How to Undo the Damage of Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays; every other year, I look forward to traveling to my cousin’s house in Okemo, Vermont, to enjoy shopping and skiing over the weekend. But the highlight of the trip is always the extravagant feast where each family member pitches in to cook Thanksgiving classics: turkey, stuffing, pies, and, of course, Grandma Chickie’s famous sweet potatoes with marshmallows. However, health and wellness experts note that overeating that night has significant disadvantages on your brain and body. “It can stretch your stomach to take in more than its capacity, leading one to consume more calories than they have previously become accustomed to from applying portion control,” warns food specialist Rume Ameke. “Since it’s a holiday, it’s easy to assume that it’s okay to relax and eat whatever you want, and you can pick up your diet and exercise routine once it’s over. But overeating means you’re breaking the routine that structures your daily life.” Although you are certainly welcome to indulge in the sizable meal, it’s important to have a strategy going into the holiday on how to undo the damage in the time that follows. Below, you will find the outline for your perfect post-Thanksgiving ritual, starting right after your final forkful.

The Evening Of:

“Following a large meal, it takes more time than usual to digest the amount of food you’ve eaten. As a result, the blood from areas such as the brain is redirected to your digestive system, causing you to feel sleepy,” notes Ameke. However, it’s extremely important not to get right into bed after taking your last bite. Lying down immediately may cause the food inside your stomach to move into the esophagus, which can cause heartburn and reflux symptoms. Additionally, previous studies have shown that eating right before bed can slow your metabolism, causing the food to be stored as fat. As an alternative, take your dog on a short walk outside to help release toxins from your system. A full-blown workout is not necessary, as a simple stroll is just as effective in helping the digestive process.

The Morning After:

It’s time to resume your normal exercise routine, and what better way to do so than a Turkey Trot? A Turkey Trot is a morning run or mini-marathon that typically occurs the day after Thanksgiving to counteract indulgences. “Since it occurs early in the morning, it kick starts your metabolism so you burn more calories throughout the day and even the days that follow, depending on how hard you work,” insists fitness instructor Elise Bancroft. “Additionally, exercising in the morning can lower stress levels and keep you calmer during the day.” Struggling to find the motivation to set your AM alarm? Recruit your besties to join you on the run! “A Turkey Trot is the perfect activity to do with your friends,” says Bancroft. “With them by your side, you’re more likely to work hard and not give up.”

The Night After:

Do not make your Thanksgiving feast become a dinner habit. The best way to make you feel both physically and mentally rejuvenated from overeating is by indulging in a healthy meal the night after. “Considering the current season, I would certainly recommend a hearty butternut squash or pumpkin soup,” Ameke recommends. Both flavors are high in vitamin C--which helps boost immunity--and contain antioxidants that combat bad cholesterol. “A salad is also always a great option to recover from overeating the night before,” Ameke adds. Packed with vitamins and minerals, the greens you include in your salad are guaranteed to supply you with a multitude of health benefits. You can even crumble some leftover turkey over the top for a boost of protein!

The Week After:

During the week, there are several types of exercise that can help you resume a healthy lifestyle. “Taking on cardio at a steady rate for at least 25 minutes per day burns fat and calories,” Bancroft recommends. “Jogging, biking, swimming, rowing, or brisk walking are all good steady cardio ideas.” Additionally, it’s important to work strength-training into your regular fitness routine to achieve the ultimate lean physique. “I would suggest working out with either free weights, machines, or just your body,” says Bancroft. “Exercises such as squats, bench presses, push-ups, and crunches can build toned muscle mass.” If a heart-pumping fitness routine isn’t your style, Bancroft insists that pilates--especially hot yoga--can be just as beneficial for your health: “You sweat a lot in these classes which can eliminate the toxins from the food you ate.” However, it’s extremely important to remember that it’s not necessary to significantly restrict your calorie intake during the week that follows, as it will only have a negative impact on your mood. “‘You may feel like you have just gained ten pounds after Thanksgiving, but the reality is, that’s impossible,” says Barcroft. “The food is just now in your stomach and your body has to digest it. You can help it do that by being active and eating whole foods and lots of veggies.” Use Thanksgiving dinner as your kickstart for the ultimate ‘health week’ filled with fun fitness routines and nutritious (yet delicious) meals. Once you hit the one-week mark, don’t be afraid to indulge in a treat of your choice--because you deserve it.