Thanksgiving is a time of gratitude, family, and, of course, food. However, for individuals with a history of disordered eating or those striving for a healthier relationship with food, this holiday can be challenging. As a registered dietitian, I’m here to provide guidance on how to approach Thanksgiving with mindfulness and self-compassion, promoting positive eating habits and awareness during this special occasion.
1. Embrace Gratitude:
Begin your Thanksgiving meal with a moment of gratitude. Reflect on the time and effort that went into preparing the food, the company of loved ones, and the nourishment the meal provides. This can help set a positive tone for the gathering.
2. Listen to Your Body:
Tune in to your body’s hunger and fullness cues. Before you start eating, take a moment to assess your level of hunger. During the meal, pause occasionally to check in with your body and recognize when you’re satisfied. It’s okay to leave food on your plate if you’re no longer hungry.
3. Savor Each Bite:
Eating mindfully involves engaging all your senses. Take time to savor the flavors, textures, and aromas of the food. Put your fork down between bites, chew slowly, and appreciate the experience of eating.
4. Plate with Intention:
When filling your plate, choose a balance of foods that both nourish your body and bring you joy. Include vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and, of course, some of your favorite holiday treats. Avoid the pressure to overfill your plate.
5. Practice Mindful Portioning:
Be mindful of portion sizes. Start with smaller portions of your favorite dishes, and if you’re still hungry after your first plate, you can always go back for more. This helps you avoid overeating while enjoying a variety of flavors.
6. Stay Present at the Table:
Put away distractions like phones, tablets, or TVs during the meal. Engage in meaningful conversations with family and friends, savoring the moments shared rather than rushing through the meal.
7. Respond to Cravings with Kindness:
If you have specific cravings or foods you love on Thanksgiving, honor those cravings. Deprivation can lead to unhealthy relationships with food. Enjoy your favorites in moderation and without guilt.
8. Practice Self-Compassion:
Be gentle with yourself. Remember that occasional indulgence is a part of life, and it doesn’t define your overall eating habits. If you find yourself feeling guilty or anxious, practice self-compassion and remind yourself that it’s okay to enjoy the holiday.
9. Avoid Food Policing:
Be mindful of not commenting on other people’s food choices or portions. Everyone has their unique relationship with food, and Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate diversity and individual preferences.
10. Plan for Leftovers:
Plan for what to do with leftovers to avoid food waste. Consider donating excess food or creating balanced meals from the leftovers to continue nourishing yourself in the days following Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving is an opportunity to celebrate, connect, and be grateful for the abundance in our lives. By approaching the holiday with mindfulness, self-compassion, and an awareness of your body’s cues, you can savor the flavors and experiences without compromising your mental and physical well-being. Disordered eating awareness means recognizing that it’s possible to enjoy the holiday while still maintaining a positive relationship with food and yourself.