Turkey, gravy, stuffing, potatoes, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, rolls ... and the pumpkin pie topped with whipped cream. (Not to mention the calorie-bomb glasses of Cote du Rhone or your favorite microbrew.) I feel heavy just typing this out! But let's face it: Thanksgiving is synonymous with indulgence—even if you decide to go a little lighter and healthier with your Thanksgiving menu. And why shouldn't we go overboard just a little? Life coach Alice Greene, author of Inspired to Feel Good, offers three ways to indulge without feeling awful afterwards.
1. Make Thanksgiving last. We only get this meal once a year, which drives us to eat as much of it as we can while we can. What is really happening is a subconscious emotional reaction to feeling deprived of what comes with this meal—both for the past year and for the next 364 days. This may be a deprivation of specific foods that you have only on Thanksgiving or of being with specific people. By making this day special and infrequent, you subconsciously tend to overindulge.
The solution: Make a smaller version of this meal or many of your favorite Thanksgiving recipes at other times during the year, so you know this isn’t a one-time thing. Create a plate of the things you love to have for the next day, so you absolutely know you will have it again. And, make plans to get together with your favorite relatives or friends one other time during the year, or find ways to correspond with them more frequently.
2. Don't deprive yourself. We decide to blow our diet for the day, because again it is a special day and tomorrow we’ve got to get back on our diet. This creates an all or nothing mindset. It also plays into reacting to having been restricted while on the diet and knowing you’ll be restricted the following day. This creates an emotional need to make up for the restrictions and drives you to binge while you are free of the restrictions.
The solution: Avoid highly restrictive dieting, particularly during the holidays. Instead eat healthy foods and allow yourself some of the foods you love in moderation. On Thanksgiving day, be highly selective. Look at all the foods available and decide which foods you really love and start off eating small portions. Make room for a bit of dessert, and stop eating when you start to get full. You’ll feel satisfied without indulging.
3. Don't eat to offset your feelings. For some people, Thanksgiving comes with family baggage that stirs up emotions and emotional eating. It is often easier to turn to food or more drinking rather than cope with the feelings. Yet at the end of the day, you’ll still feel awful and be carrying the unresolved feelings.
The solution: Pay attention when you are turning to food because of your feelings, and instead of continuing to eat, see if you can step outside or go to another room for a moment to gain your composure. Then when you get a chance on your own, write down what is coming up and what it is you need. The act of doing that allows you to express your feelings instead of repress them with food, and it helps you see what might help you resolve it. When you can see what is emotionally and mentally driving or sabotaging your behaviors, you can change your mindset and your choices by changing your beliefs and addressing your emotions. Instead of depriving yourself or burying your feelings, give yourself permission to have a bit of your favorite foods more often and address what it is your really need. You’ll have a much more enjoyable holiday.