5 Tips to A Guilt-Free Thanksgiving Meal

From Food Guilt to Gratitude

Posted Nov 23, 2010

Already fretting about how many calories are in pecan pie?  Anxious about weight gain this holiday season?  If you struggle with post-Thanksgiving food guilt, let gratitude be your guide this year.  It sounds deceptively simple, but it can be a difficult mindset to adopt if you worry about what you eat. Enter the day with a grateful spirit to help you end the holiday without food guilt. 

Stop Thanksguilting and start Thanksgiving.  Here are five tips:

1)      Set the Table:  Thanksgiving is a great reminder that eating is a “special event.”  The way we eat on Thursday is often the polar opposite of our typical eating habits—drive thru in the car, snacking directly out of a bag, or “fitting in” meals on your lunch hour.  Even a fork can be a luxury in our fast food culture.  Instead, Thanksgiving gives you an opportunity to take great care to set the table with nice dishes and cook a meal from scratch.  You’re likely to choose food to bring to the meal with intentionality and careful planning.  China and linen placemats aren’t necessary.  Just do whatever makes this meal feel special and honors the sheer act of eating.

2)      Take a Seat:  The tradition of the “family meal” often falls by the wayside when it has to compete with working overtime, running your kids to soccer practice and other responsibilities.  Start with being grateful for the basics, a moment to sit down.  Look around.  Feel your back against the chair.  Notice your feet touching the floor.  Drink in the moment.

3)      Take Time to Smell the Turkey:  Use your five senses to slow down the rush-rush of the holiday.  Smell the aroma of pie baking.  See how delicious the food looks in serving dishes.  Hear the chatter of your guests.  Hug someone special.  Genuinely gush over your favorite dish.  Tell your aunt how much you appreciate her bringing your favorite dessert. 

4)      Say Thanks.  Sharing small, simple thoughts of gratitude can help unify the people at your table and deepen the experience of eating together.  Go around the table and share your top ten moments of 2010 with your guests or write them down for yourself.  Consider keeping a “gratitude journal” for the future to keep this grateful spirit going.

5)      Eat Mindfully:   Say a simple prayer or meaningful quote before your meal to get into a thankful mindset.  Or, just take a split second to look at your fork and acknowledge your gratidute for this bite.  Visualize the journey it took from garden to table.  Too often we are thinking about and craving the next bite of pumpkin pie before finishing the one we have. When you slow down, you enjoy food more and therefore naturally eat less.  This prevents later food guilt. 

Gratitude turns around your mindset from the desire to consume more to thankful for what you have.  Isn't this a wonderful life lesson?  We are constantly desiring a bigger house, better job, and more money rather than being content and grateful for what we have in the present moment. 

The benefits of simply saying a genuine thank you, is a well-hidden secrete.  Approaching life with a grateful heart helps your overall general wellbeing according to a 2010 review of studies on gratitude. Gratitude has been linked to an improvement in mood, self-esteem, depression, life satisfaction, body image, ability to cope with adversity and promotes positive feelings (Wood, Froh, & Geraghty, 2010).  It can even bring you better sleep (Wood, Joseph, Lloyd & Atkins, 2009). 

Sending you a genuine thank you for reading this article and wishing you a happy Thanksgiving.  Eat, Drink & Be Mindful!

Susan Albers, Psy.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist, specializing in eating issues, weight loss, body image concerns, and mindfulness. She is the author of 50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food, Eating Mindfully, Eat, Drink, and Be Mindful, and Mindful Eating 101 and is a Huffington Post blogger.  Her books have been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, O, the Oprah Magazine, Natural Health, Self Magazine and on the Dr. Oz T.V. show. Visit Albers online at www.eatingmindfully.