Gratitude Without Worry

In Magazine, Robert's Lettersby RI Magazine

On Thanksgiving, you should count your blessings, not your calories.

BY ROBERT IRVINE

People ask me for more cooking advice around Thanksgiving than at any other time of year. They want to know if they should brine their turkey or not, fry it or roast it, how to stuff it, and how to make some unique sides. For those answers, you can check out the Thanksgiving recipe feature in the November issue of RI Magazine.

But lately, the questions have begun to change. Because of my passion for fitness, people are now asking me how to make the meal healthier and how to control their portions. They’re asking me how to make things like low-fat gravy, low-carb stuffing, and sugar-free desserts. I’ve gotten so many of these healthy Thanksgiving questions I felt compelled to respond here with a definitive answer: YOU’RE ASKING THE WRONG GUY.

It’s Thanksgiving! It’s a wonderful holiday where we should be surrounded by family and feeling nothing but gratitude for the incredible abundance we enjoy in this country. I can’t think of a better way to ruin it than by worrying about how many calories or grams of fat are in a particular dish. We all need a cheat meal now and then. I’m pretty sure you change your schedule so that your next one falls on Thursday, November 24. That’s the day where you should eat and drink what you want and answer to no one.

Now, with that said, there are two important things you need to do in order to enjoy the day and not have it backfire on your health and physique:

1) Work out on Thanksgiving morning. Personally, I’d put in an intense weight session; the more you deplete your muscles of glycogen, the more they’ll be able to actually put the extra calories to good use. Bodybuilders would call this an overfeed day and it’s necessary to keep muscle growing.

2) Send the leftovers home with other people. The free-for-all holiday only works to your advantage if you immediately return to a normal calorie count the day after. Eating an excess of calories on Thanksgiving actually revs your metabolism to burn at a higher rate. When you eat cleaner and fewer calories that Friday, you’ll still be burning at Thursday’s rate and you’ll burn off most of the extra calories. You don’t have to be as totally precise as fitness enthusiasts would be when they cycle carbs and calories, but you do need to be burning cleaner fuel. That means you can have leftover turkey breast and greens, but not the bread, mashed potatoes, and pie.

It’s really not that complicated! Your body can make good use of a cheat meal, but a cheat week can add weight very quickly and send your mood and motivation plummeting. Enjoy the day, have a glass of wine or two, and then have the discipline to immediately refocus on your goals.

And above all, take a deep breath and enjoy everything you have. Count your blessings, not your calories.

Yours in health,

Robert

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