Yikes! It feels like a big responsibility – writing a post that might help folks deal with this season. If you’re familiar with my blog, then you know that I’m not the “try eating more of this and less of that” type of person. I’m more of a “your eating is just a symptom of a deeper problem, and here are some tips for getting to the root of it” kind of blogger. That has not changed, and I doubt if it ever will. However, food-focused occasions like Thanksgiving can be A BEAST for those of us with food and weight issues, so every little bit of advice can help! So here’s my strategy for tackling the holiday….
I usually volunteer to host Thanksgiving dinner. Why? Well, not only is it my favorite holiday, but I know that if I host it and prepare key parts of the meal, I can control what gets put into the food, and make sure there are plenty of healthy options for me to eat. Years past, since I started hosting it, my rule was that I would not make anything that I was not going to eat. Want candied sweet potatoes? Make them yourself and bring them, and then take the rest home. Want dessert? Bring it yourself, and take the leftovers home.
Also in the years past, I would make a special allowance for Thanksgiving day only, and give myself permission to eat the stuffing, macaroni and cheese, and rolls (but not dessert, since sugar is most definitely my kryptonite). Of course, that would turn into Thursday and Friday, because of the leftovers, and then stretch through the weekend. Monday morning, I’d wake up freaked out by the prospect of my impending Thursday weekly weigh-in, and start chowing down on green leafies and pounding the elliptical machine at the gym with the hope that I could erase the 4-day carb load, or at least get away with some of it.
Not this time. My head is in such a different and better place. I know myself (and my little tricks) very well. I am not one of those people who can have “cheat foods” or “cheat days.” I also am very much in tuned with how foods affect my body. So this year will be different. No starchy carbs for me.
I’m making turkey, stuffing, carrot and ginger soup, and three other veggie sides -- green beans, a vegan “creamed” kale and spinach, and roasted Brussels sprouts. My sister, as always, will bring a massive vat of macaroni and cheese, along with a couple of desserts, others will bring more dessert options, rolls, cranberries, beverages, and whatever else they want. That’s what will be available. I will eat soup, veggie sides, and turkey. That’s it. That’s why I’m making so many different ones, and I can control what’s in them to manage the overall fat content.
Also, even though the food will be spread out on the dining table and the sideboard so people can serve themselves, I plan to eat my mean in courses, starting with the soup, and then one vegetable side, then another, then another, etc. It forces me to eat slower, and to pause between sittings as I move on to the next one. It will feel like I’m getting seconds and thirds (which is part of the inherent social eating that tends to happen at big meal gatherings), but I won’t be. And it will give my brain a better chance of registering when I've had enough before I've gone overboard.
I’m also planning to take a nice, long 5+ mile power walk mid-afternoon, after the meat goes into the oven. That’s the part I’m looking forward to the most, especially since the forecast is glorious – partly cloudy and low 60s!
More importantly, I plan to be fully present for the Thanksgiving festivities. Between the fresh air and endorphins from my walk, and the healthy foods I plan to eat throughout the day, I look forward to fully engaging with the friends and family coming over. There will be no heaviness and sluggishness that comes from feasting on all those starchy carbs – not for me, anyway. I fully expect to be in the moment throughout the day. I know I will feel well fed, satisfied, and happy.
I also know I’ll observe some of the others doze off into sugar comas. I will remember what that feels like – stuffed, heavy, drugged, unable to think clearly, as if moving/talking/functioning underwater. No thanks. I’ve done that before, so many times. The appeal is gone.
And by the time the last person leaves that evening, so will the stuffing, macaroni and cheese, and all the other starchy carbs and sweets. They can linger in someone else’s house, in someone else’s bloodstream, on someone else’s hips.
It’s just one day, one meal on one day. And it’s a day of gratitude. Be thankful for the food that’ll be in front of you. Be thankful for the friends and/or family you may be sharing the day with – no matter how weird or wacky or annoying or dysfunctional they might be. Be grateful for your heath, however compromised it might be.
Decide if you want to feel present, in the moment, and satisfied as you enjoy the holiday dinner, or if you want to add a layer of sluggishness, drowsiness, guilt and self-defeat on top of that. Be honest with yourself. And if you choose to drink, or dive into the rolls, mac and cheese or desserts, do it consciously; own that choice and enjoy every.single.bite.