Nutrition: How to eat Thanksgiving dinner

Ahh, turkey, sweet potatoes, pies, and cookies…oh my! Okay, that's a bit corny, especially coming from us, but those are some of the foods you can expect to see during Thanksgiving dinner this year (unless you're weird like us and have steak and shrimp).

Eating around the holidays is a source of camaraderie and good times for many people, but also a source of stress for others. If you're trying to lose weight, trying to maintain your physique, or targeting fitness goals, it may seem like the food on the Thanksgiving table is off limits, but that is not the truth. You can eat the food in front of you, but you just need to keep a few things in mind.

Mindful eating

The most important thing for you to focus on during the holiday eating season is mindfulness. In this context, we mean be aware of the food you put in your mouth. That may seem like a simple point to make, but many people struggle in this area. Have you ever found yourself mindlessly taking repeated chips from the bag while watching a movie, snacking on the items in the snack tray while talking to someone, or otherwise eating without really being aware of what you’re eating? Of course you have! We all have! The goal then is to be aware of what you are eating and to take control of the same. There are many different ways to do this, so we cannot offer an exhaustive list but rather can provide a few examples.

Considering the chip example, instead of leaving the bag in front of you, take a portion of chips, place it in a bowl, and take that with you, leaving the bag in the kitchen cabinet. This can help make you more conscious of what you eat, since you will have to take notice you're out of chips, go to the cabinet, and consciously pull more chips out of the bag.

About the snack tray example, the solution here is don’t linger where the food is. The longer you linger close to the food, the more likely you are to eat something. Take your conversations somewhere else.

The next two items fall under mindful eating, since if you're not mindful, then you won’t be aware of the next two:

  • Portion control—it goes without saying: the more you eat the more likely you are to gain weight, negatively affects your physique, or fuel your body with the wrong fuel or too much of the right fuel (you only need so much fuel at one time). That turkey in front of you—don’t take the whole drumstick, just have a slice or two. Those mashed potatoes—you probably don’t need three servings. That pie—maybe stick to one slice, two if you're jacked.

  • Balancing food consumption—don't just go for the "bad" stuff; be sure to have some of the good stuff as well. Have that piece of pie or those cheesy potatoes, but make sure to have some lean turkey or ham as well as some vegetables or fruit. Holiday eating should be enjoyable but also be balanced. At the same time, be mindful of the extra things you add, such as butter, gravy, dressing, hollandaise sauce.

It's okay to enjoy food

Eat! It's okay. But eat mindfully. You can have that pie, you can have that butter, you can have those cookies, and you can have that extra serving of your favorite Thanksgiving food; just don’t overdo it. Be mindful of your eating and practice portion control as well as balancing food consumption.

Binge eating and eating due to socialization

There are some additional considerations for people who struggle with food control. These people have a problem relationship with food and have considerable trouble saying no. When it comes to holiday eating a few common problems arise:

  • Binge eating—this goes beyond mindless eating covered above. Binge eating is a recognized form of mental illness, in which people struggle to control themselves not due to motivation but due to an underlying mental health condition. To put things in context, this condition is similar to addiction, but to something from which a person cannot abstain. People have to eat, making this condition unique.

  • Eating due to socialization—some people feel pressure to eat at the holidays and want to please relatives, friends, or other loved ones who enjoy cooking and enjoy seeing people eat their food. These loved ones are generally well-meaning and may not realize the impact their actions have on the health needs of others, specifically persons who are overweight, unhealthy, or otherwise in need of dietary control.

Binge eating

Binge eating is a serious condition. We are not mental health experts, though we do deal with underlying habit/psychological issues that cause people to struggle with food. That said, if you are a binge eater, please visit these links:

Ultimately, you need counseling and/or a strong support group to help you recognize and treat this condition. That said, for eating around the holidays, specifically Thanksgiving in this case, can be helped. The options include but are not limited to:

  • Admit the problem—you have to admit there is a problem in order to address it. Hold yourself accountable and admit the problem to others.

  • Get additional accountability—have a partner, friend, or another person close to you act as an accountability partner. Choose someone with which you have a strong relationship, as the process may be difficult and the relationship may feel strained at times due to this.

  • Develop a plan of action—with the help of your counselor and/or support group, develop a plan of action specific to you. This may include eating before events to minimize the desire to eat, going to events with a partner or friend to act as a buddy system, letting friends or family know ahead of time what the issue is and why you will need to be in control of your eating, or choosing non-food related events to attend—think family outing to the bowling instead of family outing to the restaurant.

Eating due to socialization

The best things to do in these situations is to learn how to say no and to help people understand how pressuring you to eat is not helpful to your goals. You do not want to address these issues at the holiday events, but rather in the weeks leading up to an event. Call or visit the person ahead of time to speak with them and help them understand how they can help you be successful. At the same time, you have to learn how to say no, even if other people do not understand. If the other people cannot be supportive you have to shut down their insistence, telling them as politely possible, but also getting as aggressive as reasonably needed. If they still persist, you have to question these people's desire to see you happy and healthy.

We apologize for the somewhat dramatic tone at the end of this newsletter and blog, but we understand how serious food issues can be and at times we need to address them through our digital content. Every week, sometimes on a daily basis, we see people struggle with these issues. We want these people to be successful and it frustrates us, even angers us at times, when we hear about others standing in their way.

If you are someone struggling with these issues, especially if you suffer from binge eating, are obese, or have serious health concerns in need of dietary change, but cannot pay for services, please contact us so we can help you find free services. Send us a message to set-up a call but be sure to note you want help finding free resources and mention this email so we understand the nature of your request. That way we won’t try to sell you services and instead will only help you find free resources.

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