6 Ways to Eat Mindfully This Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is about spending time with friends and/or family, and hopefully reflecting on all the many things we have to be thankful for, but let’s be real the food is the center of the occasion. 

There is planning and shopping and preparation. Whether you cook everything from scratch or order out or a combination of both, a lot of thought and discussion goes into this special meal. 

Many of us both look forward to the abundance of food during this season, but also have feelings of dread over what and how much we will eat. The following are a few ways to bring mindfulness to the day and make it more enjoyable.

  1. Eat breakfast and don’t come to the table starving. It’s tempting to “save up” and skip meals leading up to the main Thanksgiving lunch or dinner. This can backfire and lead to extreme hunger, which often, on the flip side, leads to extreme and uncomfortable fullness. If you’ve ever “saved up” for a meal and then wondered, “Why on earth did I eat so much?! What happened?” It was the saving up that was the culprit. Not skipping meals earlier in the day will allow you to approach the Thanksgiving meal more mindfully and to feel better and more thoroughly enjoy your day.
  2. Fill your plate mindfully. With the abundance of the Thanksgiving meal, our eyes tend to be bigger than our stomachs. Instead of filling your plate to overflowing, start with small servings of a few of your favorite items (easier to do if you aren’t famished). Having a plate with a bit of everything allows you to enjoy all the flavors, without an aching stomach. Remind yourself you can always go back for more or have some later.
  3. Slow down and savor the meal. A wonderful way to bring more pleasure and awareness into a delicious meal is to notice it using several senses – notice the smell, the way it looks, the different colors and textures, and of course the taste. Slowing down to notice can increase your enjoyment in your meal and also to be able to recognize when you are feeling full. 
  4. Drop the guilt. There’s no reason to label some foods as bad and some as good, or yourself as good or bad for what or how much you’ve eaten. Food has no moral value. Enjoy the bounty of the day and resist the side of guilt. If you’ve been so excited to try the pumpkin pie, allow yourself to indulge in it! Also, the likelihood that you will feel fuller than on a normal day is highly likely and to be expected. There is no reason to beat yourself up over it or feel like you need to pay penance for what or how much you’ve eaten. 
  5. Make gratitude an intentional part of the day. Gratitude is powerful and regularly practicing it is strongly and consistently shown in research to be associated with positive emotions, improved mental and physical health and increased resilience. What’s one thing you’re thankful for this year besides the bounty of food – a family member, a friend, health, the weather? Spending intentional time noting and reflecting on your many blessings, both on this special day and everyday, can increase your joy and satisfaction. 
  6. Recognize and appreciate traditions. Every year I look forward to making my Grandmother’s dressing. It is a two-day multi-step process that involves making a pan of biscuits, a pan of “egg bread” (her corn bread) and cooking a chicken to get the delicious homemade broth. It is a labor of love, and the final product is heavenly. Mine will never be quite like my Grandmother’s, but when I make it, it reminds me of her and even though she is gone it connects me with her and past traditions. 

There is so much to enjoy and focus on this holiday besides the calorie count of our meal. Letting go of the guilt around food on Thanksgiving and during the upcoming holiday season can help bring peace and joy and allow you to enjoy what matters most. I hope these tips help you approach your day with a little different mindset and that you and your family have a happy Thanksgiving.