistakes people make?
Some people try not eating for several hours or even 72 hours before Thanksgiving. That can backfire.
Don't skip breakfast, but also, keep in mind what you eat for breakfast.
“It would probably be a better day for some yogurt and fruit, something light, but don't skip,” she said.
Skipping breakfast can lead to illogical rationalizations, thinking you've saved yourself more calories than you actually have.
“In your mind, you can think you can save 300 calories of breakfast, and then strangely that justifies 900 calories of pie later on because you didn't eat breakfast,” Massey said. “The arithmetic doesn't work.”
Massey has taught weight loss classes for more than 30 years and noticed among her patients that sometimes their Thanksgiving meal wasn't the worst meal they had that week.
It was Black Friday when they went shopping and ate breakfast, lunch and dinner at restaurants with menus full of high-calorie options.
“At the end of that day, their meals were 2,500 calories more than the Thanksgiving meal ever was,” she said.