Thanksgiving day is right around the corner. Personally it's my favorite holiday of the year, but it wasn't always. As a kid I was a very picky eater and didn't like most of the traditional Thanksgiving foods - I remember dreading that dinner for several days leading up to it because I was so embarrassed to not be eating turkey or potatoes or gravy. And now the pendulum has graciously swung so that I LOVE Thanksgiving foods. I do my best to eat in a way that will allow me to fully delight in the big family meal AND leave me feeling good the next day. I do believe you can have both! Below are some tips - first to help you think through the food choices you'll make and how you'll interact with loved ones on turkey day, and second are some eating strategies to help you feel great after dinner.
1. Decide to have pie NOW!
When you make a conscious decision ahead of time to indulge in foods that aren't part of your daily diet, it helps to free you from the guilt of feeling badly for eating them. You are not 'caving' in the moment because someone is pressuring you to eat it or because it looks irresistible. You are in control and you decided that it is okay for you to eat pumpkin pie or stuffing or have that glass of wine on a holiday. So what is the right amount for you to indulge on Thanksgiving this year - is it 1 piece of pie and a beer? Is it 2 servings of mashed potatoes with cranberry sauce and an extra scoop of ice cream? Be specific in deciding what you want to indulge in, be honest with yourself about how you expect to feel the next day based on those decisions, and then don't let yourself feel guilty for following through with the plan.
Or you may choose not to indulge this year - you may be in a stage of your healing journey that requires you to be a little more strict and stick to foods that you know will make you feel your best. This is also okay and you don't need to feel guilty for that either, which leads me to the next point.
2. Write down WHY you will eat what you eat
Eating is not just a method for sustaining our bodies, it is a communal experience that has familial, spiritual, and emotional dynamics. What you choose to eat impacts not just yourself, but also others. This is one reason why people react to one another based on food choices... we've all had a friend try and tempt us into dessert or another drink when we don't want one, then get annoyed if we refuse.
If you choose to eat dessert along with everyone else, but someone at the table thinks you need to lose weight, they may judge you. If you choose NOT to eat dessert along with everyone else, someone may feel judged by you. I can guarantee that if you seek to eat healthfully (or even if you don't!) you will experience this type of negativity, and working through that is a huge topic for another discussion.
However, as a starting point I recommend writing down, telling a friend or family member, or even just saying out loud to the mirror WHY you are making the choices you are this year for Thanksgiving. Remembering those reasons will help you to have both the internal strength to follow through with what you want to do, and the grace to be kind to anyone who may not agree with you. Speaking of which...
3. Do not tease, compliment, or otherwise comment on what others choose to eat
I believe that it is a good rule of thumb to not draw attention to the food choices others make (even in compliments), especially in front of a crowd. They may feel embarrassed or isolated by a new food choice and don't want others to notice.
And remember that if someone makes a negative comment toward YOUR eating choices, they may feel insecure because they think they should be eating like you but haven't been successful yet. Be gracious, try to change the subject, and understand that their comments say more about them than you.
OK so onto some practical eating tips:
3. Eat breakfast... with some healthy fat
Often times folks avoid eating breakfast to "save up calories" or be extra hungry for turkey dinner. I do not recommend this method! Eating breakfast is an important way to start our metabolism and regulate our blood sugar. Eating breakfast that contains a healthy fat such as coconut oil, butter, or olive oil is a great way to regulate your energy throughout the morning and get you to dinner happy (and hungry).
4. Get outside and move before the big meal
If you end up going on a walk after dinner, that is great, however I wouldn't bank on that happening as most people fall into a food-induced coma for the rest of the evening. Movement will help you digest your food, get your metabolism going, and give you a mood boost that many people need on a holiday.
5. Start your plate with turkey and 2 veggies
When you go through the buffet line or pass around the plates, try to start your plate off by choosing 2 veggie dishes and turkey first, THEN add in the mashed potatoes, stuffing, or bread that you'd also like. If you prioritize those dishes, you may find you have less room for the others but you can get a taste of all of them while still eating a nutrient dense meal. Not sure if there will be any veggies at your Thanksgiving meal? Offer to make my Pumpkin Apple Salad- I'm sure you'll get compliments for this fall themed dish.
Got other good Thanksgiving tips to share? Questions or reflections on these tips? I'd love to hear from you in the comments section below. And from my family to yours - Happy Thanksgiving!