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Your Thanksgiving Ritual Is Destroying Your Life...

And Making You Fat!

Posted by NutritionMax - November 26th, 2015

Thanksgiving Day
 Let’s talk about how this will play out. You wake up super early to hit the gym and burn some calories (because the gym closes by noon-ish). You start figuring out your macros for the day and predicting what you will fill them with, yet you will be blind-sided with foods that aren’t what you envisioned. Uh oh. Cocktails, wine, cheese and appetizers are coming out. No alcohol for you because that has absolutely no place in your macros. But some cheese will be fine.

You look at the clock and it is 4PM, or whenever the family eats, and you start to panic. All you’ve had up to this point is a Quest Bar and a protein shake. You can’t handle the social pressure eating a full plate of (harmless) potatoes, turkey and stuffing.

Everyone around you is indulging and not giving it a second thought, and you feel like an outcast if you are the only one who isn’t. You slowly pick away at your measly cup of sweet potatoes, a handful of broccoli and three slices of turkey without gravy (which is the best part, by the way). It’s time for seconds. You sit there saying, “I’m full”, which is nothing but a lie. Someone calls you out and says you didn’t have much at all.

Then dessert comes around. You scramble for an excuse to refuse the decadent apple and pumpkin pie with ice cream and whipped cream. Oh, and the triple chocolate cake too. Just to avoid awkwardness you take a sliver, and eat it with a fake smile, while you’re actually dying inside.

Meanwhile, you’re estimating the calories of every bite in your head up to this point and thinking “Shit. I’m probably over.” In reality, you overestimated, but think doing a quick bodyweight workout while hiding in your room or a quick jog will “balance it out.” You go to sleep despondent and fearful of what the scale will read tomorrow.

In the end, you may have just drastically underrated and perpetuated your cyclical pattern of a very low calorie diet. Which, if kept up, will cause fat gain later on.

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Why This Is The WRONG Approach

Do you know why this is the WORST approach to tackling Thanksgiving? It's because you ruin one of the most treasured holidays of the year (for you and for everyone else), due to one foolish belief – that Thanksgiving food will make you fat.

Just as a reminder, no single food makes you fat. Period. Thanksgiving or not, overdoing exercise coupled with massive restriction is not sustainable or healthy. The core problem with this is that too many people come into Thanksgiving with the wrong mentality. If you think you need to track macros on Thanksgiving, then you’re in the wrong head-space. The last thing you should do is worry about calories on Thanksgiving. Some people get so caught up in it, they will take their food scale to their family dinner. If this sounds like you, you should be concerned. The concept of weighing food on a holiday is mind blowing. Scales can be good, and they have their place, but not on Thanksgiving day.

Others will bring their own food. It’s one thing to contribute to the festivities and bring something awesome everyone will worship you for, but if you show up with your Cellucor birthday cake protein pancakes, you need to leave, immediately. It completely defeats the purpose of why you’re there to begin with. If someone comes up to you and says, “Please try this triple chocolate cake I made, I would love to know your thoughts!”, are you really going to respond with: “I’m sorry, I can’t it, doesn’t fit my macros.” Hence, why you brought your own food. Just think about that for a minute…

What Thanksgiving Is Really About

You aren’t seeing the forest through the trees. The only thing you should be thinking about is Thanksgiving in a positive light, which involves social engagement with family, enjoyment of every second, and making awesome memories. Everyone is laughing, telling stories and dancing. Yet you’re the one on the couch tweeting about how much anxiety you’re under and asking your 'fitfam' friends for help on how they’re coping with their own Thanksgiving feast.

Moderation – Don't Let Living A Heathy Life Ruin Your Thanksgiving Holiday

Fitness people casually recommend using all these strategies to hit your macros on Thanksgiving, and simultaneously encourage you to enjoy everything with your family. Right...because restricting yourself and thinking about numbers is enjoying the holiday with everyone. Paradox, anyone?

In reality, you aren’t gaining more than a 1-3 lbs, and that can be attributed to water retention as well. Even if you do gain more than that, WHO CARES? It doesn’t matter what the scale says tomorrow. What matters is how you screwed up the one day of the year that permits you to eat a diversity of super delicious AND nutritious foods.

People are making super awesome memories and will look back and say that was one hell of a day, but you will look back on Thanksgiving as a day of horror and discomfort. Or worse, because people know your rigid eating habits, they will remember you as the person who couldn’t let loose for once. They will remember you as the person who ate a quarter size of apple pie and brought a food scale to the table.  

Why You Should Indulge On Thanksgiving
 I recognize some of you reading this may have a history of eating disorders, so my message to you is this – be stronger than what your second conscious is telling you. Listen to you hunger cues, what your body is telling you, and what your deeper, true conscious is screaming to you. You don’t have to go wild with the desserts, but please indulge a little so you can soothe your soul. It's definitely worth it.  

As a clinical nutritionist, hear me when I say this. Ignore what you have see on Instagram and YouTube lately about how to combat Thanksgiving to suit your needs. I know it’s difficult enough for you on any given day, and when the holidays come around, the panic alarm sets off. In general, if you keep thinking you’re going to gain fat or that you’ll lose your abs, then that will cloud your mind…Every. Single. Year.

Your Belief System Influences Your Behavior & Actions

If you believe abs are all that matters, then you will count macros. And all day you will think about food with a pessimistic mindset. On the other hand, if you believe that one day will not sabotage your goals, then you wont count for that one day. And that’s just it. One day of zero tracking will:

  1. Not destroy your life
  2. Make your gain tons of fat

Instead, it will create a connection with everyone that day, instead of isolating yourself physically and mentally. Until you grasp and harness the fact that your life doesn’t end by eating foods you’re unfamiliar with, you will never be relaxed. You will never be stress-free.

Thanksgiving has a totally different purpose than what you have in mind – to fill your mind and soul with an ambiance of bliss, peace and warmth, NOT to fill your macros.  

Recommendations for Thanksgiving

If you have time for it, crank out a high intensity leg day workout. If you don’t, then so be it. Don’t sweat it. Not working out on Thanksgiving is nothing to be worried about.

As far as food goes, don't have a free-for-all and just eat with abandon (although if that’s your style, fine). But if you want to have the liberty to eat as you please without it backfiring, then listen close.

Fast. Not everyone likes the idea of fasting, but if you want to eat whatever you want on Thanksgiving, give it a shot. Suck up the hunger pains (it’s not that bad really) and go for it. If, say, you eat at 4PM, the last time you should eat before then is the night before – somewhere around 10PM-12PM. That’s 16-18 hours of fasting. If you do this, you will help fight off any potential fat gain. Again, while your body image shouldn’t be the focal point, this is a nice strategy. Good luck trying to eat 4000 calories in one sitting. (NOTE: If you have true hypoglycemia, I would not advise this).

If all else fails, try Plan B.

  1. Dilute 1 tbsp of apple cider vinegar with 6 oz of water 30 minutes prior to mealtime.
  2. Load up on 4-6 servings of vegetables with butter and sea salt.
  3. Eat two palm sizes of turkey or whatever protein you have, then wait 15 minutes.
  4. Transition over to the carbs. Have as much as you want, but you likely wont get very far.
  5. Pie time? Knock yourself out. There’s always room for that!

At this point, you probably will feel like Jabba the Hutt, so, call it a day.


To reiterate: the most salient point here is to change your beliefs. You may be placed in uncomfortable situations for one day, but it all stems from the mindset you come into the day with. If you wake up thinking, “how the hell am I going to manage all of this food and fit it into my diet?”, you’re doomed.

I realize many people will have some thoughts about gaining weight, but these strategies are designed to help eliminate those thoughts. If you want to enjoy vacuuming down pie, these approaches can help make the outcome more favorable. Ultimately, how much you eat shouldn’t matter because it’s just not the crux of Thanksgiving. It’s your social engagement and relationships with family and friends that are.

Related Articles:

Tips To Eat Big & Stay Lean On Thanksgiving!

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Related Videos:

The AT HOME Thanksgiving Aftermath Workout- "Be a 10 in 2010"

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posted by NutritionMax
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NASM CPT, Master's in Human Nutrition
Precision Nutrition Sports & Exercise Nutritionist

Justin Janoska is a professional fitness coach and a clinical nutritionist who specializes in helping people with challenging diseases. He runs an online coaching platform where he helps people like you reach build muscle or lose weight.

For an intimate coaching experience, visit

Twitter: NutritionMax
Instagram: nutrition_max


Going into the holidays with a game plan definitely helps keep me on track.  Good info!


Well I live in Norway so I do not celebrate thanksgiving. However the points raised can be applied to any holliday


I ate Thanksgiving food for the last 4 days. Turkey all day, great source of protein. May have went a little over board but I survived. :)


Agreed! No need to control yourself on Thanksgiving, just go ham... like eat lots of ham. 


Great read @nutritionmax.  This year I ate A LOT of turkey and filled up on that first.  I was sleepy, but felt great!  Not so carb heavy...but I certainly saved room for desert!


Good read Justin. Yes, I've been that guy for awhile watching everything I eat and missing social events due to it.  This Thanksgiving I just ate whatever I wanted and enjoyed it.  Great memories made.  

I would like to know why having the apple cider vinegar with water before a meal manages your appetite?


Awesome article on Thanksgiving dude! All those left over from family and friends!