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Top 4 Thanksgiving Dinner Tips For a Guilt-Free Feast

As Thanksgiving approaches, many of us feel a mix of excitement and anxiety, especially when it comes to food and family dynamics. It's a day often associated with indulgence, but for those trying to lose weight or manage disordered eating patterns, it can be a source of stress. I'm here to share some strategies to help you navigate this holiday while honoring your health, well-being, and values.

A large, festive Thanksgiving table lavishly decorated with an array of traditional dishes. The table features a golden-brown roast turkey at the center, surrounded by bowls and platters of mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, and stuffing. A pumpkin pie is also visible. The table is adorned with autumn-themed decorations, including orange and red leaves, small pumpkins, and lit candles, creating a warm, inviting holiday atmosphere.

1. Don’t Skip Meals

As harsh as it sounds, skipping breakfast (and lunch, depending on what time you eat dinner) is starving yourself. Most people aren’t the best versions of themselves when they’re starving! To set yourself up for success throughout the day, start by eating balanced, “complete” meals all day long. If you're planning to eat more at dinner, consider having smaller meals for breakfast and lunch, or cutting back on carbs earlier in the day. Ignoring your body’s intuitive hunger cues and restricting your food can increase your cortisol levels, putting your body in a stress response mode (aka flight or flight). Once your body is operating in that system, it’s hard to properly digest and absorb the food you eat, making you feel worse after your Thanksgiving meal.


2. Walk for 10 Minutes After the Meal

Studies have shown that a 10-minute walk immediately after a meal can lower blood glucose levels by 12% compared to a single daily walk. The key is to take the walk immediately following the meal and to keep it low-intensity. This is a great opportunity to include everyone, regardless of their fitness level. If you can't walk outside, try moving around the house—help with dishes, clear the table, or just avoid sitting still.


3. Eat Mindfully Throughout the Day

Pay attention to the food you're eating. What flavors and textures do you notice? Which dishes do you enjoy the most? Remember, eating is a multi-sensory experience. If you're concerned about overeating, portion your plate with a focus on protein and veggies, and don't forget to include your favorite dishes. Eating slowly and being part of the conversation can help your body recognize fullness cues.


4. Let Go of Preconceived Notions About the Holiday

Thanksgiving in America carries a complex (read: problematic) history and can often amplify family tensions. Try to stay present and focus on what you value about the holiday. Whether it's spending time with loved ones or reflecting on gratitude, make the day meaningful in a way that resonates with you.


Thanksgiving doesn't have to be a source of anxiety. By intuitively and intentionally planning your meals, incorporating gentle movement, eating mindfully, and focusing on the positive aspects of the holiday, you can navigate this day in a way that supports your health and well-being. Remember, it's about balance and being kind to yourself. Happy Thanksgiving!


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