Marketing around the holidays is brutal. Year-round, traditional media tends to avoid the promotion of normal eating, but the headlines this time of year reach new levels of absurdity. The whole point of Thanksgiving is being grateful, specifically for food. Yet, most articles about Thanksgiving focus on how to deprive yourself, how to cut calories in your favorite foods, how not to “overeat,” and what exercises to do to “burn off” the stuffing.
As a result, these media messages can make Thanksgiving a stressful time for eating. If you’re feeling anxious about the holidays, here are some tips for enjoying your meal on Thanksgiving:
Eat breakfast. I don’t care how much you plan to eat on Thanksgiving, your body still needs breakfast, and you will enjoy your meal SO much more if you aren’t ravenously hungry. Plus, you’re less likely to get homicidal on your significant other when they mess up the timing on the turkey. Making your stomach go from no food to lots of food feels really uncomfortable, and if you’re ravenously hungry sitting down at the table, you’re much more likely to “overeat.” (I use quotations because I hate this word and the way it implies there is one way of eating for everyone.) If you have an early Thanksgiving meal, it might make sense to have something light, like a smoothie, eggs with avocado, or a simple piece of peanut butter toast. If it is later in the day, be sure to get some fat, proteins and carbs with breakfast.
Take mindful pauses throughout the meal. Mindful eating is a useful skill, but realistically, you’re not going to pay total and complete attention to your meal when you’ve got a room full of family or friends to chat with. Practice taking mindful pauses throughout the meal. Notice any thoughts or judgments about the food you’re eating. Check-in with your fullness and hunger levels to see how you feel. Tune into your senses and notice what the food tastes like – is it pleasurable or not? Then get back to gossiping about your family members that aren’t there.
Remember that overeating on Thanksgiving is totally healthy and even pleasurable. If you do gain weight over the holidays, it’s okay! Bodies naturally fluctuate within a 10-20 pound set point range, and during a time of year with less physical activity and more holiday parties and other food-focused celebrations, it makes sense that you might be at the higher end of yours. The average amount of weight gain over the holidays is actually quite small. Also, remember that holiday weight gain is dramatically over exaggerated by the diet industry to get you to buy their programs and cleanses in January.
At the end of the day, Thanksgiving is about food. It’s also about family, tradition, football, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, getting annoyed with your siblings, tacky decorations and finally getting to watch Christmas movies. But mostly, it’s about food and that’s okay.