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November 08, 2023 7 min read

Thanksgiving is a time for gratitude, spending time with family, and, of course, feasting. This cherished holiday, synonymous with indulgent meals and delectable sweet treats, can present unique challenges for fitness enthusiasts. Do you know of any other holiday that is most associated with the meal served at dinner?

Nonetheless, don't punish yourself by not enjoying all the good things about Thanksgiving. With the right strategies and a bit of self-discipline, it's possible to savor the flavors of Thanksgiving without straying from your fitness goals.

In this article, we will explore effective strategies to help you maintain your lean physique during the holiday season, ensuring that Thanksgiving is a time for both celebration and fitness success. As long as you push the pause button on weight loss and muscle building for a few days, and aim to maintain instead.

Fitness Maintenance Strategies

Thanksgiving is a period of celebration, not to be overshadowed by concern over the prospect of losing your gains just because you’re not checking into the gym for a couple of days. Remember that your holiday plans aren’t going to prevent you from staying active.

Science supports the idea that you can go several weeks without dedicated training, without losing the vast majority of your muscle gains. The available scientific evidence seems to indicate that replacing your regular training with even very low amounts of physical activity can go a long way toward preserving muscle for up to three weeks

Perhaps the most significant point to bear in mind is that physical activity is intended to enhance one's life, rather than compete with it. You’re under no obligation to hit the track or the weights while you’re on vacation and spending valuable time with your loved ones. There is no shame in enjoying Thanksgiving without the barbell looming overhead—not even in your mind.

Travel Time Strategies

Cramped in airplane

It is evident from the crowded airports and train and bus stations during the Thanksgiving holiday that a significant number of individuals travel during this time, more than during the Christmas and New Year holidays. People spend considerable time confined to uncomfortable seats while traveling to spend quality time with their loved ones and friends.

Keeping yourself locked in a specific, often uncomfortable, crammed posture for an extended period of time can be taxing on your muscles. If you have time to do bodyweight exercises during your long travel day, use it to break up the monotony and get some blood flowing.

Come armed with a plan for a brief calisthenics-based circuit that will engage your muscles, elevate your heart rate, and provide much-needed head-to-toe circulation, thereby preventing any discomfort in your body.

Find a restroom with enough space for you to do the short routine for five minutes or less if you're not comfortable doing it in public.

Do the following back-to-back without resting in between:

  1. 10 paces per leg of walking lunges

  2. 10 to 20 pushups

  3. 10 dead bug reps per leg

  4. 30 seconds of high knees

You should repeat this quick routine during subsequent leg-stretching periods on your trip.

Furthermore, avoid crashing into bed immediately after reaching your destination. Instead, spend 5 to 10 minutes doing dynamic stretching, which will help to bring life back to your limbs and muscles after a long trip.

Activity Strategies for a Healthy Thanksgiving Weekend

Family Walk

Finding creative ways to be active during Thanksgiving downtime can help you maintain a healthy weight and fitness.

If the weather permits, organize events to do with your family and friends. Be creative and set up some yard games that will involve all ages. Arrange a family football game or let the kids help you set up a themed field day with different events and even prizes.

Most importantly, make time for exercise in the morning before Thanksgiving festivities commence. Organize a family walk, go for a run, do a video workout, or do a planned strength or cardio workout.

Equally important is taking another walk after the Thanksgiving meal to help burn more calories and boost your metabolic rate. According to the American Diabetes Association, physical activity may be an important component of weight maintenance.

It takes an average person about 20 minutes to walk a mile, and a 30-minute mild-pace walk after a meal could help burn up to 150 calories or more.

Strategies to Maintain Your Waistline

It takes loads of willpower and self-control not to jeopardize your trim waistline when presented with a traditional Thanksgiving feast. Here’s a list of strategies that may limit the harm done by overindulging.

Be Prepared

Be wise by cutting back a bit on the meals you have on the days leading up to Thanksgiving. Hosting means you'll be in charge of what's served and how it's prepared. However, not all the guests at Thanksgiving dinner will be as determined as you to keep it healthy. You should cater to everyone, from those who care about their health and fitness to those who don't.

If you're a guest, be prepared to be selective. Set your limits in advance and expect remarks about what and how much is on your plate, so have your response ready.

Eat Breakfast

Healthy Breakfast

The worst thing you can do is to show up hungry. There's nothing that puts willpower and smart decisions on the back burner quicker than hunger. Eat a balanced, protein-rich, healthy breakfast to curb your appetite before the big meal.

You might even want to work in a Pumpkin Spice Pure Vegan Protein shake to curb cravings!

Stay Accountable

It's bound to be tough, so, share your fitness goals with a friend or family member to help you stay on track and protect you from peer pressure.

Stay Hydrated

Make sure you drink plenty of water throughout the day to help you feel full and control your appetite. Water will also help flush out your body and alleviate bloating, as many of the dishes served at Thanksgiving are high in sodium.

Avoid Mindless Snacking

Choose snacks that offer a balance of nutrients while still being festive for Thanksgiving. Steer clear of calorie-laden snacks and head for the fresh veggie platter with hummus or another low-fat dip. Or fruits like grapes, berries, and apple slices with a Greek yogurt dip.

Whatever you choose, avoid tempting snacks served with rich dips like ranch dressing or mayo. Whole-grain tortilla chips with salsa and fresh guacamole and a small bowl of mixed nuts are also safe if eaten in moderation.

Limit the Drinks

Alcoholic Drinks

Be cautious with high-calorie beverages like alcohol, soda, and sugary cocktails.

Some studies suggest that alcohol stimulates appetite.

Furthermore, it seems to have the ability to let most people forget all their good intentions.

A 5-ounce glass of wine has about 125 calories, but you can have an equally refreshing drink by mixing half the wine and half sparkling water and adding a slice of lime for half the alcohol and half the calories.

Stay away from creamy drinks and colorful, juicy drinks; choose simple drinks with recognizable ingredients.

Beer can be a problem, as those who enjoy it typically drink multiple bottles of beer throughout the day. However, there are only 110 calories in one bottle of beer, so, if your willpower is strong enough, one beer won't do too much damage to your waistline.

Starters and Appetizers

Focus on the fresh options when selecting your appetizers. Avoid fried hors d’oeuvres and hone in on healthier picks like stuffed mushrooms, deviled eggs, fresh boiled shrimp with lemon, or fresh seasonal fruits or vegetables with hummus.

Portion Control

Choose a smaller plate when dishing up your meal. There have been several studies suggesting people tend to underestimate the quantity of food when it is presented on a large plate or, conversely, overestimate the quantity when it is presented on a small plate. This is called  the plate‐size‐effect

NOTE: There's no scientific proof of this hypothesis, ultimately, it's all about self-control!

Prioritize Protein

White Turkey Meat

Protein can help you feel full and satisfied if you opt for lean protein sources like the white meat of turkey, which contains significantly fewer calories and fat than dark meat. Furthermore, it can save you about 11 grams of saturated fat per 3-ounce serving of turkey meat if you remove the skin.

Load Up on Vegetables

Fill a significant portion of your plate with vegetables to add bulk and fiber, reducing the space for high-calorie side dishes like buttery mashed potatoes.

Be Selective with Carbs

Choose complex carbohydrates like sweet potatoes, green beans, or quinoa over simple carbs like candied yams, caramelized carrots, and sweetened cranberry sauce

Mindful Eating

Thanksgiving Dinner

Eat slowly and savor every bite of your food to prevent overeating and boost digestion. When you eat slowly, you give your body more time to signal your brain that you're getting full. Not only does slow and mindful eating help you eat less, but if you spend time socializing between bites, it also enhances the pleasure of the Thanksgiving Day dining experience.

Mindful eating includes the “no seconds” rule!

What About Dessert?

Thanksgiving Pies

Gather family and friends and go for a walk before facing the dessert challenge.

If there are healthy options, like fresh fruit salad, go for them. If not, and with your metabolism fired up, recognize the fact that one slice of pumpkin pie will not cause calamity. With a bit of willpower and portion control, you can avoid derailing your plan. However, stick to one small slice because going for a second or third slice would take you beyond the point of no return.

More of the same after indulging in a moderate portion of dessert, go for another walk!

Plan Post-Thanksgiving Meals

Plan for the days following Thanksgiving to get back on track with your regular healthy eating and exercise routine, and even the slightest weight gain will disappear.

Post-Thanksgiving Health Routine

To Conclude

Maintaining a lean physique during Thanksgiving is indeed a challenge, but it's not an insurmountable one. As Thanksgiving approaches, staying lean doesn't mean missing out on the joys of the holiday season. With thoughtful planning, mindful eating, and a focus on balance and moderation, you can enjoy your Thanksgiving meal without derailing your fitness progress.

Thanksgiving is a time for gratitude, and part of that gratitude can be directed toward your commitment to a healthier lifestyle.

By incorporating the strategies discussed in this article, you can have a fulfilling and health-conscious Thanksgiving holiday party, leaving you feeling both grateful and proud of your dedication to your fitness goals.

Remember, it's not just about the food; it's about the moments you share with loved ones and the memories you create during this special time of the year.