Get ahead of the calories – a Thanksgiving strategy

This is not a research-backed, peer-reviewed, piece on how to get/stay healthy during the coming holiday season. If that’s what your looking for, please see Mel’s – our clinical research nurse – latest post (Healthy holiday tips). There, she’ll help guide you to make smart choices in terms of portions, meals, and food items while still enjoying fellowship and family during the season.


This post is for a different crowd. The crowd that knows Thanksgiving is one day away and that means 3 things:


1) The best food day of the year is upon us.
2) We get to hang out with family, watch football, and play games.
3) The best food day of the year is upon us.


For those of us knowing that bad caloric decisions are in our immediate future, no amount of portion control or, “Which pie type has less calories? Apple or pumpkin?”-type questions can save us from impending gastro-intestinal doom. For us who know Thanksgiving means Americans eat an average 4,500 calories and 229 grams of fat more than a normal day – and accept some version of that reality – there’s only 1 strategy left to employ:


Get ahead of the calories.


You know the calorie surge is coming at some point, or probably at multiple points, on Thursday so here I’m challenging you to get out in front of that. I’m challenging you to earn the right to ingest those additional carbs by working for them in advance. No more of this, “Tomorrow’s run will make up for this.” False.


Whether it’s running, burpees, boxing, pick-up football games, basketball, or X. If you’re getting ahead of the calories then your Wednesday evening and/or Thursday morning is going to see quite a bit of X.


“But I have kids,” or, “I have to travel long distances,” or, “I have to get up at 6 am to start cooking…”


I’m sorry i’m not sorry, but those of us getting ahead of the calories will not accept your excuses.


-They make jogging strollers and group fitness classes for a reason.
-Can you run part of that distance?
-Sounds like 5:00 am is free and unscheduled then?


Let’s back up a bit here. I’ll give you the abbreviated back-story of the initial “getting ahead of the calories” Thanksgiving.


The year was 2012… – Or maybe it was 2010, I’m not 100% on this. Irrelevant – It was a Wednesday in November and all of my wife’s siblings (numbering 3, with some additional significant others) had finally made their respective trips back to mom and dad’s for the Thanksgiving holiday. My childlike anticipation of game nights, story time, and tomorrow’s feast was more than bubbled over as the night rolled closer to morning.


We were about 12 cut-out cookies into Wednesday evening (just embarking) when my brother-in-law and I looked at each other chewing-ly as the same thought crossed our minds. We were both in the middle of significant weight-loss journeys (his ended up over the 100lb mark while mine was about 65 – I’ll concede this loss now) and were torn between the gluttonal goodness that is Thanksgiving and the fear of backsliding and allowing 1 weekend to ruin months of hard work and sacrifice.


Losing weight was serious business for both of us and although much of what is said when we’re together is in jest, these commitments were not taken lightly. We both had our respective calorie-counting apps and could rattle off total calories for tablespoons of mustard, 6oz of chicken breast, and – yes – even slices of pie. (Zero calories in mustard, by the way).


But this was Thanksgiving. Turkey, gravy, dessert, mashed potatoes… What were we going to do? Pass on the Thanksgiving meal?


No. We weren’t going to do that.


“Something needs to be done about this,” I said. “We need to get ahead of these calories.” I made these comments knowing the feeling of working out hard during a morning and seeing the results on my calorie-counting app throughout the day. You could add a possible 1000 or 2000 calories to your goal, depending on the workout type and duration. That larger number gave you some breathing room for the day or week, and was simply a mental victory if nothing else.


He processed the comment and replied with, “That’s genius!” as he reached for cut-out number 13.


The next morning we ran for about 5 miles and although that didn’t completely counteract the day’s meals we felt at ease knowing we fought hard to narrow the deficit.


Since that Thanksgiving some 5 years ago, we’ve taken the opportunity to get ahead of the calories for subsequent Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving holidays. There’ve been bachelor parties, wedding days, and even baptism party days where this strategy has helped us too.


Hey, we like to celebrate things…


So, if you too enjoy a good celebration and perhaps 3 “dinners” on Thanksgiving, there’s no reason not to get ahead of the calories.


Get to know your sister’s new boyfriend with a morning run, challenge your brother to a test of manhood with some street-rules pick-up basketball, or teach grandma the gloriousness of what burpees can do for the soul. Maybe you can jack some big steel while taking in some alone time before the family storm arrives… In any case, you have options.


If nothing else, the soreness you feel in your legs tomorrow night will remind you that those unbuttoned jeans were earned some 12 hours previous. I’m not saying that stuffing your face to the point of exhaustion is the right thing to do, but if that’s a route you tend to choose, then getting ahead of the calories could be the perfect solution for you too.


Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving – from the Mikedup Blog family to yours!


– Mike


Thanks for reading!


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