10 Tips For The Best Thanksgiving Ever

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.

Here, in case you need to get in the mood… the trailer for Home For The Holidays which includes hints of some of my favorite scenes:

And one of my many favorite scenes from Planes, Trains and Automobiles:

As much as I love the hijinks and emotional thunderstorms of these 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 for all of us to make this Thanksgiving—and every holiday—the best it can be. (And if you’re still working on your menu, here are my favorite paleo/Whole30 Thanksgiving recipes. Happy cooking!)

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 workout at our gym called the Turkey Torcher. (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. You can make it smaller than usual, if that makes you feel better, but be sure to eat all three macronutriets. (And if you’re eating dinner late, you might need a lunch-time snack in there, too.) I have to admit, I was 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 when we talked about it, we decided to save our treats for our feast and start the day with our “regular breakfast.” You do what you like; I’m just recommending that you don’t choose 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 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 a chaser of 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 by 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 heartwarming; 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 embrace 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! I’m so grateful for all of you.

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  • Nikki says:

    Why have I never heard of Home For The Holidays???? I love Holly Hunter! I’m gonna have to see if it’s on Netflix or something, because that looks hilarious 🙂 It’s just gonna be me and the hubby for Thanksgiving this year…we planned it like that. We just need some chill time and really don’t want to travel (we always have to travel to everyone else). So I’m just now sitting down to plan what I’m going to cook and of course had to come to my favorite blog first 🙂 Have a great Thanksgiving girl!

    • Oh! You must watch that movie. If you’re a Holly Hunter fan, I think you’ll really like it. Let me know what you think!

      Have a lovely, quiet, awesome day together. All the best to you!