5 Tips to Navigate Thanksgiving Day

I don’t know about ya’ll, but I love Thanksgiving!

For the past 6 years I’ve been the self-appointed hostest with the mostest 🙆🏻 for both my and my husband’s immediate families.

In case you were wondering, I feel like a bit of shit show this year because I haven’t prepped ANYTHING yet. I’m seriously like 2 days behind where I usually am!

Alas! So much to do in so little time!

The organizing, the prepping, the cooking, the entertaining, the perfecting (🙋🏻 ) and even the cleanup can be exhausting and so stressful. 

Oh, don’t worry, I didn’t forget about other serious sources of stress…

THE EATING. Potential weight gain. The pies taunting you from the back room. The diet talk, comments on your body size and fear of judgement about what you are/aren’t eating.

The holidays can bring on *all the feels* as we do our best to spend time with people who are important to us, slap on a smile, carry on traditions, create new memories and strive to perfect the sweet potato casserole (am I the only one who’s never satisfied with the damn sweet potato casserole?!)

Add in worrying about eating all.the.food. and it’s understandable why you may want to simply opt out and fast forward through the festivities. 

Listen, struggling with your body image and your relationship with food is tough enough. 

But the holidays can really throw things into overdrive.

Often times leaving us to turn to unmaintainable measures of control (or, really, the facade of control).

You know what I’m talking about…

Crash diets before the big meal. Hours spent at the gym to preempt what you’re anticipating eating. Planning every calorie you’ll consume that day. Beating yourself up ahead of time thinking the negative self-talk will be motivation in disguise to abstain. The weeks spent making up for it, only fueling your feelings of powerlessness over food.

This year, I want help you try to survive and thrive throughout the holiday season without doing what you’ve always done. 

And of course, Thanksgiving is a couple days away, so let’s start there!  

Here are a handful of tips to make it through the day as unscathed as possible.

  1. Stop dieting. Right now. Yes, I know Thanksgiving is 2 days away! It doesn’t matter which diet or why, simply stop ASAP. If your body is being restricted, its natural defense mechanism is to prevent starvation. It simply wants to be fed. And once it has a taste of the rich flavors, the tastes that throw you back in time, reminiscing about your favorite relative, or even the sight of an abundance of food, it will naturally want it. And because it’s not used to being fed, your body will naturally be driven to overdo it. It’s worried that tomorrow it will be starved again.
  2. Eat exactly what you want. We all have those foods that we absolutely love and the ones that we could go without. Take a few minutes to get clear on what you really look forward to at Thanksgiving. Is it really a plate full of mashed potatoes (ha! it’s taken me years to come to the realization that’s not it!) ? Or is it the special side dish your Mom always makes, the pie your brother has perfected, or decadent appetizers your Aunt so thoughtfully prepares. Get clear on exactly what you can’t get enough of. And give yourself permission to eat those things. If it’s not going to rock your socks off, can you imagine skipping it and focusing on what you absolutely love?
  3. Be mindful while eating those things. Slow wayyyy down. Like I always tell my clients, be in your eating experience. What do you taste? What’s a little off? What’s doing it for you and what isn’t? Put your fork down between bites and after your first plate take 5 minutes to take some deep breaths and be in your body. Are you full? Satisfied? Dying for more? If so, consciously take another serving, but be aware of how you feel. If you find yourself tipping to uncomfortably full, put your fork down and take some more deep breaths. Just because it's on your plate doesn't mean you have to eat it. Ask to take some home with you because you love it so much! Give yourself permission to honor your body’s signals that it has had enough
  4. Ask for what you need ahead of time. It’s important to remember that folks don’t know what we need unless we tell them. Build your boundaries around not engaging in diet-talk or body-talk as soon as possible. Ask your family to leave politics off the table this year. It can feel uncomfortable to ask for things ahead of time, but by doing so, you’re simply taking care of yourself. And, you’re giving people to opportunity to recognize and respect your needs, too.
  5. Plan ahead for the tough moments. You know which ones I’m talking about. The moments that you’re around that family member that triggers the helllll out of you and leaves you wanting to soothe your mind with anything and everything that has a taste. Plan what your coping mechanism will be in that moment. Allow yourself to excuse yourself from the conversation, take deep breaths, talk to a pre-appointed safe person, respectfully share your opinion or take a moment outside to recenter yourself. When you feel yourself falling back on old habits of eating emotionally, give yourself permission to use your planned coping tool to take the edge off first.

Thanksgiving can bring up so many overwhelming feelings that it’s easy to throw your hands in the air, say eff it and do exactly what you’ve done every year. →Overeat, beat yourself up, spend the holidays miserable crash dieting and binge eating, and vow to start the New Year on the next best plan. 

This year, I challenge you to do it differently.

Go into Thanksgiving mindfully. Be aware of your cravings, your hunger, your fullness and what’s driving your emotions. Allow yourself to savor, enjoy, connect, get your needs met and forgive yourself if you end up overly full.

Because overeating happens to all of us. There doesn’t have to be a moral judgement about it

Prioritize taking care of yourself, and being present-mind AND body- above all.

And, when the day is over, forgive yourself, hug yourself, or give yourself a high-five for making it through to see another day.  

Anxiety Therapy Horsham, PA

I'm a self-love, body image and eating disorder therapist in Horsham, PA.

I help people make peace with their minds, bodies and food and learn how to see, appreciate and love all that they are. 

I specialize in treating anxiety, binge eating and helping women learn how to stop dieting and really start living.

Questions? Get in touch here!