Embracing Thanksgiving vs. Fighting It
Thanksgiving is practically here! Are you getting excited yet???
While the temperatures may be dropping and snow is creeping its way into the forecasts, I find this time of year to be the warmest and coziest of all. A friend asked me the other night if I experienced any of the seasonal "winter blues" that accompanies the shorter daylight hours. My response was that my holiday cheer buffers any depressing thought right outta there - and it's true! The months of November and December are saturated with family traditions and wonderful memories that I relive and revive each year. And Thanksgiving, with its decadent spread that populates buffets and dining room tables, is the harbinger of holiday spirit - setting the stage for the festivities to come.
In the past I have approached Thanksgiving with anxious trepidation. I viewed Thanksgiving like the ultimate nutritional obstacle course. How could I get out of there alive? Could I hurtle the fluffy mashed potatoes and gravy and dodge grandma's sweet potato casserole in time to pivot to avoid the temptation of the apple pie? (Seriously sounds like the BEST obstacle course around - sign me up!)
I would google survival strategies on how to avoid the most tempting of foods and then employ those strategies the day of like a troop strapping on his helmet for battle. And what inevitably happened each year? Overwhelmed by the allure of the "forbidden foods," I would eventually chuck my helmet and eat until my stomach hurt and then spend the entire evening berating myself to the tune of:
"Well, good going. You completely failed. How does it feel to have overindulged like that?"
"Oh my god, I probably gained 5 pounds just today. Tomorrow I start a new leaf: green smoothies every day!"
"I need to hit the gym tomorrow. I wonder how long I would have to run to work off today's meal?"
Sound familiar? Historically speaking, that "strategy" of avoidance fails every time. And yet, why did I make the same plan year after year and expect different results? With some intuitive eating principles under my belt this year, my strategy looks a little different:
Lean into Thanksgiving. Forbid nothing. Eat what I love and banish the guilt.
Thanksgiving is a fraction of the year. 0.2% of the year to be exact. Yes, there are other holidays in the year that involve some amounts of overindulgence, but the point is: it makes zero sense to make your primary objective to "eat clean*" on a few days out of the year that are just so darn special. More than that, how wonderful would it be if we could all just focus on how amazing tasting all of the dishes are instead of making comments about our "blown diet" or impending weight gain?
I challenge you all to go into your holiday welcoming in all the warmth. Eat everything you wish and really focus on how it tastes. Revel in those moments of pure sweet potato+turkey+cranberry sauce bites bliss. Give yourself permission to enjoy everything you love. Focus on being present in those moments with your family and friends instead of having a negative internal struggle. Who knows? You may find yourself without a stomach ache at the end just because those foods were no longer "forbidden."
But even if your tummy is overstuffed (it very well may be), do not despair. Have the self-compassion to recognize that you were enjoying yourself with your family. Food brings emotional and physical pleasure - it's a scientific fact. Know that the overall pattern of our lifestyles, the 99.8% of the year, is far more important than a day or two or three of extravagance.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!