Thanksgiving is AWESOME. I am so excited to see my family and eat yummy things. 🙂
If you’re like me, Thanksgiving can be REALLY stressful. I mean, it’s a holiday where even “normal” eaters plan to ridiculously overeat. A day where we all gather and joke about stuffing our faces . . . and then do it. So if you struggle with emotional eating or bingeing, Thanksgiving can be a hard day.
Here are a few strategies I use to combat Thanksgiving food stress. I hope some of them may be helpful to you or even spark other ideas that could work well for your own situation. Thanksgiving can and should be a wonderful day, not one where you’re held hostage by your fear of food. So I hope and pray for all of you that you can enjoy the day and finish it proud of yourself and your eating.
1. Run a race
My family has a long-standing tradition of running a 5K every Thanksgiving morning. My local rec center hosts a Turkey Trot every year, and it’s become one of my favorite things about the holiday season.
Doing this sets a healthy tone for the day. And, it’s kind of nice knowing that even before the feasting begins, I’ve torched a good 300+ calories from running 3.12 miles. Woot!
This year I’m not running it—I haven’t yet gone running since having Scarlett and don’t know if I have the endurance for a 5K at the moment—but I’m cheering on my mom and siblings and then having my two older daughters run the kid’s 1K. I’ll be sure to post pictures!
2. Use the 1-plate rule.
Once the food is out and the eating begins, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. There is SO much food! And so much of it looks amazing!
What I like to do is take a few deep breaths to center myself and then look at the entire spread. Do the rolls look light and fluffy and homemade, or are they kind of stale and mediocre rolls from the grocery store? Did your aunt make her famous pecan-topped yam amazingness casserole? Does the stuffing look good? How about the potatoes? Are you a green-bean-casserole fiend or do you think it’s so-so?
Evaluate what’s there and what you want to eat most, and then fill up one plate accordingly. It can be a pretty massively loaded up plate—you’ve got to fit at least a little of everything you see that you know you’d feel sad missing out on! But once you have that one plate, go back to your seat and savor each bite and be done feasting. Pop in a piece of gum and strike up a conversation with your favorite cousin or go play in the yard with your nephews. I find that going back and back and back for seconds gets me in trouble, but if I have one hefty, thought-out plate, I leave satisfied that I got to try everything I wanted to but that I won’t put myself into a total food coma.
Depending on how your family serves up the meal this could be different, but mine tends to eat the meal first and then pull out the pie and desserts and hour or two later. I guess I should have said the 2-plate rule, because I follow the same practice once dessert comes out: evaluate the spread, choose what I want most, and have just 1 plate. Maybe it’s a few slivers of 3 different kinds of pie (gotta try ’em all!) and a small slice of pumpkin bread, or maybe it’s one luscious slab of chocolate satin pie. But either way: load up that one dessert plate with what you want to eat most and then don’t make any more trips back.
3. Bring something healthy to the table.
If it’ll make you feel better, volunteer to bring a veggie platter or a salad. It’s nice to know that if you do end up feeling the need to munch even after you’ve had your one plate that you’ll have some nutritious options instead of ending up tallying 8 of your sister-in-law’s rolls by the day’s end.
4. Plan to work out in the evening.
I don’t know that I’d do this if you already ran a race, but this is a strategy I’m using this year. My family eats in the early afternoon, lingers for a few hours, then heads home around 7 or so. I’m going to enjoy my meal and a slice of pie in the afternoon but then do my PIIT 28 workout once I’m home from Thanksgiving.
Knowing I have my workout slated for the PM is motivation for me not to gorge myself. Working out on a full, sloshy stomach is NO BUENO. And I like PIIT 28 enough 3 days in that I’d be really, really sad if I didn’t get to see what Day 4 holds.
So choose a workout that you think is fun and write it in your planner for a few hours after the feasting ends. It may help you resist the urge to mindlessly munch all day long if you’re like me.
5. Focus on thanks.
This sounds cliche, but take a few minutes to zoom out and think about why we really have Thanksgiving. Yeah, we have made it about food, and food is a fun part of it. But really, the day is about giving thanks for all we have. Mentally list all in your life you are grateful for, or even jot your list down on paper.
Pause to be thankful especially for your body and all it does for you. Even if it doesn’t look exactly like you wish it did. Your body is AMAZING. Think of all the things you get to do and enjoy because you have functioning hands, eyes, muscles, lungs, and a strong, beating heart. Focus on this and do your best to honor your body on Thanksgiving by the way you choose to feed it.
6. Do the next right thing.
What if, despite all your good intentions, you do overdo it on Thanksgiving and all-out binge? That sucks and I’m sorry. I know all to well the physical discomfort of overeating and the worse emotional pain that comes with being devastated and disappointed in yourself.
What to do next? THE NEXT RIGHT THING.
This phrase is something I read in a book as I was at the lowest point of my ED troubles. After a binge, should you spend the next 3 days living on nothing but protein shakes and running 10 miles a day? NO! Should you decide you’ve blown it anyway so you’ll continue to gorge all weekend and “start over” on the coming Monday? NO!
DO THE NEXT RIGHT THING. Eat normal, healthy meals. Put in normal, non-extreme workouts. Carry on physically as though the binge never happened, and carry on emotionally with kindness and compassion towards yourself. Yeah, you messed up, but that doesn’t make you a horrible, disgusting human being with no willpower or redeeming value of any kind. It just makes you a person who ate a little too much on Thanksgiving. Which, in the long run, is NO BIG DEAL.
One bad day won’t destroy you, just like one day of healthy choices doesn’t make you set for life. You are defined by your overall patterns of eating and living, not by isolated data points. So shake it off and be nice to yourself. Power onward and focus on your next healthy move. You’ve got this. 🙂
What do YOU do to keep your eating from going off the rails on Thanksgiving? Comment away!