I’m here to tell you the exact opposite of what every other article about healthy eating is now saying. I’m not going to tell you to avoid certain foods, to add low-fat alternatives to your traditional dishes, or even to avoid going back for seconds. That’s right, I’m going to suggest that this Thanksgiving you pass the gravy, pile on the stuffing and request a second slice of pie – if you’re hungry for it!
Yes, it’s true that the Caloric Control Council has reported that the average American will consume 4,500 calories on Thanksgiving (yikes, that’s over a pound of body fat!); however, unless you have a medical condition, I want to encourage you to eat joyfully and without giving thought to the calories. If you let yourself eat until you’re full and satisfied, and allow yourself to savor the taste of those once-a-year, mama-made-it, oh-so-good foods, you have no reason to feel guilty and you don’t have to worry about hurting your figure. Plus, you won’t even come close to that 4,500 calorie mark. Here’s why:
We are born with the innate ability to regulate caloric consumption for our needs. At six weeks old a baby can already do this! Many adults block or tune out their body’s internal cues and over time, lose touch with them. This can lead to eating when you’re not hungry and obviously, can cause problematic weight gain over time. This does not need to be the case! You CAN trust your body to do its job.
You can also take a deep breath and embrace foods that aren’t in the “good” or healthy category. Our society has wrongfully named some foods “bad” and some foods “good.” Human Kinetics published a book for fitness and nutrition professionals called Disordered Eating in Active and Sedentary Individuals. It helped ME calm down about eating “perfectly” so I think it can help YOU too! Here’s an excerpt that refers to non-restrained eating (also called attuned or internally regulated eating):
“Non-restrained eating is flexible, with room for eating all types of food, regardless of whether they are nutritionally ideal or not. To meet health needs, balanced intakes are important. Still, within the context of an overall balanced intake, all food fits. Indeed, including foods considered unhealthful in a healthful eating plan can foster satisfaction to ensure a healthful eating pattern over the long haul.”
Did you hear that?! Eating unhealthy foods in balance with more nutritious ones can mean that you adhere to a healthful eating pattern that is sustainable! This is considered normal eating and it’s amazing how few people in our culture know what normal eating is. Even health magazines promote forms of disordered eating (withholding food when you’re hungry, dieting, under eating, etc.) even though, as Disordered Eating in Active and Sedentary Individuals points out, “research shows that 92-95% of all dieters will regain lost weight within 5 years.”
French women have long been envied for their bodies and ability to enjoy wine, bread and other delicacies without gaining weight. They rarely, if ever, resort to dieting. While studying at The University of Virginia I remember learning about a study that analyzed French and American women’s brains when dessert was put in front of them. The areas of the French women’s brains that lit up, in response to the delicious dessert, were areas associated with pleasure. In stark contrast, the American women’s brains showed fear. It’s somewhat sad and scary that American women are this psychologically vulnerable. Are you afraid to enjoy yourself too? I have been scared before. I experienced a few years of being very conflicted about how much and what to eat. It took a lot of time to figure my way out of that dark, self-doubting season. Mostly, I had to learn to trust myself again. Are you willing to embark on a journey to do the same?
Give thanks and savor the delicious food!
Even if you do go overboard and enter into that post-turkey food coma and even if you feel like you have undo the top button of your pants after the Thanksgiving feast, you’re not likely to be at a normal level of hunger the following day. If you listen to your needs, your body will keep things in balance. Plus, don’t we all want to enjoy eating with our loved ones over the holiday?
It helps to remember the real purpose of gathering for Thanksgiving. A beautiful line from the best-selling novel turned film, The Hundred-Foot Journey by Richard C. Morais, can help remind us that gathering around the table to break bread on Thanksgiving is about keeping tradition and love alive: “Food is memories.”
I encourage all of you WellnessWinz women to set fear, eating rules and guilt to the side this year. Listen to your body and you’ll be just fine! Give thanks for THAT! We are equipped with an internal system that is far more intelligent than we give it credit for.
Thank you for starting this WellnessWinz journey with me. This year I will raise my glass and give thanks for each and every one of you. I wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving!
Yours in health and wellness,
Hudnall, M., & Kratina, K. (2005). Disordered Eating: An Overview. In Disordered Eating in Active and Sedentary Individuals (1st ed., p. 73). Champaign: Human Kinetics.