• Hannah Stewart, Undergraduate Dietetic Intern

Finding Food Peace This Thanksgiving


If you're looking for this post to tell you how to shave calories from your thanksgiving dinner, you're out of luck. And, if you're seeking advice on whether you should eat white or dark meat or want the five best post-thanksgiving cleanses, you'll have to look elsewhere. But, if you're like us and and are sick of the overthinking, guilt-tripping, and food-shaming that happens every year around the holidays, you've come to the right place.

Plenty of people employ the "eat this, not that" method to health around the holidays. They're terrified of the very foods they enjoy because they fear becoming out of control around them. Excitement to see loved ones is overshadowed by the impending fear of weight-gain. Many decide to set a weight loss goal after the holidays are over, only to come back to the same old shame around food. It doesn't have to be this way! Here are some tips for having a more peaceful experience with food this Thanksgiving:

Eat Breakfast (and snacks) On Thanksgiving Day

We say this every year because it's important! "Saving up" for feasts will only make you more inclined to eat everything in sight. You'll likely come away feeling uncomfortably full from the meal if it's the only thing you've eaten all day. Plus, this communicates to your body that there are stipulations to eating certain foods and that food is an exchange, rather than something that will be available when your body needs it.

Avoid "Food Swaps" That Detract From Satisfaction

It's one thing if you prefer baked sweet potatoes over the kind with butter and sugar because of the taste or texture or because of how it makes you feel. It's quite another if you are constantly sacrificing foods you enjoy for ones you feel are "healthier." The pleasure we derive from food plays a huge role in communicating to us that we've had enough. Even if you're physically full, you may notice you want to continue eating because you didn't enjoy the meal! For example, if you prefer gravy on your potatoes or butter on your roll, don't skip it. You may just find that, instead of eating three or four butterless rolls, just one with butter leaves you feeling content and satisfied. Food is a gift that is meant to be enjoyed, not merely ingested. Savor the foods you enjoy this Thanksgiving!

Listen to Your Body, Not Your Grandma (Uncle, Cousin, Co-Worker, etc)

Food pressure can be tricky around the holidays. Tuning into hunger and fullness is a huge part of enjoying your meal, but oftentimes pressure from relatives or friends can cause us to override our internal cues. You might be feeling full, but someone says, "You must still be hungry. Here, have another piece of pie." Or, "Someone needs to finish this turkey off or it will go to waste!" While it's important to show respect, and there are some cultures in which it truly is rude to refuse food, many of us accept the food out of habit or to avoid explaining the situation. The good news is you don't have to explain your entire philosophy on food to politely decline more food in that moment. Phrases like, "That was fantastic, but I couldn't eat another bite," or "Can I take it to go? That turkey was amazing, and I'd love to have it on a sandwich tomorrow," can be ways to compliment the host while still making your boundaries clear.

Remember Food Is Just One Component Of This Day

It's incredibly ironic that a day intended to be a time of enjoying fellowship and good food can be turned into total guilt or fear surrounding those very things. While it's unlikely that anyone's holiday will be totally stress free, it's also important to recognize that much unnecessary stress can come from obsessing and guilt-tripping about pumpkin pie. One day isn't going to change your body's composition or cause your blood pressure to skyrocket. However, being disconnected from loved ones because of food anxiety does have much longer-lasting impacts. Choose to savor food, listen to cues, and be emotionally present with family members this Thanksgiving. Your health and your family will thank you.

#holidays #foodguilt #intuitiveeating

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