Burning Off Thanksgiving Dinner: Start Now

The average American will tuck away 3,000 to 4,000 calories on Thanksgiving Day.  Personally, I believe in just enjoying yourself and indulging a little, but don’t get to the point that you feel like the stuffed turkey you just ate. The recommendations are that one eat no more than 2,000 calories a day, so how do you burn off that extra 1,000 to 2,000 calories?

Here’s a way for you to “bank” 2,000 calories before Thursday:

Workout more. Add 20 minutes extra on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday to your normal exercise routine.  You’ll burn between 150 and 200 calories extra per workout for 450 to 600 calories accumulated total.

Focus on veggies. Fill your plate with fruits and veggies first and stick to lean proteins only as add-ons.  If you’re eating out, order the dressing on the side and drizzle it lightly on yourself.  This is a bit of a back of the napkin calculation because it depends on what you’re already eating, but you can safely estimate 200 to 300 calories a day.  That’s another 600 to 900 calories “saved.”

Skip the junk food. No junk food!  You’re going to indulge in Mom’s pumpkin pie on Thursday, everything else will pale in comparison anyway.  Just save those calories for the family meal.  Another back of the napkin calculation comes out to between 100 and 200 calories per day, or 300 to 600 calories total.

Workout on Thursday. Do a solid 40 minutes of cardio (my fave suggestion is to join a Turkey Trot road race in your area) or grab a relative and go for an invigorating walk.  Push yourself!  Go hard! I want huffing and puffing and pink faces and lots of sweat!  The reason for suggesting a workout is two-fold: you’ll be less inclined to really stuff yourself because you’ll remember your healthy workout and because you’ll burn between 300 and 400 calories.

I’ve given you a calorie burn range of 1,650 to 2,500.  If you want specifics for calorie burn, go to this great calculator at Self.com; you can check for activity, intensity level, gender, and weight.

For you smug ones who say you already do all this in a regular week … this post isn’t for you.  Just indulge on Thanksgiving and know that you’ll burn the extra calories right off over the next week or so.

There’s one other thing I’d like to point out about what makes Thanksgiving so special.  It is usually a home cooked meal, prepared with love, from scratch.  We really look forward to it because it is prepared well, with fresh ingredients.  But you don’t need a holiday; you can make this a regular part of your life by cooking like this yourself.  And when you’re eating fresh, homecooked meals regularly, you’re also much less likely to overindulge because it’s no longer a couple times a year treat.

Having a strategy to enjoy Thanksgiving without feeling guilty will make the day all the more relaxing and special.  Enjoy yours!

What strategies would you add to this list?  Do you like to indulge first and then burn it off later after knowing what the damage is? Would you use this strategy for other holiday dinners too?

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