I make an annual Thanksgiving trip to my sister’s place in Colorado. I’ve gone there every year since 2002… except this year. The pandemic caused my family to rethink how we’ll celebrate this Thanksgiving, and instead of being one of ten or more of us in Colorado, I’ll be one of three, having turkey day with my parents, right here in Michigan. It’s a bummer, but we’d rather have a smaller celebration by choice this year, than have empty seats at the table every year.
I’m going to enjoy Thanksgiving, no matter the change of location. And I’ve going to lean on my now-vintage Thanksgiving Pledge to help me do that. I created this Thanksgiving Pledge in 2010, and I have taken it every single year since then. It allows me to enjoy whatever I want on Thanksgiving, without feeling terrible the next day or completely abandoning my healthy living efforts. Take the pledge with me!
The idea is pretty simple: Thanksgiving is often treated as a food free-for-all, but I refuse to think of it that way. I’m working hard to take care of myself and drop some pounds, and I know that a true free-for-all will derail me for days, possibly weeks. The food may be delicious, but it’s just not worth it.
So I created my Thanksgiving Pledge. This is how I navigate Thanksgiving without feeling guilty, while still enjoying every single thing I want. I avoid kicking off the holiday season with a food coma, and set myself up for success all the way through the new year.
Here’s how it works: You pledge to follow four rules on Thanksgiving Day. That’s it. Just four. Here are the rules, with my notes in italics:
Rule #1: I will exercise on Thanksgiving Day. (Go for a walk, a bike ride, do an exercise DVD, play football with the family, rake leaves, ANYTHING. Just get some activity in! I’ve done a 5K Turkey Trot many times in Colorado but will be switching it up this year.)
Rule #2: I will photograph everything I eat during Thanksgiving dinner. (I’ll share my photos on this blog, but I encourage everyone to do this, whether you blog or not. It’s about accountability. Taking a photo creates a record of your choices. You can’t ignore, deny, or forget about the food you’ve eaten when there’s a record, nor can you sneak food, because you gotta take that photo!)
Rule #3: I will not get seconds. I will indulge in a reasonable portion of anything I want, and I will enjoy it, but I will not go back for more. This includes dessert.
Rule #4: I will not graze or pick at food as it is prepared, emerges from the oven, or gets transferred to serving platters or leftover containers. I must place all food that I intend to eat on a plate, and eat it at the table.
Here are some additional tips, because some of these rules aren’t easy.
- Get your exercise over with in the morning. Schedule it into your day if you have to. It will be harder to do once others arrive, or you arrive somewhere else, and you won’t want to do it after dinner, that’s for sure!
- Rule #4 can be the hardest, because Thanksgiving dinner takes hours and hours to prepare. So chew gum if you have to, or pop a breath mint. Keep a bag of baby carrots nearby, so if you’re feeling peckish, you can munch on something healthy.
- If you break a rule, don’t sweat it – just get back on track. I’ve broken a rule or two in minor ways, and I don’t beat myself up. The main idea is that this pledge provides a strategy, and I need that, because otherwise, it can be nonstop eating, and I want to enjoy the holiday – and the long weekend that follows – without regret. Even if you stick to two or three of these rules, you’re likely to be much better off – and feel much better about yourself – than if you didn’t take the pledge at all!
I hope you take the pledge – and drop a line in the comments section if you modify it to suit your situation… your modification may help others!
I’ll share my Thanksgiving photos after the big day. Let me know how it goes for you!
Keep it up, David!
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