At least we hope that those words by the poet Louise Glück will ring true for you on the this week. Today, we present strategies that have helped us and that we help you as well.
First, the good news: it’s a big holiday. Now, the bad news: it’s a big holiday. Holidays can be wonderful — family time, shared memories, beautiful traditions. But holidays can also represent a special circle of hell. Tensions from years back, too many people gathered for too long a time, the inevitable uncivil discussion about politics — you know what we’re talking about. And then, of course, there’s the food. In all cultures, we share our love by sharing food. It’s wonderful — but it can be terrible and scary as well if the food takes over the love and togetherness (and tension). Buttons get pressed, and emotions can run high.
There is a lot that we can do to keep the food (and the negative) emotions in control. Don’t let a difficult family member derail your intention to take care of yourself. You deserve better than that. Don’t find yourself “somehow” eating until you realize that you stopped being hungry an hour ago and that you feel ill and disgusted with yourself. What kind of holiday is that? As we’ve discussed in a previous holiday post, there’s a simple way to prevent the misery: don’t treat the holiday as though it’s a surprise party. Have a plan ahead of time about how you want to respond to difficult or even toxic relatives. Have a plan ahead of time about what you’re going to eat.
We realize that this is a holiday, and it would be just plain sad to have nothing on your plate except string beans and a slice of dry turkey. On the other hand, you may not necessarily want to eat a third helping of buttery sweet potatoes with marshmallows. Or, maybe that’s exactly what you do want to do. Go right ahead — it’s your choice. We strongly recommend, though, that you make a conscious decision beforehand. Then, go ahead and eat (and enjoy!) what you’ve planned to eat. Did you plan for a second piece of pumpkin pie? Then that’s fine! But don’t ask for the third just because, you know, what the hell.
Here are some specifics about planning ahead:
- Plan what you’re going to eat before you even leave your house. One helping of stuffing? One scoop of sweet potato casserole? One piece of pie? Two? One glass of wine? Three? It’s your decision.
- Offer to bring some food. That way you have at least one thing you can plan on, that is reliable, and that you know you will feel good about eating. You can bring something healthy and delicious, such as the recipe we gave for roasted vegetables or sweet potatoes. Make a whole lot of them so that you don’t feel uncomfortable taking a large portion of them for yourself at the Thanksgiving meal.
- Don’t arrive hungry. Before you leave your house, eat something healthy, like salad or vegetable soup.
- When you sit down, look around and further refine your plan. First, look at the vegetables — the healthy ones, like the vegetables you brought. Put a lot of them on your plate. Then some turkey, preferably without the skin. Then a little bit of everything else.
- Our strategy for every single meal that we eat is to eat all the healthy vegetables first. By doing this, we fill up on the healthiest, least calorie-dense foods so that we’re not so ravenously hungry when we dig into the rest. We can’t emphasize enough how helpful this has been for us.
- Then it’s time for dessert. Cousin Susan makes the best pumpkin pie in the world? It’s Thanksgiving — have a piece! But plan ahead. Maybe you’ll want to share a piece. Or maybe you’ll want one piece for yourself without the crust. Or maybe you’ll want two pieces with the crust with extra whipped cream. It’s your choice. What we’re recommending is that you plan what you’re going to eat, eat just that amount, enjoy every single bite, and then congratulate yourself for staying with your plan. Give yourself credit. By doing this, you can walk away from the table with a positive feeling about your food decisions, and you can feel proud of yourself. Think about prior years when a holiday seemed to be only about the food, and then you ate until you were sick and then hated yourself. What kind of holiday is that?
You may be delighted to find that there’s been a paradigm shift: you’re eating what you want to eat, but you’ve changed the meaning of what you want to eat.
Some final thoughts. We, Janice and Jay, are thankful for the families and friends with whom we love to share our holidays. We are thankful for each other. We are thankful to you for reading our blog and for sharing your thoughts with us. Happy Thanksgiving! We’d love to hear what you are thankful for, too.