| | Eat, Drink, & Don’t Be Weird: Leaning on Thanksgiving

Author / John

Thanksgiving is right around the corner and if you’re like me, you’re always simultaneously leaning and bulking. Except for now. Currently I’m testing some new training and diet protocols for a little project we’ve been referring to as #22JackedStreet. That’s twenty two weeks to either gain or lose 10% of your bodyweight. How did we decide who gains and who loses? You pick the one you prefer and then John makes you do the opposite. So here I am, getting leaner by the second. And if just the mere thought of becoming weaker isn’t enough to make you depressed, then actually feeling it in your training will.

Aside from the change in program there is a very calculated change in diet which makes heading into the holidays a fun new adventure. And by “fun new adventure” I mean crazy shitty suckfest. Turkey Day is one of gluttonous acts of indiscriminate caloric consumption. God, I love Thanksgiving. When my family goes around the table and asks what everyone is thankful for, they just skip me because my mouth is already full and I’m texting. It’s beautiful moments like those that make me think even if I could temporarily halt the inhalation of macros, it would only be to pay homage to the holiday itself. “The thing I am most thankful for on Thanksgiving is Thanksgiving.”


The other amazing thing about Thanksgiving is the copious amounts of wine. Maybe wine isn’t your spirit and I get it. You’re a man and you don’t drink anything that requires ice, a mixer, or a “fucking straw”. But ironically, you will abandon all stereotypes (and moderation) the second you realize someone brought hard cider. The point is, we all love to drink around the holidays and for good reason. It helps settle indigestion and creates a “go limp” quality that is ideal for full tackle back yard football.

Delighting in food is what makes this holiday, well, basically like every other American holiday.

This year, however, there will be no hasty delighting. No eat-with-wreckless-abandon. No numbing of the senses by way of Yuengling. For myself and one other of the Power Athlete crew this year will be different. Instead, I’ll be searching for Nana’s cranberry sauce and green bean casserole in MyFitnessPal only to find that Nana is not a “recognized food distributor”, which, I dare you to say to her face. For certain foods like pumpkin pie and stuffing, a prompt should appear on the app saying “Are you serious?” with a picture of Brooke Ence, arms crossed looking very stern and very jacked. Nay, this Thanksgiving I’ll need to equip myself with a few guidelines to ensure I remain sane and appropriate enough to be around children.


Here’s how I intend on making Thanksgiving my bitch:

1- Don’t piss off your family.
2- Don’t get hangry.
3- Don’t not consume alcohol.
4- Don’t be weird.

1. If someone, especially a family member, has painstakingly slaved over the stove creating something unhealthy, what do you do? First of all, if you are not family, and the food you have prepared is not going to contribute to the making of a holy temple that is my bod, I am not eating it. Period. It’s not personal but seriously, look at my allotted macros…those numbers don’t lie. Sorry friend-of-my-parents but your spinach and cream cheese dip did not rear me, support me in my times of need, and pay for my education. Besides, I have to see all of my family again and potentially hear about my careful/hurtful selections in the future. If there were ever a time to claim family loyalty, this is it.

As for confronting the terrorists, I mean your family, about trying their goodies, I say – go with a white lie. “I’d love to have some but my car is on fire.” Or if you’ve had one bite and they press the issue for more just say “I can’t, I’m gay” and start crying. This will create the perfect food diversion while simultaneously making you the center of attention. Win-win.

2. When you are starving, you hate everyone and everyone hates you. Making smart choices and filling up on things that are less calorically dense will keep you cool and calm at least until the alcohol takes over. Don’t be tempted by the sexy sweets, plates of cheese and nuts, and frozen yogurt machine. (I once spent a Thanksgiving in an Old Country Buffet, so it seemed relevant.) Here’s where you get to exercise a little control amid this tornado of saboteurs.

If you are over the age of 20 and have any tact whatsoever, you will bring a dish. Maybe this is a dish of kale, brussels sprouts, or something else equally boring. Why? Because you’re a selfish sonofabitch and this is your only way to remain satiated throughout what is basically the the most magical festival of food the world has ever known. Use vivid imagery to transform the soggy greens to the texture of virtually anything else that doesn’t make you want to throat-punch people who are laughing and carrying on with vigor, flaunting their energy.


3. Listen. I don’t care who you are, no one wants to be completely sober on Thanksgiving for a myriad of reasons. It’s not a bad or a good thing, it’s just a thing. For a petite lady like myself, that qualifies as about 3 sturdy drinks. Choose your poison wisely here. Egg nog is gross if it’s not home made and that’s not an opinion, it’s “directionally accurate”. It’s filled with tons of sugar and preservative decoys primed to derail your sophisticated palate of adult drank.

Keep your eye on the prize -which is mild to moderate intoxication, of course. The fastest way between A and B is a straight line…but straight lines may not be sexy. Straight lines definitely don’t contain whipped cream, coke, or gently foamed egg whites (hipsters). Instead, I recommend wine and potato vodka because it’s readily available and can be accurately quantified by the MFP nazis. Also, as much as I hate myself for liking Redbridge GF beer, I have to say… it’s delicious. It doesn’t affect my stomach which means I could easily pound 3 in a Thanksgiving Pinch and a sixer during a Christmas Crisis.

4. It’s only a big deal if you make it one. For the love of turkey, do not announce to other guests that you have specific dietary restrictions. By default, you will become the official fun-slayer of Thanksgiving. Not only that, you are an adult capable of managing what goes on your plate, in your mouth, and why. You don’t need to explain that shit to people. Also, this could potentially open up a pandora’s box of strength and conditioning questions and no one wants their off day to become an On-Ramp foundations course.

Basically, be cool, baby. We’re all going to get through this. Once upon a time, I tried over-explaining why I couldn’t attend a friend’s birthday party. The ad nauseam explanation stemmed from the personal guilt I felt. A friend interrupted me to say something that has stuck with me since that day: “Cali, no one noticed that you weren’t there. Sometimes people don’t care about you as much as you think they do.” No one cares if you are bulking, leaning, gluten free, paleo, or on a human-breastmilk-only cycle. It’s Thanksgiving and everyone just wants to have a good time so do them a favor and don’t be weird.


I’m not a social scientist or dietitian so take the above with a grain of salt…and when you do, be sure to track your sodium in My Fitness Pal. Good luck to all those leaning and bulking throughout the holiday season! Now go forth and be jacked.

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John Welbourn is CEO of Power Athlete and Fuse Move. He is also creator of the online training phenomena, Johnnie WOD. He is a 9 year veteran of the NFL. John was drafted with the 97th pick in 1999 NFL Draft and went on to be a starter for the Philadelphia Eagles from 1999-2003, appearing in 3 NFC Championship games, and for starter for the Kansas City Chiefs from 2004-2007. In 2008, he played with the New England Patriots until an injury ended his season early with him retiring in 2009. Over the course of his career, John has started over 100 games and has 10 play-off appearances. He was a four year lettermen while playing football at the University of California at Berkeley. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in Rhetoric in 1998. John has worked with the MLB, NFL, NHL, Olympic athletes and Military. He travels the world lecturing on performance and nutrition for Power Athlete. You can catch up with John as his personal blog on training, food and life, Talk To Me Johnnie and at Power Athlete.


  1. Ingo B on November 26, 2014 at 12:17 pm

    “I can’t, I’m gay” is my new blanket excuse for everything from now on.

  2. Bill Hinzman on November 26, 2014 at 4:34 pm

    Have a thoroughly self-indulgent Thanksgiving. After all, it only comes once a year. BTW, I loved your article!

  3. Paula on November 27, 2014 at 3:57 am

    Leaning out during the holidays? That’s rough, I did that once. I’m bulking:). Thanks for the great read and have a happy Thanksgiving!

  4. Steve (a.k.a. Prof. Booty) Platek on November 30, 2014 at 5:07 am

    @cali exactly – numero quatro – don’t be weird.
    That’s what I was telling my people; don’t be weird.
    and mission accomplished here. great article!

  5. The Turkey to End All Bird-Bans | Power Athlete on November 20, 2019 at 5:38 pm

    […] BLOG: Eat, Drink, & Don't Be Weird on Thanksgiving by Cali Hinzman […]

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