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.

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:

Anyway… 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.


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, 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 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 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 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!


Paleo and Whole30 Thanksgiving Recipes

Although Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, I don't have a hard and fast menu for what I think makes the perfect celebration. I mean, there...

Read More
Tuesday 10: Paleo Pumpkin Recipes

I tried to deny it, but I can't resist. The internet has given me Pumpkin Fever. Everywhere I click, there are orange-colored treats beckoning me...

Read More


  • Blake says:

    Love this! We watch Home for the Holidays every year too, and I can never get enough. You’ve got the perfect plan for a stress-free (and fun) holiday. xoxo

  • Stephanie Cowart says:

    How have I never seen Home for the Holidays?! Gonna remedy that this weekend for sure!

  • Shannon says:

    Love it all! You’re so great…I feel more calm already.

  • hugin says:

    Thanks for posting this; I love your tips! Especially the self-care ones. It’s nice to have a little boost from someone that it’s Okay And Good to take care of myself in healthy ways, even on a food-bingeing-style holiday. 🙂

  • so insightful and Happy Thanksgiving!

  • Tom R. says:

    I like this. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of all. Food and family, no presents required (football doesn’t hurt either).

    My workout crew starts the day off with the Lumberjack 20. Three years and couting. It will be unrecognizable for this guy and his (now heavily braced) elbow, but it will be great nonetheless.

    Hope you have a great holiday. I count theclothesthatmakethegirl as one of my many blessings…

    • Mel says:

      I love that you have a Lumberjack 20 tradition! Right on. Are you out of your cast?!

      Thank you for being part of our TCMTG crew. It wouldn’t be the same without you!

  • Cami Sebern says:

    Mu hubby and his high school friends have met at the same park on Thanksgiving morning every year for over 40 years to play Turkey Bowl. Rain, shine, snow, doesn’t matter. Now we have second generation players. As the guys get older they seem to play less ball and drink more beer, but it is a tradition and wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without it. Happy Thanksgiving and many blessings to you and yours.

  • Karon says:

    No mention of “Alice’s Restaurant”? That’s become our family tradition.

  • Chilloften says:

    Loved this! Happy Thanksgiving.

  • Tarable says:

    I sure could have used this list last month for Canadian Thanksgiving! Still these are great ideas and suggestions for any holiday or family get together and there’s plenty of those coming in the next month or so.

  • Julie says:

    I love watching “Home for the Holidays” around this time of year. Started the tradition over 16 years ago. It really captures the essence of it all for me.

    I am going to try the hug strategy this year! Happy Thanksgiving to all.

  • Terri Wicinski says:

    OMG! I thought my family was the only one with the Planes, Trains and Automobiles tradition!

  • Mom says:

    Do you remember when you were 5 years old and in preschool? For weeks leading up to Thanksgiving your teachers talked about the first Thanksgiving Feast. They taught you and your little classmates to sing “Five Fat Turkeys” and “A Turkey Sat On The Backyard Fence”. On Thanksgiving Day you helped me to set the table in the dining room and to prepare our own turkey feast. Just as I was calling everyone to the table you said “Wait Mommy, when are they coming”? I asked,”Who,honey?” You replied “The Pilgrims”!!!

    Thanks for all the wonderful memories. xoxo Mom

    • Mel says:

      I don’t remember that incident myself, but I never get tired of hearing that story. That was the exact moment that Thanksgiving became my favorite holiday, I guess. Well, that… and your awesome cooking 🙂

      Love you, Mom!

  • Martina says:

    I had one of the best Thanksgivings that I can remember this year, and it’s all thanks to your suggestion to go for a run, and one of my DISH coworker’s suggestion to exercise after dinner. I did both. I went for a quick run not long before we started dinner, and then after eating enough, but not too much, I let my food digest for a couple of hours. Then I went onto DISHonline.com and did a couple of Gaiam Yoga videos and I felt spectacular. So not only did I eat just enough to be content, but I was also able to exercise even though I never actually left the house to go to the gym.

    • Mel says:

      Fantastic! Sounds like you had a wonderful holiday — I’m so glad! I’m planning to keep using those suggestions to get me through December, too. Whew!