Happy Thanksgiving to all my American F&F readers! To everyone else, happy Thursday. 😉
For those of us participating in holiday festivities today, I want to share some thoughts that have been going through my head about holiday eating. Here are some questions that various people have asked me over the past week or so:
You probably don’t ever have to worry about overeating on Thanksgiving, right?
Are you going to wake up at 4am and go on some crazy twenty mile run?
How are you going to eat healthy for Thanksgiving dinner this year?
In the moment, I can never think of anything smart to say. I just laugh awkwardly and brush it off. However, after spending some time really thinking about how I wish I responded to these questions, here’s what my answers would be:
I guess I wouldn’t use the word worry anymore, but that hasn’t always been the case for me. I’ve actually spent many years obsessing over holiday consumption to the point of anxiety. I’m glad I’ve found ways that work for me to eat mindfully so that stressing about food no longer overshadows the real purpose of the day.
Well, no. I can barely get myself to run more than three miles on other days of the year, so there’s a zero percent chance running twenty miles on Thanksgiving morning will ever happen. And I am certainly not about to wake up at 4am on Thanksgiving when I wake up at 5:15am on most weekday mornings to get to the gym. What I will probably do is sleep in a bit to catch up on sleep, lounge around with my husband, and then get a quick sweat sesh in with a form of exercise that brings me joy. I’ll sweat not because I want to earn my meal later, but because movement fills me with a sense of gratitude for my body and what it can do.
Pretty much the same as I do every other day of the year: not perfectly, but I’ll eat what I want in moderation. I won’t deprive myself of anything if I want it, but I’ll recognize that store bought pies and sugary cocktails are available to me on any other day of the year. No matter what I choose to indulge in, I’ll do so without guilt or shaming, and I’ll be smart enough to know that one day is not going to derail me since I choose a healthy lifestyle every other day of the year.
I feel like each of these answers could lead into multiple separate blog posts in and of themselves, but for today I just want to expand on them a little and share some of my basic no stress holiday eating strategies with you. I’m not talking about ways to count calories or avoid going up for seconds. Eff that. Most of these strategies honestly just involve taking a step back to remind myself of the mindful eating methods I’ve worked hard to develop over the years. And really though, they are mindset reminders I live by all the time, not just on Thanksgiving.
–I do like to bring a healthy dish or two with me to other people’s houses on holidays because I enjoy creating clean eating versions of holiday favorites that family members sometimes can’t even believe actually taste good. For example, I truly enjoyed making grain free stuffing for Friendsgiving a couple of weeks ago because it was something different, not because other items were off limits to me. By no means was I restricting myself from enjoying Tim’s stuffing full of sausage and bread and butter. I’m just obsessed with sweet potatoes, and I knew it would be a delicious veggie focused dish to share with my friends.
–I try and think about the first bite rule, which is something that I learned from subscribing to Neghar Fonooni. If something no longer tastes as amazing as the first bite or sip does as I continue to eat it, then I stop. This is a habit that I’m still very much working on and practicing, and it does NOT come easily to me.
–I abandon a scarcity mindset and remind myself that today is not the last day I’ll be able to enjoy the food in front of me. I pile my plate with protein, veggies, and my absolute favorite Thanksgiving favorites first, and I simply don’t take the items that I don’t care about, could get at any time, or don’t really want.
–On the flip side, I abandon a balls to the walls attitude and remind myself that just because it’s a holiday doesn’t mean I’m obligated to stuff myself to the brim. Moderation is just as much about being honest with yourself in this direction as it is about non deprivation.
–Instead, I find a nice middle ground, and I keep it real. For example, Tim’s aunt makes the best cookies in the world. They are so good that before I even met her, I had heard about Kathy cookies. They are not lightened up in any way, shape, or form. You better believe I’m going to eat one. Probably more than one. But the store bought pastries? Meh. I’ll be skipping those. Wine? Keep refilling my glass please. I just choose my indulgences.
–If I eat more than I anticipate or plan to, I acknowledge it with grace, unbutton my pants, and then I let it go. I don’t dwell on it for days, I don’t beat myself up about it, and I CERTAINLY don’t go into detox mode for the next seven days. No self judgment, because where’s the fun in that? I remind myself that Thanksgiving is just one day. One. And since I generally make healthy lifestyle choices the other 364 days of the year, I know that this one day is not going to make or break my overall diet or physique.
–And finally, I do get in a solid sweat sesh, if it serves my body to move and exercise that day. I don’t force it. If my body needs rest, I’ll rest. But since exercise brings me so much joy and makes me feel good most of the time, you’ll most likely find a sweaty and smiling pic on Instagram of me after my holiday morning workout.
These are all habits that have taken me years to cultivate. I hope that by sharing them today, some of you can realize that “people like me” really aren’t all that different from anyone else. And with constant practice and self reflection, you can get to a place where you don’t have to stress about food, especially around the holidays.
So today, my friends, I encourage you to choose one of the strategies I shared that resonated the most with you, and give it a try. But for goodness sake, don’t dwell or beat yourself up about anything. Appreciate your grandmother’s cooking and laugh with your siblings and cousins. Have fun, get sweaty, enjoy your food, and spend time with your loved ones.
Oh yeah, and give thanks for all of the wonderful things you have in your life.
Kathy cookies, I’m coming for you.