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How To Win at Thanksgiving Wellness

The holidays โ€” in a "regular" year โ€” are a stressful time for lots of people. This crazy year, it might be even more so.


With Halloween and the elections [sort of] in the rearview mirror, we start to turn our attention to Thanksgiving. If your nerves are frayed and you're battling the Quarantine 15, maybe you're looking for some ideas, guidance or inspiration to make it through Turkey Day. And, while this post is about Thanksgiving, it'll pretty much apply to Christmas and New Year's as well.


The 8 Dimensions of Wellness


Before we dig into the "how to" part, I want to introduce the 8 Dimensions of Wellness, in case you're not familiar with this model and approach to wellbeing.


Basically, it just says that the concept of "wellness" is multi-faceted. Wellness is made up of different elements โ€” like physical health and social health โ€” that are interconnected. They're like levers: You pull on one and you'll likely impact another.


The goal is to give all eight areas some TLC in the right ways and proportions so that you find balance and whole health.

I mention this incredible framework because it can be a really helpful tool for analyzing one's life and figuring out how/where to make changes to improve wellbeing.


In terms of this post, I'm going to try to offer some Tgiving survive-and-thrive (surthrival? thrival? There's gotta be a killer new word in there somewhere....) insights for each dimension. Don't want to neglect any one area!


Ok, now on to the juicy dark meat of this post....


How To Thanksgiving Healthfully


The key here is trying to be self-aware, taking stock of yourself and then working toward that aforementioned balance. Think of the ideas below as being like a smorgasbord: Everything's ร  la carte and you take what you need when you need it.


Physical


This is probably your go-to concept of health stuff. It's everything to do with your body, nutrition, exercise, sleep and so on. If you find that you're suffering in this dimension, here are a few things to try.

  • Go for a walk. Walking after a meal both helps with digestion and reduces opportunity/urges for seconds/dessert. It's also a great stress buster and can help revive you if you're feeling sluggish. Studies also show that being out in nature has a wonderful influence on physical well-being.

  • Establish some non-food traditions. Thanksgiving is so tightly correlated to food and eating. What if you recalibrated it so that it was about other, healthful things? Lots of families have an annual flag football game or go volunteer at a homeless shelter. Those particular examples might be out this year, but there's no shortage of other things you can do. Instantiate a family game or puzzle day, do arts and crafts (start a homemade holiday gift tradition!), do karaoke, have relay races, write a family update letter, create and perform skits, have a DIY home spa day....

  • Take a break. Dealing with family and whipping up a feast is hard freakin' work! So sit down and put your feet up every so often for 5-10 mins. Or take a short power nap. It's not going to change anything about your feast if it hits the table at 3:30pm instead of 3pm (assuming of course that you've adjusted your cooking sched to accommodate your breaks โ€” so stuff doesn't burn...).

  • Stay hydrated. With water or herbal tea. Avoid excessive alcohol or sugary or caffeinated beverages. Keeping hydrated can help you eat less and will help your body process what you do consume. If you do have some alcoholic drinks, try having a glass of water in between each cocktail, or have lower-alcohol versions like light beer or wine spritzers. (Drink responsibly. Don't drink and drive!)

  • Embrace food hacking. Ok, this one will have the purists screaming I'm sure. BUT hear me out. Sometimes you can easily rework meal plans and recipes so they are much healthier and just as good. Try things like ingredient substitutions (e.g., non-fat Greek yogurt instead of sour cream, applesauce instead of oil in baked goods, pureed silken tofu in salad dressing instead of cream/buttermilk/mayo) or swapping in lighter versions of traditional dishes (e.g., roasted green beans with toasted almonds and balsamic in lieu of green bean casserole or baken apples instead of apple pie). I know several people who opt for non-Thanksgiving fare or do side dishes only for the meal. Small changes here and there โ€” like omitting sugar or some of the highly processed items โ€” You really can have that cornucopia of food without busting your gut.

  • Eat the rainbow. I feel like there's a tendency to eat lots of starchy white-yellow foods โ€” potatoes, stuffing, rolls, rice, pastries โ€” at the holidays. A good rule of thumb is to have at least half your plate filled with non-starchy veggies, a quarter with your protein and the rest can be your carbs.

  • Use smaller plates and silverware. Not only will you feel like a cool giant, you might trick your brainz into scarfing down less food. Especially if you make yourself wait a few minutes before going for Round 2 at the buffet.