Ultimate Thanksgiving Survival Guide (For Mind, Body, and Soul)

Quick: what’s the first word that comes to mind when you hear the word “Thanksgiving”?  Food?  Or how about gluttony? Thanksgiving is one of the rare days when you’re not only allowed, but are actually encouraged to engage in one of the seven deadly sins.  But it’s not just about a day of over-eating -- it’s about the commencement of what too often becomes a holiday eating spiral.  And with that spiral comes undesirables like regret, guilt, and -- most uncomfortably -- tight pants (of the “these aren’t actually supposed to be tight” variety).

Despite what you (and your waistband) might think, the average American gains just one pound from Thanksgiving to New Years. While you might feel relieved by this factoid, the downside is that the average American also never loses this pound. This means each year we’re merely putting on one seemingly tiny, harmless pound, but they’re adding up behind our backs (literally)!

So, in an effort to stuff you not only with dense, calorie-rich food, Sociology of Style has compiled the Ultimate Thanksgiving Survival Guide that goes beyond the eating frenzy and gives you a fresh appreciation for Thanksgiving rituals -- an understanding of how a day centered on gluttony (and the subsequent purchase of stretchy-top pants) is also good for your mind, body, and soul.  Bonus: we’ve also thrown in some fun, practical tips to help you prepare and dress for the day.

Turkey Is Good For Your Mind

Turkey is so integral to the celebration of Thanksgiving that Alexander Hamilton once declared, "No citizen of the U.S. shall refrain from turkey on Thanksgiving Day." (I have no idea whether Tofurky or turducken count.  My $10 bill is on no.)  Despite this unofficial edict, the President issues a “presidential pardon” to one turkey each Thanksgiving, thus sparing the bird his life.  All the other less fortunate poultry finds its way into our bellies...and shortly thereafter, many satiated Americans drift into a blissful food coma.  However, contrary to popular belief, it’s unlikely that the tryptophan in turkey is to blame for your post-meal slumber.  While turkey does contain high levels of the drowsiness-inducing amino acid, so do other meats.  It’s the combination of tryptophan, plus all those carbs (stuffing! mashed potatoes! PIE!!), which then converts to serotonin, and sends you snoozing.  So why are we promoting this food as good for your mind?  Because napping offers a cornucopia of health benefits, including improved mood.  And on a day when you’re likely to be quarantined in a house with your entire family, a post-gluttony afternoon nap is the cheapest -- and tastiest -- therapy around.  This year, ask for an extra helping in the name of mental sanity.

Cranberries Are Good For Your Body

Cranberries were likely one of the earliest foods associated with Thanksgiving, in part because Native Americans helped European settlers survive harsh winters via everyone’s favorite energy-rich snack, pemmican: a tantalizing mixture of dried meat, animal fat, and berries (usually cranberries).  Basically, a Native American PowerBar.  Not only did the cranberries make the buffalo jerky tastier, their antibacterial and antioxidant properties and high levels of vitamin C make them a sort of disease-fighting super food.  So go ahead and fill up on cranberry sauce this Thanksgiving -- but remember:  not all sauces are created equal!  Homemade cranberry sauce, like this delectable version, is higher in vitamin C and potassium and lower in sugar.

Giving Thanks Is Good For the Soul

When you wake up from your nap, you may find that Thanksgiving still isn’t over yet, and with nothing left to eat, the guests have resorted to using their mouths for other less-savory activities, like bickering.  That’s when it’s time to reach for the heavy drugs -- that’s right, you know what I’m talking about: gratitude.  What? Think I’m joking? Thankfulness is scientifically proven to be better than just about any narcotics you can find.  It transforms both your body and your brain, affecting everything from mood to hormones to social bonding to pleasure to immunity to stress to -- you get the idea.  Spending just a few minutes thinking about and listing the things for which you’re grateful makes you a happier and healthier person.  In case you get mentally stuck and draw a gratitude blank, use this cheat sheet (and consider printing it out so other guests can get high on gratitude with you).

Still need a bit more holiday handholding? Here are tips to prepare and repair your body (plus what to wear) during the 5 phases of Thanksgiving:

1. Preparations

  • Get up early and go for a run before you start cooking. Exercising revs up your metabolism and releases happiness-inducing endorphins -- two things you’ll need to stock up on that day.
  • Purchase our preferred version of Joey’s Thanksgiving pants.  We suggest Gluttony Pants (pictured above), which helpfully indicate your physical expansion via an easy-to-understand size guide: “piglet,” “sow,” or “boar.”
  • Not so handy in the kitchen? Need to fake the holiday smells? Stock up on Sweet Potato Pie scented candles, which are sure to confuse noses and taste-buds alike.
  • Have a drink.  While you may be worried about your caloric intake for the day, alcohol doesn’t count -- it’s part of your mental health maintenance for the day.  Anyone who doesn’t understand why this is so should read David Sedaris’ Holidays On Ice (actually, buy a copy and leave it laying around the house for good measure).  It’ll all be much clearer (and fuzzier) then.

2. Kitchen Time

  • Download the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade App to see the participants and the marching line-up. Now you won’t miss out on your favorite floats while you’re busy in the kitchen.
  • If you didn’t take our advice and workout in the morning, it’s not too late to burn some pre-meal calories.  Try purposefully dropping stuff on the floor and then squatting to pick it up; do some pushups against the countertops; and turn canned goods into hand weights. Or, if all else fails, just dance while you cook (another drink may help here).
  • Put the kids to work! Give them these “cool” scrubbing gloves and get them cleaning veggies all day long.
  • It’s not only what you cook, but what you wear while you do it: Throw on a fashionable apron and some anti-fog onion goggles while you chop and keep your eye makeup intact.

3. Meal

  • It takes 20 minutes for your brain to know that your stomach is full. Resist the urge to chow down and beat the family to seconds (and thirds), and eat slowly.
  • If you have no self control, go to this site, because they can provide you with a moo moo that will make it all better.
  • Distribute Thanksgiving-themed shirts out to each family member: A “Gobble till you Wobble” shirt for your family’s championship eater, a Pumpkin “Pi” Shirt for the clever nerd, a "Pluck You" tank for the angsty teen, and an “Official Turkey Carver” golf shirt for the head of your household.

4. Post-Feast

  • Store your leftovers in rationed portions, that way you won’t eat the entire Tupperware of mashed potatoes in one sitting.
  • Take the above-endorsed nap, then get out Dance Dance Revolution for some active family fun.  Don’t have a Wii? (Or even if you do) A family dance-off will make you laugh and burn calories -- which induces double the happiness!
  • Take photos of these activities and send them to faraway friends and relatives via Snapchat, an app that removes all embarrassment by letting the sender choose how many seconds of viewing time the receiver gets before the picture is gone forever (because some moments are not meant for forever).

5. The Day After

  • Wear stretchy pants the day after Thanksgiving (we’re talking leggings, sweatpants, anything without those wretched zippers and buttons). Give yourself a day or two grace period before you put on your jeans.
  • Need help navigating Black Friday? The TGI Black Friday app helps you find the deals you’re looking for at major stores, and the Sale Locator App uses your GPS to indicate which sales are happening at the stores nearest you. With these apps, you’ll be two steps ahead of the rest when the 4am craziness begins.
  • Say no to the Black Friday madness and instead embrace “Block Friday,” a new counter-tradition of conscious mindfulness which encourages you to set consumerism aside and instead indulge in the people around you.