When it comes to Thanksgiving dinner, most Americans fall into one of two categories: Either you believe it’s your patriotic duty to pile your plate sky-high, or you spend most of the day avoiding the dessert display to ensure you don’t wake up 5 pounds heavier. And while we’re all about clean and mindful eating just about every other day of the year, we think that even hardcore health nuts should consider cutting a bit loose come Turkey Day.
We know that can be tough to let go of that nutrition-first mentality, but c’mon, guys! It’s Thanksgiving. If there’s any day of the year that’s worth easing up on your usual food rules, this is it. A single day of gluttony isn't going to make you gain weight. Plus, who actually wants to choke down pumpkin pie when what your heart truly desires is the gooey pecan one? No one! (Admit it, you know that’s true.) Which is why we came up with eight persuasive reasons why you don’t need to feel bad about indulging—and maybe even going back for seconds this holiday!
Give ‘em a read and get ready to gobble, guys, because we’re giving you permission to celebrate Thanksgiving Day, the right way! And if even after reading over the reasons below you still feel concerned about potential repercussions, click over to our exclusive report, 40 Ways to Recover From Thanksgiving!
One Big Meal Won’t Make You Gain Weight
The typical Thanksgiving dinner packs around 3,000 calories, according to the Calorie Control Council. And yes, that’s more than what most people need to consume in a single day. But those extra calories aren’t converted to fat overnight, Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN assures us. In other words, one measly meal won’t actually result in pounds gained. “You would have to consistently overeat like that to gain weight,” she says.
But be warned: that doesn’t mean the scale won’t display a higher number than usual. It takes awhile for all that food to work its way through your digestive system. Plus, you could be retaining water from eating extra sodium, Largeman-Roth explains. “If you go back to your regular, calorie-appropriate eating pattern, your weight should normalize after a few days. Doing some cardio and drinking plenty of water to flush out the extra sodium will help you feel back to normal even faster,” she says. And for even more ways to beat to bloat post Turkey Day, don’t miss these 24 Ways to Flatten Your Belly in 24 Hours.
You’re Better Off Cutting Back on Wednesday Instead
Instead of eating like a bird on Thanksgiving, eat light the day before the holiday. Things like smoothies, soups, and salads are smart pre-feasting staples. Not only will these light bites save up your appetite for the big meal, you might find that the turkey, stuffing, and all the trimmings taste even better than you expected. In one PLoS One study, participants who fasted for 24 hours before a meal got more pleasure out of their food compared to those who ate normally for 24 hours. Strange, but true!
Highly Flavorful Foods Are More Satisfying
Typically find ways to make T-Day staples healthier? Don’t bother. If you’re going to indulge, you might as well do it right! Make those mashed potatoes with butter and add the full amount of sugar to Aunt Sue’s pie recipe. While the suggestion may sound counterintuitive, findings published in the journal Flavour show that diners filled up faster and ate less overall when they were served spicy, highly flavorful soup compared to when they were served a bland soup. Simply put, more flavorful dishes will help you be more satisfied, even if you eat less food.
Indulging Could Be Good For Your Wallet
Worried you’ll max out your credit cards taking advantage of all the great Black Friday deals? Surprisingly, savoring a delicious holiday meal can help combat the urge to swipe. According to University of Utah findings, people who indulge in a big Thanksgiving dinner are less likely to splurge on deeply discounted items when they shop the next day. While researchers aren’t totally certain why this happens, they hypothesize that it’s all thanks to turkey’s high tryptophan content. The amino acid helps your body produce the hormone serotonin, which has been shown to help curb impulsive behavior. Curious what else is going on inside your body after a day of feasting? Then don’t miss our report, What Happens to Your Body on Thanksgiving! It’s jam-packed with all the answers you’ve been searching for.
Restricting Yourself Might Backfire
Ban stuffing or creamed spinach from your plate, and you’ll probably find yourself obsessing over it—and craving it—all day. “It’s that classic rebound effect. If you say you can’t have a particular food, you’ll be pining away for it,” Susan Albers, Psy.D, a Cleveland Clinic psychologist and author of Eating Mindfully, says. That said, by the end of the day, you probably wouldn’t be able to resist those treats any longer, so you run the risk of overindulging when you finally allow yourself a taste. For more ways to ward off a food binge, experiment with some of these 15 Things Celebs Do to Stop Overeating.
Pie Might Stop a Midnight Fridge Raid
Opt for fruit in lieu of a slice of pie, and you might find yourself sneaking down to the kitchen for a sugary slice in the middle of the night. (Find out which slice will do the most damage to your belly in our report 25 Most Popular Pies—Ranked.) One Dutch study found that subjects who indulged in a dessert they wanted, like chocolate mousse, reported fewer sugary cravings later on compared to those who ate something healthier, like cottage cheese. “Occasionally including dessert can aid weight loss efforts by warding off feelings of deprivation and bouts of overeating,” explains dietitian Cassie Bjork, RD, LD of Healthy Simple Life. “It can make it easier to stick with your healthy eating regimen for the long haul.”
It’s Only An Issue if You Gorge
Eating what you want and eating everything in sight are not the same thing. In fact, pausing for a few minutes to check in with your appetite might help you realize that you actually don’t really want another scoop of sausage stuffing or a second slice of pumpkin cheesecake after all. “Pacing yourself and checking in with your hunger helps you avoid getting out of control,” Albers says. So ask yourself: “Is this really what I want?”
It’s the Rest of the Weekend That Matters
Remember, one big meal won’t do that much damage to your waistline. However, if you let the spirit of the holidays get the best of you and continue feasting for days that could add up to extra pounds. (Pecan pie for breakfast on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday? Bad idea!) “We have expectations that we’re ‘supposed to’ overeat—that it’s part of what we do,” says Albers. “But that doesn’t mean you should continue overeating for the rest of the weekend.” So go ahead, and indulge on Thanksgiving, and rest assured that if you make smart food choices for the entire week that follows, your body will bounce right back! For more ways to bring your body back to equilibrium after a big meal don’t miss our report, 40 Ways to Recover From Thanksgiving.