A day of stuffing ourselves with food until our pants don’t fit then unbuttoning and stuffing in some pie.
It’s the running joke of Thanksgiving. You stuff the turkey and then stuff yourself. I want you to challenge that socially accepted theme of Thanksgiving dinner. I want you to un-stuff yourself and have a healthy Thanksgiving instead.
Now I’m not saying you can’t enjoy your cranberry sauce and mashed potatoes. I’m saying, how about you ACTUALLY enjoy your food instead of trying to stuff in as much as possible?
Maybe Aunt Marge will be upset you didn’t try her pecan pie but she’ll get over it. You got a slice of pumpkin because you know you’ll actually enjoy it more and the pecan will be overkill.
The first step in un-stuffing your Thanksgiving is to understand what fullness feels like. Too often, we’re stuck in this constant stream of consumption that we don’t even realize what being full feels like in our bodies. The sensation of fullness isn’t just a subjective thing — it’s based on certain hormones in your body and can actually be quantified.
In order to truly feel your fullness you first have to tune in to your body before, during, and after a regular meal. Rate your hunger on a scale from 1-10 before a meal. Notice the physical sensations in your body as you eat without distractions. Notice the tastes, textures, sensual qualities of your food and how your body feels while eating. At the end of the meal, sit back, take a deep breath, and rate your fullness on a scale of 1-10. How do you feel? Satisfied? A little over-stuffed? Completely full? You should be somewhere between a 7 and 8 after each meal. That’s the sweet spot. Do this exercise with every dinner prior to Thanksgiving and really start to understand what that 7 or 8 feels like and how much food it takes to get there.
The second step in un-stuffing your Thanksgiving is to repair your relationship with food. This step can take years to fully grasp but there are a few things you can do to help quickly:
Here’s how to repair your relationship with food.
1. Quiet the Food Police
You know that little voice inside your head that says “Oooh! We can’t eat that, it’s so bad!”. That’s the Food Police. And she is not your friend. The Food Police is actually a form of diet culture disguised as the ‘healthy friend’. You don’t need to listen to her. No food is inherently “good” or “bad”. Food is just food. And once you can accept this fact, you’ll be able to see the Food Police for what she really is. Instead of agreeing with the Food Police, acknowledge her attempt to keep you healthy, thank her for her input, and remind her that you know what’s best. “Thanks, Food Police, but I actually love cranberry sauce and I’m going to enjoy the heck out of a little spoonful.”
2. Understand that all food is energy.
Your body needs energy to thrive. So your body needs food. Any attempts to restrict food will result in your body and all it’s inner workings to be thrown off balance. Chocolate is energy. Broccoli is energy. Bread is energy. Cupcakes are energy. It’s all energy. Are some forms of energy more nutrient-dense than others? Of course. And I’m not saying to ignore solid nutrition advice. But acknowledging that food is simply energy that your body needs to survive can help so much in the quest of repairing your relationship with food.
Revoke your membership to the Clean Plate Club
This is a hard one, I know. I was a card-carrying member for years. Unless you are truly food insecure and don’t know where your next meal will come from, there is no reason to force yourself to finish every bite on your plate. Did your mom ever tell you “eat that broccoli, there’s starving children in Africa!”.? Mine too. The problem is (1) that forces a horrible relationship with food, adds shame, guilt and fear to mealtimes, and increases your resentment towards food and (2) it would cost more to ship your broccoli to Africa than to just donate to a non-profit helping starving children to get access to food. In fact, I would argue that it’s MORE wasteful to stuff yourself in an effort to be in the Clean Plate Club, than it is to put your fork down when you feel full, and stop eating.
When it comes to family dinners, there’s another aspect that accompanies the Clean Plate Club – the guilt of not wanting to disappoint any family member who made any dish at your meal. You don’t want to disappoint anyone so you grab a bit of everything and end up stuffed. I promise, Aunt Marge won’t hold a grudge. And if she does, shake it off. She’ll forget by next Thanksgiving.
The key to an un-stuffed Thanksgiving is to only listen to your own body and intuition. Not anyone else, not even the Food Police in your head. Ultimately, you know exactly what and how much will fill and satisfy you. Every one of us is born with the innate ability to know exactly how much food we need. It’s only when we let external factors inside our minds that we have difficulty listening to the one voice that truly matters. Ours.
So enjoy your Thanksgiving dinner. Enjoy the heck out of it! Just remember to do so on your own terms. Without the need to unbutton your pants.