20 November 2012 Thanksgiving: Lighten Your Load!

I work with a lot of patients who are caring and nurturing people – but maybe too much so. They willingly and lovingly sacrifice their own health and happiness for their loved ones. And I see this played out during Thanksgiving. Despite struggling with weight and/or chronic disease that requires time to manage, I see these folks putting their health on hold for long periods of time in order to be the host of all things wonderful for others. Everyone's favorite dish is present, and apparently, without any or much assistance. And the home is clean and decorated for the special occasion. Who invested all of those hours for the occasion and at what physical cost? My patients and clients! I am not criticizing these loving souls – I am only sharing my perspective as a health care professional. The holidays take a huge toll on their health and I want that to change.

I would like to suggest that those of you who go overboard during the holidays (and you know who you are), consider changing how you display love and caring so that you protect your health a bit more. And it isn't just about controlling your food environment, it is also about protecting your time for self-care behaviors such as exercise, monitoring (e.g. blood glucose and blood pressure), stress reduction, and down time (as in, "you time").

Less is More

Let us consider the range of foods and drinks that are often served at Thanksgiving: appetizers, drinks, starchy sides, veggie sides, salads, meat entrees, relishes, breads, butter, condiments, desserts, dessert drinks, coffee, and tea. Are you burdened with providing all of these? How about multiple types of each? Instead, cherry pick a few wonderful items to offer that you can afford and want to make and then simply inform your guests of the menu. If your family or friends are disappointed that a favorite item is missing, then that is okay – they will survive and get over it. After all, Thanksgiving is a time to give thanks – and as far as I am concerned, the host should be thanked for any and all food provided at the table.

Guests Can Help

If you want to offer more variety then request help. Ask a guest to bring something that would otherwise be a huge time sink or preparation logistics pain. Dish ideas for guests: appetizer, potato dish, fancy relish, tossed salad, or a dessert. Just be sure to ask your guests to bring their dish already prepared.

Fit in 30 Minutes of Exercise

Yes, I am serious. Modify your menu and expectations so that you can fit in 30 minutes of activity – either before or after the main meal. And don't forget the week before and the days after Thanksgiving! This especially important if you struggle to control your weight, blood pressure, blood glucose, or stress level.

Emphasize Socializing

We tend to think of Thanksgiving as the ultimate food holiday, but let's bring it back to giving thanks and spending time with friends and family above all else.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

More Resources

Katherine Isacks, MPS, RD, CDE. MyNetDiary Blog. Control Calories on Thanksgiving Day?
This post includes links to healthier recipes for Thanksgiving.

Cooking Light. Magnificent Thanksgiving Menus.

Diabetic Gourmet Magazine. Diabetic Thanksgiving Recipes.

Katherine Isacks, MPS, RD, CDE
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Disclaimer: The information provided here does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit your healthcare provider or medical professional.

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Holidays / Parties/Thanksgiving

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