How to Stay Moderately Healthy this Thanksgivukkah

A week from today, we will experience something extremely rare — the intersection of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah!

Budget your calorie intake this Thanksgiving!

Budget your calorie intake this Thanksgiving!

So how are you celebrating this holiday anomaly?

Whether you’re having a romantic, candlelit Thanksgiving for two or you’re enjoying the company of your jubilant extended family, one thing’s for sure — this Thanksgiving has to be celebrated on epic proportions.

And no, I don’t mean pig out. This Thanksgiving, I challenge you to control your portions and eat smartly.

This doesn’t mean miss out on your holiday favorites! It just means that you’ll make a few adjustments that shouldn’t affect your overall Thanksgivukkah experience.

Follow these eight steps for a healthier Thanksgivukkah celebration:

  1. Practice portion control: Even though Thanksgiving only comes around once a year, and you might have this raging urge to just eat and eat and eat some more, don’t. Take a little bit of everything at the Thanksgiving buffet, and eat with moderation.
  2. Use low-calorie substitutes: If you’re making any sort of sweet delight this Thanksgiving, cut back on a lot of calories by using a sugar substitute or honey! Any way you can cut back is beneficial to your health, even if it’s as simple as a sugar substitute.
  3. Eat a meal early: Most people think that if they starve themselves all day and “save” up for the big Thanksgiving meal, they will somehow be budgeting calories in an efficient way. This couldn’t be more false! Make sure to eat a meal before the huge feast. That way, you won’t binge later. High-fiber meals in the morning are highly recommended.
  4. Avoid eating seconds: Yes, I know this one may be hard, but try your hardest! Even though everything is going to taste so good, you don’t need more than one serving in one sitting.
  5. Go for the veggie options: Be sure to eat your veggies! Whether they’re boiled, steamed, baked or fresh, eating veggies as part of your Thanksgiving meal will only make your diet that much more balanced.
  6. Try to stick to water as your primary drink: Thanksgiving is one of the many holidays with delicious drinks everywhere, and whether it’s an aged wine or a nice glass of sparkling apple cider, be careful not to drink too many calorie-filled drinks. In fact, if you can stick to water as your main drink, you will be even healthier in the long run. Think of this as calorie budgeting.
  7. Savor your food: Really take your time when chewing. Research has shown that when you chew slower, your digestive processes work better. So be sure to slow down and really enjoy what you’re eating.
  8. Stay away from turkey skin: Turkey skin is a huge no-no! While it may taste delicious to some, it is extremely high in fat. Instead, you should eat the white meat of the turkey.

Ultimately, it’s about sacrificing a little in order to be your healthiest this Thanksgiving. Making a few of these small changes will benefit you immensely! So try them. Give them a shot and notice how much better you’ll feel.

Well folks, now you know how to have a healthy, happy Thanksgivukkah! Follow these eight steps and you won’t feel bad when you’re trying on that new pair of jeans on Black Friday!

Happy Thanksgivukkah – make the most of this special time!

Ramadan Retrospective: A Health Boost in Disguise

For the past seven years, I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to partake in one of the five pillars of Islam: Ramadan.

Sunset signals the end of a day of fasting.

Sunset signals the end of a day of fasting.

I started fasting when I was 12 years old, as do many other Muslim kids around the world.

Boy, was I stoked!

Not only did this mean I was practically grown-up, it also meant that I actually got to reap the benefits, both spiritual and physical, of the holiest month of the year.

During the month of Ramadan — the ninth month of the Islamic calendar — from sunrise to sunset, Muslims are required to abstain from eating, drinking, smoking and engaging in any sort of sexual activity.

The thing about Ramadan is that it’s not all about abstaining from activities we consider essential to healthy living. It’s about purifying the body and soul by focusing on others rather than just yourself. It’s about becoming closer to your creator and doing so as if nothing in your daily life has changed.

The whole point of Ramadan is to forget about the worldly objects that consume our everyday existence. It’s about focusing on having less. It’s about empathizing with those who are less fortunate. It’s about sharing the experience of those who really live every day not knowing whether they’ll have food to eat or water to drink.

While this spiritual stuff is nice and all, you might be wondering how fasting benefited my physical health alongside my spiritual health.

What are the pros and cons of fasting? What happens to about 23 percent of the world’s population one month out of the year?

Pros:

  • A shrunken appetite. Fasting dramatically shrinks your stomach size. So, when it comes time to break your fast, it’s pretty difficult to binge. This helps you eat smaller portions and still feel satisfied. Personally, this is the greatest health benefit I reap from Ramadan. Fasting really jump-starts my metabolism and sets me up for a healthy fall — until Thanksgiving rolls around. Mmmm… rolls.
  • Nicotine control. Smoking is not permitted while fasting. Instead of stopping cold-turkey or with the help of patches, this is a great opportunity for those who are trying to quit naturally to gradually ween off of cigarettes. While I am not a smoker, I know people who have successfully quit smoking after Ramadan. All you need is a little faith!

Cons:

  • Increased stomach acidity. When you keep your stomach empty for so long, it’s easy for acid to build up and for acid reflux problems to develop. In order to avoid this, I make sure to have some yogurt before sunrise. The yogurt not only keeps me from being thirsty all day, but it also helps the acid levels in my stomach remain normal.
  • Decreased desire to work out. When you have to fast every day for 12 hours, it’s hard to get hydrated enough to hit the gym. While fasting all day is an exhausting practice, there are those who chug their coconut water and work out until sunrise – props to them! The amount of potassium in coconut water makes it one of the best drinks to have when trying to get hydrated.

For me, Ramadan is a rejuvenating experience where both my spiritual and physical health is restored. It’s like it recharges my body to take on another year filled with so many choices.

Every time I go into sajda — the bow Muslims do when they pray — I pray that I’ll get to experience yet another Ramadan. I pray that I’ll get to experience this time full of community get-togethers, where I can give back and feel one with God while feeling physically cleansed as well.

Don’t diet during the holidays

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving! While we were trapped in food-induced comas, our sneaky diet plans went out the window and thought we wouldn’t notice. This happens every year. Personally, I only get homemade pumpkin pie once a year, so I tend to take advantage of the rare opportunities to enjoy it.

And you know what? That’s okay! Trying to diet during the holidays only adds stress to an already stressful time of year, and I didn’t even mention finals yet. If you love the homemade spread of comfort foods and treats during the holidays, don’t punish yourself.

Photo via memescopados.com

Eating healthy is great, but you deserve a treat every once in a while. And if Mom’s making her famous (insert favorite food here), don’t deny yourself a taste of it. The key to maintaining your weight during the holidays is focusing on portion control and keeping up with your exercise routine. Follow these tips to survive the holidays and fit into all the new clothes you’re going to get:

  • Have a snack before a holiday party. When you arrive starving and have to wait another hour before the feast begins, make sure you have a healthy snack beforehand. You’ll eat less of the unhealthy stuff if you’re not already famished.
  • Don’t drink your calories. It’s easy to have a few extra cocktails or glasses of eggnog and not realize how those calories are adding up. Avoid the problem altogether and set a limit of one so you can still enjoy without overdoing it.
  • Don’t just eat because food is there. Eat when you’re hungry, not when a cheese platter is staring at you and protecting you from making small talk.
  • Bring a healthy dish you love to share. If you bring something you love, you can enjoy that without the guilt. Avoid plates of calorie-packed, sugary surprises and stick to what you know.

Stay healthy, Devils! We’re in the home stretch, so work hard and be well!