Your Guide to a Guilt-Free Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving is here, and shortly thereafter we have the Yuletide season. It's a time of year when family, friends, festivities, and most of all food takes center stage in our lives.
Since there's no shortage of high-calorie, seasonal comfort foods, the holidays often break the resolve of those who usually watch what they eat. However, there are plenty of ways to enjoy your Thanksgiving dinner and the Holiday season without throwing out the basics of a healthful diet. Whether at a family meal, neighborhood cocktail party or office potluck, the key is making healthful choices while still enjoying food traditions.
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As a Holistic Health Coach, I help people learn how to have a positive relationship with food, and I truly understand that nobody wants to just eat chicken and raw carrots at a holiday gathering. But at the same time, just because the Holidays have are here it doesn't mean that you need to go over the deep end and eat anything and everything that you make or is available to you! So how do you strike a balance between not feeling deprived and not feeling guilty? There are a few strategies that once you learn how to adopt them in your life, eating can become physically and emotionally satisfying, as well as spiritually meaningful, during not only the Holidays but every day.
Despite every magazine cover and infomercial you’ve seen, developing a healthy and positive relationship with food DOES NOT mean adopting a life of counting calories, carbs, points, reps, laps, or pounds! Instead of forcing yourself to abide by the QUANTITATIVE guidelines of the latest fad diet, satisfying guilt-free eating revolves around understanding the QUALITATIVE difference between real foods that support your physical and emotional health, resulting in an efficient metabolism and positive outlook on life, and refined and processed non-foods that lead to depression, cravings, weight gain, heart disease and diabetes.
And perhaps even more important than WHAT you eat, is WHY you eat. Many of us have learned to use food as a way to make us feel good- we eat when we feel bored, sad, lonely, stressed, and even angry. Many of us grew up using food as a way to replace the love and attention we did not get from those closest to us, and often patterns of emotional eating continue unconsciously into adulthood. Regardless of the specific reasons for our “emotional hunger”, many of us rarely eat in response to true physical hunger and the true nutritional requirements of our bodies, and thus eat more food more often than our bodies can possibly use, resulting in weight gain and numerous chronic “diseases”.
Not only do many people eat to counter uncomfortable emotions all year long, but when the Holiday “feast” days roll around, starting with Thanksgiving, there are additional feelings of reward and entitlement, “it only comes once a year”, “I deserve to enjoy the holiday”, and other such statements are used to justify unconscious holiday binging. But we need to ask ourselves, “Does food REALLY make us happy?” Is it food, in and of itself, that makes us feel loved, worthy and whole? It quickly becomes clear that food, regardless of how delicious it is, cannot make us feel better about whom we are and cannot really take away the hurt and pain. Eating for emotional reasons can only act as a short-term Band-Aid with very large long-term consequences in the form of weight gain, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, to name a few.
The good news is that you CAN learn to separate your emotional and physical hunger, finding healthy ways to finally heal emotional wounds and learn how listen to your physical body for when it truly is hungry and when it truly is full. Many wonderful methods exist to help us handle both our current and stored emotions. When you take the time to understand WHY you eat and honestly look at the root of your “hunger”, it becomes possible to listen to and honor the nutritional needs of your body and really enjoy eating when you are physically hungry. The tastes and flavors of whole, unprocessed foods and the vitality and energy that your feel after eating them becomes the foundation of a healthy lifestyle, with no will-power, deprivation, or guilt.
So here are my guidelines, step by step, for TRULY enjoying your Thanksgiving and Holiday Season as well as honoring your health goals into the New Year and beyond:
- Let go of the “all” or “nothing” fallacy around eating, exercise, and health.
- Spoil your appetite. A high-protein snack or meal can greatly reduce how much you eat at a cocktail party or holiday table and quell the temptation to load up on desserts and heavily sauced dishes. Most importantly, remember that skipping meals leads only to binging.
- Start with small portions. The best way to enjoy a sweet or rich appetizer without losing control is by sampling. Find someone to split that slice of pecan pie with!
- Pay attention to preparation and ingredients. Avoid loading up on foods that are full of sugar and refined carbohydrates. Opt instead for foods made with healthful ingredients such as pumpkin, cranberries, sweet potato and turkey.
- High-quality fats such as avocados, butter, coconut oil, nuts and eggs make you feel full and help you not overeat, so don't be afraid to use plenty of butter in your cooking.
- Stay Hydrated. It's easy to confuse hunger with thirst. Drink water to keep feeling full and energized. To reduce the number of calorie-laden drinks you consume, drink a glass of water between each beverage. This will help fill your stomach, leaving less room to overindulge.
- Eat slowly. It takes at least 20 minutes to reach satiety. Eat slowly to allow your brain a chance to catch up with your stomach and let you know you are full.
- Stay active to manage stress and stay energized. Enjoy a robust walk outdoors daily with friends and family!
- Pamper yourself! Get a manicure, a pedicure, take a warm lavender bath or get a massage- all great ways to treat yourself without overeating.
- Count your blessings. Besides sharing time with family and friends over food, the primary ingredient not to be overlooked is, of course, gratitude. Take a moment to consider what you're truly thankful for, and share it with those you love.
I hope this guide helps you and your loved ones to have a wonderful Thanksgiving!