For many of us, the holidays can be a crazy time, full of positive and negative emotions, enjoyable or challenging family interactions, and all kinds of experiences with food. So, here are 5 tips to help you have an enjoyable Thanksgiving this year.
#1 Don’t skip meals leading up to the big one!
So many people restrict their food intake in preparation for the big meal on Thanksgiving Day. They think they need to eat less in order to have permission to eat more during the holiday meal — As if under eating means they have earned the right to really enjoy the big meal on Turkey Day.
This is one of the worst strategies, and I will tell you why
- When you restrict your food, you become very hungry, and when you’re hungry and deprived of food, you are more likely to overeat once you finally have access to food.
- Research has linked food restriction and food deprivation to overeating and bingeing. It’s just a simple fact of life.
- Additionally, there has been some research showing that negative mood is associated with greater food intake in some individuals, especially in “restrained eaters.” So, restraining your food intake on an emotionally provocative day is like a double whammy.
Knowing you may experience excitement, anticipation, anxiety, stress, grief, or sadness on Thanksgiving Day, perhaps it’d be wise to avoid skipping meals.
Entering into the Thanksgiving meal both underfed AND with high emotions might increase your chances of eating in a way that is less intuitive.
So, eat all your normal meals leading up to the main event!
(Side note: overeating is a totally normal part of normal eating. If you do overeat, it is OKAY!)
#2 Give yourself permission to eat the food again later
Remind yourself you can have these foods again at any point. Let yourself know that you can eat left-overs for your next meal. When we think this one Thanksgiving meal is the only time we have permission to eat this food, we get the urge to eat as much as possible, fearing we will never have access to it again. This deprivation mentality can lead to overconsumption, and for many people, overconsumption is followed by those strong feelings of guilt and shame.
#3 Be kind, compassionate, and caring toward yourself
If you overconsume, it’s okay! This is a normal part of NORMAL eating. Try not to beat yourself up over it. If you continue to fuel your body as usual, chances are, your body will know how to handle it. Our bodies are brilliant. The issue only arises when we restrict or engage in some sort of compensatory behavior in response to the episode of “overeating.”
One of the worst things you can do after “overeating” is under eat.
This throws off your body’s natural ability to self-regulate. Try to carry on with your regular meals following Thanksgiving Day.
Additionally, look for ways to take care of yourself before, during, and after the holiday. This may include some quiet alone time, a bath, a walk around the neighborhood, a nap on the couch, a conversation with a loved one, etc. Tune into what you need and try to meet that need.
#4 Reevaluate your expectations
What are your expectations going into the holiday? Do you expect it to be a drama-free family gathering? Do you expect everyone to express gratitude for your hard work? Do you expect everyone to be on time?
Some details are simply out of our control. While it is difficult feeling out of control, one way you can make this experience a little more comfortable is by altering your expectations.
Perhaps you can enter into the day with an openness to whatever may be coming your way. Everyone will show up when they show up, and you may or may not get a “thank you.”
So, ask yourself:
- What can I do, within my control, that will give me a sense of fulfillment?
- Is there a way to have a good experience regardless of everyone else’s responses?
- Are there expectations I can let go of?
#5 Focus on what is most important to you
In the big picture, what is most important to you? What do you want to look back on and remember?
Is it about having the perfect turkey, the cleanest house, or the best pumpkin pie? If so, it may never feel like “enough.” It’s almost impossible to do everything perfectly. PLUS, it is impossible to please everyone. Aunt Sally may love a traditionally cooked turkey while Uncle Sam may prefer the deep-friend turkey. Grandma Nancy may think the house is decorated perfectly while Great Aunt Sandy thinks the colors are all wrong.
So, if it’s important to you that everyone gathers under one roof for a special holiday, focus on that and let yourself off the hook with everything else.