Thanksgiving Survival Guide: 8 Tips for Surviving Thanksgiving


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According to the New England Journal of Medicine, the average American will gain one pound over Thanksgiving Day.

While this one pound might not be as impressive as the 10-12 pounds many articles claim Americans gain, what’s interesting is, Americans never lose this pound.

In 15 years from now in 2034, the average American would have gained 15 pounds accumulated over this time span.

That’s a little more terrifying. The good news is IFPA trainers are anything but average, they are exceptional. By now you know, proper planning prevents poor performance.

We have put together a Thanksgiving Survival Guide that will allow you to enjoy Thanksgiving without taking it with you for the rest of the year.

Do not skip your morning workout

Holidays in general can be stressful. The planning and preparing that goes into the Thanksgiving meal alone is tough enough. Add factors such as managing family coming into town, work, kids activities, the list goes on and on.

It is crucial that you carve out time to workout before you even think about carving that turkey. If anything, with the extra calories you are going to consume, your workout should be longer.

Create a special Thanksgiving Day workout ahead of time with friends, clients, or family. You will feel less guilty having that slice of pie or extra helping of stuffing.

Eat Breakfast

While it may seem logical to skip breakfast and lunch to save up calories for Thanksgiving, do not do it!

Eating a healthy breakfast will give you control over your appetite. It’s going to be tempting enough having all that great food spread out for the taking.

Showing up to the party emaciated from starvation is not going to do you any favors.

Would you rather drink your calories or eat them?

Thanksgiving in our home is an event. It starts in the afternoon and continues late into the night. When you are eating, you most likely have a drink near by.

Chose that drink wisely.

Sodas, Wine, Beer, and Mixed Drinks can add a huge number of calories that can be spent elsewhere.

Of course we want you to enjoy yourself over Thanksgiving however consider the following.


Coco Cola, 1 Can, 12 oz: 140 calories
Sprite, 1 Can, 12 oz: 140 calories
Mug Root Beer, 1 Can, 12 oz: 152 calories

According to Get Drunk not Fat:

Beer & Ale

Blue Moon Belgian White, 12oz: 164
Bud light, 12oz: 110 calories
Busch, 12oz: 114 calories
Stella Artois, 12oz: 153
Sam Adams Pale Ale, 12oz: 160

Cocktails & Liquors

Bailey’s Irish Cream, 1.5oz: 144 calories
Cosmopolitan, 3.5oz: 175 calories
Kahlua, 1.5oz: 135 calories
Long Island Iced Tea, 12oz: 529 calories
Martini, 4oz: 295 calories
Margarita- Barties & Jaymes, 12oz: 260 calories
TGIF On the rocks mudslide, 5oz: 305

Wine & Champaign

Carlo Rossi – Cabernet Sauvignon, 5oz: 125 calories
Champagne – Moet Imperial (White Star), 5oz: 115 calories
Chianti-Davinci, 5 oz: 125 calories
Franzia Merlot Wine, 5oz: 105 calories
Merlot, 5oz: 152 calories
Stella Rosa, 5oz: 119 calories

As you can see, a few drinks can add up the calories pretty quick. Keep track of how much you drink. After one or two of the above, switch to water with a lemon wedge, hot tea, unsweetened/ lightly sweetened ice tea, or sparkling water. Curious how many calories your go-to drink has? Check out This site lists the alcohol volume, calories per serving, calories from alcohol, carbs per serving and additional comments for every drink.

Serving Size & Seconds

Stick to traditional serving sizes. You can always get up for seconds, however it is very helpful to have the correct serving size on your plate to keep track of how much you are consuming.

Most people have already had 2nds, 3rds and 4ths before finishing their first of food plate and getting up for more.

Here are a few helpful tips:

Turkey: 3 ounces is one serving = size of a deck of cards
Gravy / Cranberry Sauce: ¼ cup serving = about the size of a golf ball
Sweet / Mashed Potatoes / Stuffing: ½ cup = standard scoop of icecream
Cornbread: size of a bar of soap
Pie: 1/8 of 9 inch pie = Standard size of a light bulb

Now that you have the proper serving size, it’s important to call a time out before diving in for more.

Give your body 20 minutes for digestion.

It’s tempting to play gold fish and stuff yourself until you can’t move, but designating a time between each helping is necessary to avoid extreme overeating.

Chose Wisely

It’s always a good idea to scan the table ahead of time and plan your attack. Now that you are aware of how many calories are in drinks alone, really think ahead of time to plan out how you want to tackle this meal.

Do you plan on having dessert?

If the answer to this is yes, be mindful what you put on your plate. Turkey, ham, vegetables, and sweet potatoes are all wise choices. However, there will be many foods on the table that are high in fat and sugar.

I’m not instructing you to completely avoid these foods, but at the very least, have them in moderation.

Green Bean Casserole: 170 calories / 70 calories from fat
Sweet Potato Casserole: 250 calories / 110 calories from fat
Cornbread: 160 calories / 54 calories from fat
Stuffing: 250 calories / 135 calories from fat
Gravy: 80 calories / 60 calories from fat
Mashed Potatoes: 140 / 54 calories from fat
Cranberry Sauce: 110 calories / 0 calories from fat

(The above calories are all recipes from Betty Crocker. We used Betty Crocker, because their recipes were consistently in the middle in terms of calories of all the recipes we researched. We found recipes with lower and extremely higher calorie count. Of course all recipes will vary, and there are plenty of healthy substitutes for recipes. The above is just a ballpark range for you to consider.)

Walk it Out!

The best part is upon us; the Grand Finale!

The main meal is finished.

The dishes are being cleaned; everyone is transitioning to tea and coffee; and the decadent desserts are displayed just waiting to be demolished.

This is the time to put the fork down

….and walk away.

In between the main meal and dessert is a great opportunity for a family outing. Grab the dog and go for a walk, or grab the football and play a quick game in the backyard.

Family is what it’s all about after all. We are an incredibly competitive family, taking time for some outdoor sports is part of our Thanksgiving tradition.

Make it part of your own!

The Grand Finale

After that intense game of baseball or nice long walk, it is finally time for dessert. I’m sure there are industry experts that will say “don’t do it.” Not only is this not realistic, it would be very depressing to not have a slice of Mrs. Bell’s famous chocolate cake.

She is an incredibly chef, however her desserts are on a whole different level. What I will tell you is, remember your goals, and how far you have come throughout the year.

Do not set yourself weeks behind by eating an entire cake. Have a slice or two of dessert. Enjoy it! You have earned it, and it’s time to celebrate with family.

But do not set yourself up for failure, by consuming seconds and thirds of every dessert on the table. You will regret it.

Be Thankful

I would argue the most important point on the IFPA Thanksgiving Survival Guide is to be thankful. It is easy to overlook that this day is an intentional time to give thanks to God for everything we are thankful for.

Between the grandeur of the Thanksgivings Day Parade, the endless adds of sales for the following day, the football game, even the Thanksgiving meal; it’s all a distraction.

The best tasting Thanksgiving Day meal doesn’t mean much if you aren’t surrounding by friends or family to share it with.

This is a reality for many people. Many of our troops are thousands of miles away from their families on this day. They are always in our prayers.

This day is not about the opulent meal.

Thanksgiving is a special opportunity for us to show the gratitude we have for the life we lead, and the people we love.

I would implore you to take a moment before the meal to go around the room and have everyone say what they are thankful for.

This is another Bell Family tradition.

On behalf of the IFPA and all of our families, we wish you the very best Thanksgiving Day!


Dr. Bell and the IFPA

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