Tuesday 10: Tips For An Awesome Thanksgiving

Our Thanksgiving traditions including watching Thanksgiving movies — specifically Home For The Holidays and Planes, Trains and Automobiles — that make me laugh ’til my face hurts, then hit me with the big, emotional wrap-up that makes me cry. I cannot get enough.

Much as I love the hijinks and emotional thunderstorms of those movies, I like my own holiday celebrations to be loving, relaxed, and as stress-free as possible. With that in mind, here are some tips to make this Thanksgiving — and every holiday — the best it can be.

10 Tips For An Awesome Thanksgiving

1. Workout.

I have to admit, if I don’t think about it too much, my preference on Thanksgiving morning might be to lie on the couch in my PJs and watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (The Rockettes! Santa!) But I know the rest of the day will feel so much better if I move around first, so we’re starting the day with a walk-run on the 3-mile loop around the lake… THEN I’m lying on the couch and watching the parade. (Need ideas for a Thanksgiving morning workout? How about a Turkey Tabata or Feast Gone Bad?!)

2. Eat breakfast… and maybe lunch.

Knowing that a feast is coming, you might be tempted to skip other meals during the day to compensate for the upcoming calorie-ocalypse. That’s not the greatest idea, really. Eat a balanced breakfast with solid protein, quality carbs, and some healthy fats so you’re not famished and/or cranky heading into Thanksgiving dinner. (And if you’re eating late, you might need a lunch-time snack in there, too.) I have to admit, sometimes I’m tempted to make some kind of pumpkin-nut-dried fruit paleo-ized treat for breakfast — ‘CAUSE IT’S A HOLIDAY, AND I GIVE MYSELF PERMISSION TO EAT WHATEVER I WANT — but then I ultimately decide to save my treats for our feast. We usually start the day with our “regular breakfast.” You do what you like; I’m just recommending that you don’t pick Thanksgiving to start experimenting with fasting.

3. Drink water.

This probably seems like “no duh,” but it’s worth a reminder. Three things happen on holidays that can cause discomfort and bloating… ew, right?! (1) You might be eating more than usual; (2) you might be eating foods you don’t eat very often; (3) when you do (1) and (2), you’re most likely ingesting more salt than usual, too. You will feel ever-so-much better if you drink plenty of water to help move everything through your system — and if you’re enjoying adult beverages, think about alternating 1 or 2 glasses of water with each cocktail.

4. Breathe deeply.

The holidays can be fun and exciting and and magical and overwhelming and awesome and… whew! Reconnecting with friends and family can be a beautiful thing — and it can also be a stressful thing. Whether you’re having a lovely time, or you feel like you’re about to use the carving knife to stab Aunt Edna, a 3-minute breathing break is a kickass way to re-establish your equilibrium. Just find a place where you can sit quietly and undisturbed for 3 minutes. This may mean hiding in a closet, taking over the bathroom, escaping to the garage, or disappearing to the car in the driveway. Whatever it takes! Then breathe… you can simply do long, slow breaths or try a pattern. My two favorites? Inhale through the nose in 4 short sniffs (sniff – sniff – sniff – sniff) then exhale in a long, slow breath for 4 seconds; repeat. Or do breath of fire with eyes closed; this is a great instructional video. Whichever you choose, just 3 minutes of conscious breathing can reduce your stress and energize you at the same time. And that just might keep you from committing holiday homicide.

5. Savor every bite.

Sticking with your Whole30? Totally going off-road and enjoying your favorite non-paleo treats? Eating mostly paleo but choosing a few special nibbles? Whatever your eating strategy is for Thanksgiving, slow down, savor every bite, and engage all of your senses. The holidays are my favorite time to enjoy some once-in-a-while indulgences, but it’s damn stupid to ruin the experience by (a) eating crappy food out of habit or (b) following something delicious with self-recrimination. Eat only the things you love, eat only the things that taste great to you, and enjoy the aroma and taste of every bite.

6. Take a walk.

Yeah, yeah, I know… you might have already worked out earlier in the day. But I wholeheartedly encourage you to take a short stroll after your dinner. In fact, I think you should enlist the whole family to take a tromp through your neighborhood together. Breathe some fresh air, spend time together in the post-meal glow, and give your belly a break moving around.

7. Disconnect.

We blogging, Twittering, Facebooking, Instagramming maniacs spend plenty of time online most of the other days of the year. Unless you’re sending a personal message to someone special who’s far away, I challenge you to really disconnect on Thanksgiving. No matter how delicious your food looks, we will all survive without seeing the photo until Friday. I promise! We’ll all be here, ready to interact with you in our digital playground when you get back online; feel free to leave us hanging on Thursday.

8. Call a faraway friend or family member.

If you’re anything like me, you rarely use your phone to actually speak to the people you love. But there’s something special about hearing the sound of our dear ones’ voices, so why not give your faraway friends or family a ring? Even if it’s just to sing a silly Thanksgiving song together for a few minutes. (I sing “The Turkey Sat on the Backyard Fence” many times during Thanksgiving week. On the phone. In the shower. In the kitchen. In the car. Also: Five Fat Turkeys.)

9. Be present.

Getting together with family and old friends can sometimes bring up past hurts, slights, and arguments. Reminiscing about good times is lovely; dwelling on the past can be very detrimental. Alternately, fretting about the future (an upcoming Whole30, your “punishment” workout at the gym on Friday) or bargaining with yourself about future behavior (“I’ll eat pumpkin pie now but tomorrow, I’ll eat perfect paleo.”) is a sure way to create stress and ruin your day. So be present. Love your family right now. Savor the food you’re eating right now. Pay attention to the little details that make this moment the only moment. Suddenly, old yucky stuff and future worries disappear… and right now is really great.

10. Hug indiscriminately.

There are about a bajillion details that can go wrong on a holiday (or any day). The turkey is still frozen. The dog ate the pumpkin pie. Someone didn’t get the memo about paleo and brought homemade corn bread to the potluck. Aunt Ann forgot she shouldn’t seat Uncle Ed and Uncle Bob next to each other. Grandma got drunk. Grandpa won’t get drunk. Whatever. In the midst of the craziness you have two choices: get frustrated/angry or lean into the chaos and hug everyone. Seriously. Someone’s being an ass? Disarm them with a hug. Someone’s being awesome? Reward them with a hug. A big hug smooths over lots of ruffled feathers, and it feels good every time.

And if all else fails, do something really, really, really silly…

Happy Thanksgiving, friends!


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  • EmayPA says:

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours, Mel!

    I LOVELOVELOVE #10. It’s been my secret weapon for a long time. Works a treat!

  • Ruby says:

    Working out first thing makes the whole rest of the day feel so much better every day, but especially on Thanksgiving. Getting back out again later for a walk even more so.

  • Stephanie Hansen says:

    Thanks. All 10 of these tips are perfect! We always sign up for the local Turkey Trot and do it snow or shine (-5 or 35 temps). The whole community shows up and a nice way to support our local Girls on the Run group. I make it a point to say (to myself) every Thanksgiving–Eat well. Be well. Appreciate all that you have and don’t forget to laugh a little. Enjoy your day.

  • bayrider says:

    One Christmas, years ago in San Francisco I went to the movies with a group of friends, I had no clue about the film but it turned out to be Home for the Holidays. We all loved it, it’s been my favorite holiday film ever since. I actually would like to experience a family gathering of that hilarity and depth of feeling!

  • So much sage guidance in here! I especially like the breathing bit (which is my go-to way of calming myself at the end of each day) and the savoring bit (which is a wonderful reminder to fully relish and celebrate the good stuff).

    These days, my partner and I spend Thanksgiving together, just the two of us, which makes holiday time very quiet…like a wonderful exhale and place of pause in our usually rushed, too-full routine.

    We go to morning yoga followed by our usual packed lunch at Whole Foods; come home and make a simple meal (turkey, cranberry sauce, mashed sweet potatoes, salad, paleo pie–just a few dishes but enough to last us a week); take a pre-dinner walk on an empty beach after sundown; enjoy a wonderful quiet Thanksgiving meal; and cuddle up to a movie (or engage in other adult entertainment, if we’re not too full;).

    I used to dread the noise and chaos of big holidays….but now I love this one.

    • Your Thanksgiving plan sounds just perfect! My husband Dave and I had take-away food one year, and it was really fun: all our favorite flavors without doing a lick of work YAY! Happy cuddling and relaxing to you.

  • Jenna says:

    OMG! Planes, Trains is a must for us every year. We screen it Tuesday usually. Also we try to watch “Babes in Toyland” with Laurel and Hardy on Turkey Day…

    And I love the term “off roading,” which I am definitely planning to do for my emotional well being. I just have to hop right back on that wagon for my physiological health the next day!