How to Have a Guilt-Free Thanksgiving

The holiday season is upon us and in the last week, I’ve received dozens of worried queries on how to handle Thanksgiving.

I sense a lot of stress, anxiety, and anticipated guilt with the upcoming holidays.

Questions like:

What should I eat?
What should I NOT eat?
Should I eat pie?

have flooded my inbox.

And for good reason. As a society, we often associate food with shame and guilt.

And that breaks my heart. (Especially because I used to feel that way.)

Because food is a beautiful thing —it provides nourishment, pleasure, and community. It sparks conversation and discussion. Inspires creativity. Food is an integral part of our communal culture.

Somewhere many of us have gotten mixed up with food. It’s become less of a pleasure and more of an anxiety. More shameful and less pleasurable.

But starting today and with the Thanksgiving holiday, you can change your relationship with food. You can relish in the pleasures of food and ditch the guilt.

If you celebrate Thanksgiving with a large meal, like many Americans, I have some tips to help you enjoy the holiday. Without the regret, guilt, and remorse.

Because you can enjoy a meal without feeling bad. And you should!

Here are 5 ways to have a guilt-free Thanksgiving.

1. Celebrate your Thanksgiving on a single day at a single meal.

Sit, enjoy, and relish your meal. Fill your plate with foods you truly love. And savor each and every bite.

And then the next morning, get yourself back on track. And the night before Thanksgiving? Eat as you normally would — fill up on vegetables and other nutrient dense foods.

Thanksgiving doesn’t give you a week, month, or season’s long excuse to overindulge.

Enjoy the day (sans guilt) and then get back to business!

2. Fill your plate ONLY with foods you love.

If your mouth waters thinking of fluffy mashed potatoes with homemade gravy, go for it! And slowly chew and relish every single bite. Are you ambivalent toward stuffing or suspicious looking jello salad? Skip it!

Eat what you love, and pass on the rest.

3. Say no thank you to leftovers

Unless you are taking home a veggie plate, green salad, or fruit, politely decline on the leftovers. Because the next day you should be getting back on track. And let’s be honest, potatoes and stuffing never taste as good the next day. Plus you will enjoy your Thanksgiving meal MORE if you know you’re only having it once.

4. Break a sweat!

Break a sweat before the feast. Go for a run or brisk walk. Play soccer, football, or basketball with family. Sign up for an exercise class. Find something you love and commit to it. Your mind and body will thank you.

5. Take a deep breath and lose the guilt.

Gently close your eyes and take a few deeps breaths. On your inhalation, breathe in celebration. On your exhalation, breathe out any guilt or anxiety you feel.

Seriously. Give this a try.

There was a study that compared reactions to images of food between Americans and French(wo)men.  Americans were shown a picture of chocolate cake and the first word that crossed their minds was “guilt.” The French were shown the same image and the word that came to mind was “celebration.”

Thanksgiving is a time where I say we embrace our inner French. Celebrate and enjoy. Without the guilt.

If guilty and anxious thoughts are crossing your mind with Thanksgiving, please try one (or ALL) of these tips. Because food is a beautiful thing. And you deserve to enjoy.

Wishing you a wonderful (and guilt-free) Thanksgiving,

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