Tips for Guiltless Gobbling This Thanksgiving

Can you believe that Thanksgiving time is already here! Thanksgiving for me is not all about the food (but it is something to look forward to). During this time of year, families come together which is wonderful but it can also create stress. From this point leading up to New Year’s people tend to become anxious about whether they are eating “good or bad food”. Being both mindful and in tune with your body can affect how you feel these next couple of months. Here are some tips to help increase mindfulness during Thanksgiving.

Eat what you enjoy and enjoy what you eat

Holiday eating does not mean you have to abandon your healthy habits or gain weight. Instead:

  • Focus on the items you only get to enjoy during these festivities and enjoy the extras some other time. For example, choose a special dip instead of cheese cubes that are available all year, or try the stuffing instead of potatoes that are served weekly.
  • Choose small portions and remind yourself there will be more tomorrow. This way you can still relish treats and not feel guilty.
  • Don’t skip breakfast. Many people don’t eat breakfast on Thanksgiving because they are “saving up” for the big event. But skipping breakfast means that you will arrive to the Thanksgiving meal feeling very hungry and primed to overeat. Since the turkey and fix’ns are not usually served until later in the day, you are likely to gorge on the snacks and appetizers before the main event.

Mindful eating

Eating mindfully is being conscious of why and how you are eating, not just what you are eating. The research is clear: slowing down your meals and snacks does all sorts of good things for your body. Eating slowly creates actual biochemical changes that make you less inclined to overeat. Mindful eaters are aware of what they feel, where they are and who they are with when they eat. How can you do this?

  • Focus on the current meal or snack and use all five senses to pick and savor satisfying and nourishing foods. Describe the colors of the food on your plate. Describe their textures…how do the mashed potatoes feel in your mouth?  Is the turkey dry or moist?  Describe the smell…does one dish overpower the others? Describe the taste…the saltiness of the gravy, the sweetness of the yams.  During the meal put your fork down between bites so you can calmly observe all your senses at work and check-in with your hunger level.  When you are full it is a good time to stop eating.  There will most likely be leftovers you can enjoy later when you are hungry again.
  • Train yourself to begin and end meals based on hunger and fullness cues. Simply, eat when you are hungry and stop when you are full.
  • Identify personal triggers that result in mindless eating and work to avoid them.
  • Feel good about experiencing the food you have and the opportunity to share with others. Avoid making judgments – there are no “good” or “bad” foods.
  • Appreciate the nourishing capacity that food has and learn to value quality over quantity.
  • Make the effort to sit down, be thankful and take it all in.

Remember to not lose sight of the real meaning of Thanksgiving, which is giving thanks. Write down all the things that you are grateful for today and every day. Try to spend at least 10 minutes letting anything that comes to your mind make its way onto the paper. If you feel stuck, think broad. An attitude of gratitude can be an amazing way to tap into a positive emotional state.

Choose an affirmation you can say often throughout the day. If you anticipate a certain emotion to be strong, tailor your affirmation directly to it. Some examples: “I eat when I’m hungry and stop when I’m full”, “when my anxiety is strong I focus on my breath”, “I am a great conversationalist, I listen to others and they listen to me”, “I’m thankful for this day and where I am in recovery, I am proud of myself”

Save room for dessert. By eating dessert, you are making a statement to yourself that you will not deprive yourself. It’s deprivation that ultimately leads to a binge backlash. Pile less on your plate during the main course so you can comfortably enjoy a slice of pie later.   Dessert it another great opportunity to practice mindfulness!

“Tips for Guiltless Gobbling This Thanksgiving”, Written for Vertex Fitness Personal Training Studio by Ashvini Mashru, RD

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