Thriving this Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving can be one of the most stressful times of the year for an overeater or a dieter. It’s a holiday focused on family, togetherness, gratitude, and, oh yes, FOOD. Has this type of Thanksgiving ever showed up in your life?…

You wake up in the morning and start the day with a workout. You push to get in some extra cardio to burn off some of the calories that you know you’ll be gorging yourself with tonight. You eat a light breakfast, regardless of how hungry you are, and start preparing the food with your family later in the day. You want to pick at the delicious food as you’re cooking because now you’re feeling hungry, but you really want to reserve your calories for the big meal. Once you sit down to eat, you’re STARVING. You are nervously eyeing each dish on the table, trying to calculate how many servings of mashed potatoes you can get away with before anyone notices. You want to be sure to grab a couple of the freshly baked rolls before they get eaten up completely – especially since you’re cutting out all carbs starting tomorrow. You go through a couple dishes of food, without really tasting it too much or relishing the flavors. Once dessert comes out, you start getting antsier since you know this is your weak spot. You muster up some willpower to say, “No thanks” but after watching everyone else indulge, you get envious so you just take one slice of pumpkin pie. Then you figure, “What the hell. I’m starting over on clean eating tomorrow. Why don’t I just sample all of the desserts tonight?” You leave the table feeling stuffed and gluttonous, wishing you could’ve controlled yourself a little bit more. Good thing you’re hitting the gym bright and early in the morning…

Take a walk with me through what Thanksgiving day can and should feel like for you…

You wake up in the morning energized and excited about the holiday. You can’t wait to see your family/friends, eat some delicious food, and enjoy the company of some of your favorite people. You go through your usual morning routine, and eat a solid breakfast since you’re feeling hungry at that time. You know you’ll be eating the Thanksgiving meal in the late afternoon, so once lunch time rolls around, you eat a little snack until your body tells you it’s enough to get through the next few hours – with plenty of room for your delicious meal! You haven’t stressed about the amount of food you’ll be eating tonight at all, because you know that you can eat as much as you please and you won’t have to go back to restricting yourself tomorrow. You can truly just focus on the present moment. Once you sit down to the meal, you thank a higher power (God, the universe, mother Earth, etc.) for the delicious source of this food and take in the energy of your loved ones around you. You eat until you feel satisfied, but not stuffed. You know you can always eat the leftovers tomorrow (and the next day, and the day after that…). Once dessert comes out (your favorite!), you take a piece of each thing that looks good to you, knowing that you don’t have to finish it all, and you can also have some more if you are still hungry afterwards. You leave the meal feeling a little bit stuffed but don’t feel any guilt – it’s Thanksgiving and you got to eat a delicious meal! You know that tomorrow your body will guide you to eat exactly the right amount and that you don’t need to repent for what you’ve eaten today. You spend the rest of the night focusing on your loved ones.

You deserve this amount of ease, joy, and peace around food.

Here are a few takeaways from the above scenario that are critical for a peaceful Thanksgiving:

1) Don’t restrict your food intake before your meal. While you don’t want to sit down to Thanksgiving dinner feeling totally stuffed, you don’t want to be starving either. Eat enough so that you feel satisfied throughout the day, but don’t be counting calories all day to “save them up” for the big meal. More importantly, having the mindset that you need to restrict your calories during the day will just set you up for failure; you’ll then feel like you “might as well” overeat at the Thanksgiving meal since you’ve saved up the calories.

2) Say a prayer. Show up to your dinner wholly – this means including a spiritual element. By giving thanks to the amazing gifts you have all around you – fresh, delicious home-cooked food, laughter, friends, love – you’re less likely to be engulfed in eating more than you can handle.

3) Listen to your body. If your belly is hurting from eating so much, listen to her. Take a moment before you start eating to ask yourself how hungry you are, so you can keep in mind how much food will feel good in your body. Do the same during and after you finish your plate. Ask yourself: Does the food still taste good? Do I even like what I’m eating? If I eat more now, will I feel better or worse? The goal is to feel good! If your body is craving something sweet, eat some dessert! There is nothing to avoid, nothing to stuff down before you start “clean eating” again tomorrow. Just enjoy the delicious food – the flavors, scents, textures, and all.

4) Let it go. After the meal, it can be easy to feel guilty for indulging in such a big meal. Just know that you do not have to work out extra hard the next day or restrict your food intake or cut out entire food groups for the week. Your body naturally will not want to eat a huge dinner every night, so you don’t need to worry about the supposed “need” to restrict your calories the following day(s). Instead, focus on the beauty of what’s around you – knowing that, at the end of your life, the moments with your loved ones will be what mattered…not the amount of food you ate this year on Thanksgiving.