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Surviving Thanksgiving

Eat stuffing everyday

Each year, as the holidays approach, we go into a panic. How will I survive Thanksgiving? There is the thought of spending time with family, the pressure of creating a perfect holiday meal, and the guilt over the 51 million turkeys that will sacrifice their lives for the occasion. But amidst all of these other pressing concerns, there is one that stands out above the rest in the national panic: How will I stick to my diet? My advice is simple. Don’t.

I believe that diets are to blame for the transformation of Thanksgiving from a day of gratitude to our unofficial national day of overconsumption. It seems that if you leave the Thanksgiving table without your pants busting at the seams, something has gone horribly wrong. We are caught in a metaphorical tug-of-war, the pressure to be thin tugging one arm and the pecan pie yanking on the other. What’s one to do?

I suggest that we eat Thanksgiving foods every day. No, I haven't lost my marbles. Hear me out on this because I think it really makes sense.

What are the foods that we tend to overeat on Thanksgiving? Is it the turkey or green beans? Usually not. These are foods that we eat throughout the year, so when they make their appearance on the Thanksgiving table, they aren’t all that exciting. But when I see the sweet potato casserole with roasted miniature marshmallows on top, my heart skips a beat. Buttery mashed potatoes with gravy, cornbread stuffing, and Aunt Silvia’s famous pumpkin pie? These are the foods that we tend to overeat. And these are the foods that we only get to eat once per year. Coincidence? I think not.

In general, we overeat foods that are restricted to us. When foods aren’t typically available to us (either because we physically don’t have access to them or we deprive ourselves because we are on a diet), we tend to overeat those foods when they are available to us. On Thanksgiving we have double availability; the foods are both physically available and many dieters give themselves permission to eat foods that they typically wouldn’t. Plus, since we only eat these foods once per year, we try to eat as much as we can while we can. Many of us try to eat enough to last us until next Thanksgiving.

What would it be like if we ate stuffing everyday? Well, not if we necessarily ate stuffing everyday, but what if stuffing were available to us everyday? What if stuffing were just another choice for what we could have for dinner? Not only stuffing but candied yams, gravy, pecan pie, and all of our other Thanksgiving favorites. What if these foods were available to us whenever we wanted them? Would we feel such pressure to over consume on Thanksgiving? Or perhaps something really radical would happen—we might actually think about what we want to eat, eat when we feel hungry, and stop eating when we feel satisfied without a sense of struggle. We can do this feeling safe and confident in knowing that these foods are always available to us, if we want more tomorrow-- or even later today—we can.

This magical world of 365 days of Thanksgiving foods is not a fantasy. It exists right here in America. Yes, you can have Thanksgiving foods whenever you want them. Most major grocery stores carry all of the ingredients that you need to make whatever food you desire. You could even eat candied yams in August.

To learn more about Dr. Conason and mindful eating, please visit www.drconason.com.

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