Grateful for Intuitive Eating: Don’t Let Food Fear Ruin Thanksgiving
Updated: Nov 26, 2019
Thanksgiving can be a extra hard holiday if your relationship with food has you feeling worried about what you 'should' or 'shouldn't' eat. Food rules take up a lot of space in our heads and they serve as a major distraction. Making peace with food and working to dismantle your food worries may mean more space to enjoy the holiday. Worrying less about food and our bodies means we can have more energy for what really matters this Thanksgiving. Keep in mind that with Intuitive Eating, these suggestions are applicable all year long.
A few things to consider:
Nothing is Off Limits:
Here are the rules: there aren’t any. Nothing is off limits - if you want to eat it, eat it. Allow yourself to eat what you want this Thanksgiving.
Permission plays a big role in Intuitive Eating. Unconditional permission to eat means you have space to eat what you really want to eat. Permission often comes with greater attunement, in which you non-judgmentally observe the experience of eating and how you feel physically and emotionally. Plus - imagine how much more enjoyment and satisfaction you might find in food when you honor cravings without guilt or criticism. With permission, you’ll spend less time trying to talk yourself out of a specific item, or feeling guilty about what you’ve consumed. You have more time to enjoy and experience your food (and the folks all around you!).
Permission might sound scary, especially if you're new in your Intuitive Eating journey. If you need some guidance with this, please don't hesitate to reach out, or check out the Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor Directory, here.
Your Food Concerns vs Your Values:
What is it that you value about this holiday? Values work can be incredibly powerful, as it can illustrate a disconnect between diet culture thoughts and what's truly important to you. It's something I do in sessions with clients, and it's usually really eye opening. So, how do your values align with how you feel around food and your body? How you talk to yourself about food and your body?
Does your relationship with food or the cultural emphasis on body size help you live out your values, or take you further from them? If you're following food rules or focused on micromanaging your body, it might be worth considering how the thoughts you have interfere with what you truly value about Thanksgiving. What can you do to give yourself some grace and show yourself some self compassion? How can you release some of the food rules you have this holiday? I'm also sending you a hug, because this work is hard, and it takes time (and practice) to navigate all of this.
Block Out the Diet Culture Pressure:
You don’t need to earn or burn your food. Not on Thanksgiving, and not ever. There will be a lot of messages suggesting otherwise around the holiday, and it’s helpful to remember why these diet culture messages won’t serve you well. Keep in mind that your body requires fuel, all day, every day. You can trust that your body knows how to take care of you.
Fuel your body consistently on Thanksgiving day. Don't skip meals. Don't eat less than normal. Going without food or eating unsatisfying amounts of food is likely to lead to one thing - when you finally allow yourself to eat, it’s likely you’ll feel out of control around food. And if you have this experience, please know that it's an entirely normal response from your body.
Resist messages that suggest you need to earn or burn your meal. The idea that you need to earn your meal, or burn it off afterwards is entirely rooted in diet culture.
Consider Intuitive Eating and Habituation:
Because Thanksgiving only comes around once per year, we often feel like it’s time to eat everything you like that's associated with the holiday. It's true! Thanksgiving only comes once per year. So, make sure you give yourself permission to eat what you like.
But, if you’re finding that this approach is interfering with your ability to feel comfortable and connected to your body, and you’d like a change, it’s worth talking about habituation. Habituation is the idea that food you aren't exposed to often is exciting, and if you have lingering rules around food, it’s likely both exciting and a bit scary.
Food is nostalgic, and some foods are going to be harder to get year round for a number of reasons. That said, I wonder if there are some foods or flavors you could incorporate more than one per year to help you feel less charged around them.
In my house, we often have mashed potatoes throughout the year. Why? Because they’re delicious. I highly recommend eating more mashed potatoes. I also recommend keeping the skin on to save time. Plus, it adds texture, fiber and flavor, making a notoriously tedious process a bit more accessible.
There are natural side effects to having satisfying, pleasurable foods each day. It's worth explore messages that suggest you deserve otherwise. Habituation means that the highly satisfying Thanksgiving meal becomes less novel, and you might find the eating experience is less changed. To clarify - this isn't about restricting! It's about feeling more comfortable and at peace with food.
It’s Just One Day:
While habituation can influence a person’s relationship with food, and it can be meaningful to explore how you feel around food, keep in mind that Thanksgiving is just one day.
And while it’s nice to be connected to your body and aware of your satiety cues and your body's needs, we aren’t aiming for perfection when it comes to connecting to hunger and fullness. Frankly, aiming for perfection with eating is often another form of dieting. Feeling like you need to 'eat perfectly' and always stop when you're comfortably full is likely a lingering rule/thought from your dieting history.
Maybe you end up uncomfortably full because everything just tastes so good. That's OK. Intuitive Eating isn’t about rules, it’s about noticing - noticing how we feel physically, AND how we feel mentally. So, how is food guilt influencing how you feel on Thanksgiving? I’d imagine it’s taking you further away from those values we talked about above.
If you’d like to share some thoughts or questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out. I hope you have a fabulous holiday, free from diet culture. Enjoy!