Getting Mentally Prepared For Thanksgiving

So for those from Canada we have a long weekend coming up, Thanksgiving!!  I know that this year is not going to be like any Thanksgiving we have experienced before due to Covid.  Nevertheless for those of you still planning a big Thanksgiving meal possibly with others, I wanted to offer some tips on how to navigate this occasion, so you can stay on track with your plan to keep losing weight or to at least maintain it. 

These types of  situations have come up frequently over the years with my clients. Here are a few suggestions and strategies I use to guide my clients which will help you to get through this upcoming long weekend including the big Thanksgiving meal… and feel good about it afterwards. 

Clarify your Goal and Expectations

In order to feel good about yourself and the weekend, you need to be clear on what it is that you want out of this weekend.  What’s your goal?  Are you currently trying to lose weight and your goal for the weekend is to keep losing weight or are okay to just maintain it over the weekend and resume your weight loss the following week?  Or are you at the point where you are maintaining your weight and you just want to have strategies to not gain any weight over the weekend?  Maybe your plan is to indulge and you are okay if you do gain weight because you know how to shed that  “Thanksgiving meal” the following week and get back into maintenance mode.  

Number 1 – Clarify your personal goals and expectations for the weekend so you start the holiday with an intentional decision and then develop the plan to support the goals you desire

When it comes to losing weight and health, it involves both The Body and The Mind. For this reason everything I look at and recommend for my clients involve both mindset strategies and body strategies.  Read ahead to learn about both types of strategies and see what makes sense for you.

Body Strategies
Let’s talk about some of the “body strategies” or physical strategies to start with.  I know this year,  everything is a bit different so I have a feeling there won’t be any large family gatherings. But nonetheless, maybe you’re having a few people over who are in your pod, or you’re going over to somebody’s home and going to have to cope with what they serve. Let’s talk about some of the “body strategies” or physical strategies to start with.  

  • Don’t go into the “event” Hungry
    Some people think….“I just won’t eat much beforehand and then I’ll be okay”.  But when they get to the event … they’re starving. There’s all this food floating around appetizers, sparkling wine etc.  You’re really setting yourself up to indulge and break your plan because if you’re physically hungry it’s really hard to say no.

    So take the edge off with a healthy snack before you go or before people arrive. Grab some veggies, a few nuts, a little bit of protein. Yes, you can be a bit hungry, so you can still enjoy a big meal, but at the same time you’re not starving and ready to eat somebody’s arm.
  • Stop the Sugar/Insulin Rollercoaster
    I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed this but I know that if I have overdone it on a weekend with foods that spike my sugar and insulin (breads, sugar, alcohol, simple carbs) then over the next day or two I will experience more extreme hunger, more powerful cravings for even more simple carbs and sugar.  This is the sugar/insulin rollercoaster hangover.  Your body is looking for energy, so you eat more sugar/simple carbs,  Then insulin goes up causing your blood sugar to crash and the cycle keeps going, up and down and if you keep feeding it with sugar or simple carbs, you’ll keep riding the roller coaster. 

    Appetite definitely increases as well.  I often find I am much hungrier the day eating a lot of  simple carbs.  If you’re riding that sugar/insulin rollercoaster a few days before Thanksgiving dinner, it will  be a lot harder for you to manage your food choices at the dinner because of this physical state of your body. It  is going to be giving very strong signals to go for the sugar to get more carby type foods. So just try to eat clean the few days before the dinner to level that out that sugar/insulin rollercoaster.
  • Plan some Creative Meal Alternatives
    Another idea is to think of alternate ideas for parts of the meal you can serve or bring, so you can still enjoy your Thanksgiving meal but have healthier options. Take a look at the traditional Thanksgiving dinner with Turkey.  Turkey is actually a great protein to have particularly with lots  of vegetables, the green veggies along with cauliflower, broccoli, maybe some squash.  This part of  the meal is great so you don’t need to worry about it. The foods that are trickier are things like the stuffing, mashed potato, gravy, sweet potato casserole and of course dessert.  These items are the  carb heavy part of the meal that will really sabotage your efforts if you want to keep losing weight. Here are some healthier options you can make as an alternative. 

    Cauliflower can be made into a variety of items for that meal.  You can replace mashed potatoes with cauliflower mash and it’s delicious or use cauliflower as a base for a savoury stuffing.  There are many recipes online for this just google it.  I’ve had many different versions of those  and they were so good. There are also other recipes for stuffing or dressing where you can replace the white bread using root vegetables, nuts and/or grains.  If horderves are part of your meal prepare a veggie platter with some salsa and possibly nuts.  

    So whether you are hosting or going to somebody’s home make  some of these healthier alternatives.  Make enough for everybody to have and this way you know you will have a healthier option for yourself. I bet others will appreciate having a healthy alternative as well.    
  • Dealing with Dessert
    Dessert!!!!!! Well, you know, that’s a tricky one. Obviously staying away from desserts is the best  option if you want to keep losing weight.  You can just pass on dessert but that isn’t much fun so here are a few healthier options for dessert that you can enjoy along with others.   Some ideas are a bowl of fresh berries and have whip cream on the side for others. There are some great baked apple dessert dishes with cinnamon that have that fall vibe but are super healthy.  

Mind Strategies
In terms of mindset the biggest thing is go in with a plan and get into the mental zone before the dinner. If you go to the dinner with an attitude of, “fingers crossed and hopefully this will workout”, you’re going to set yourself up to run into challenges. Obviously, if you’re cooking, it’s much easier for you to have your plan of what you’re going to have, making sure healthier options are available for you.  But if you are going to somebody else’s place it can be harder to have a plan. One suggestion is for you to find out what they’re going to serve beforehand. This way you get mentally prepared by having a plan on what you will eat, what you will avoid and If possible know what you could bring as healthy alternatives so they are available for you and for others to enjoy.  The key point is to put some thought to it beforehand, have your plan and be mentally prepared.  This is the same strategy that an athlete uses to mentally prepare for game time.  They get themselves into the zone mentally beforehand.

Developing “event” strategies are the type of thing I do with clients all the time.  For example if you are ever planning to go to a restaurant (assuming that will happen again after COVID-19), look at the menu ahead of time.  Don’t just go in there and get blindsided. Because when you’re in the event, and you’re distracted and you’re having fun it’s much harder to make healthy choices.  This is particularly true during festive occasions when we all have strong associations with certain foods.  It’s hard, I’m not going to pretend it’s not. But when you go in having put a plan in place mentally, you will have a much higher likelihood of following through on it. 

Build your Lighthouse
The Lighthouse is a metaphor for the long term goal you have for weight loss and the impact it is going to have on your life.  The bigger and the brighter your Lighthouse the easier it will be to keep going in that direction. The element that is most important to understand about your goal, is your WHY.  Why is achieving your weight loss goal important to you?  What effect is weight loss going to have on your life, physically, mentally,
emotionally and spiritually?? Reconnect with that goal and your why before you sit down to your Thanksgiving dinner.  Why do you want to lose weight?  Why is that important to you?  Be specific.


Your lighthouse is your guide, especially for those times when we can lose sight of our goals … Reconnect with your lighthouse so it will help you to reconnect with your WHY.  Reconnecting with the longer term fulfillment of losing weight and the impact it will have on all areas of your life will help you overcome that short term pleasure of eating those less healthy foods being served at dinner. This will make it much easier to say no! 

At the end of the day Thanksgiving and similar celebratory times are really about gathering with people that you love and care about. I know this year will be different in terms of “gatherings” but however and with whomever you decide to celebrate Thanksgiving, I hope that the  time together is going to give you all the enjoyment and fulfillment you need so that the fulfillment doesn’t need to come from the food. 

Also remind yourself that there’s going to be several more Thanksgivings in years to come. So, you know what….. if you don’t eat the full dinner this time, that’s okay. There’ll be other years. 

Have a great Thanksgiving and take time to remember all the wonderful things that you can give thanks for and be grateful for in your life and in the lives of those you love.