There are hundreds of practical articles and tips out there to help people handle Thanksgiving—and those are all great. However, I’d like to approach things from a slightly different angle: how to train your mind. Think of this post as a helpful “add-on” to whatever strategy you already have in place for the holiday.
Shifting your mindset can have a powerful influence on what you will eat on Thanksgiving. It is all about where you decide to place your focus. The idea is to take the focus off of overeating and onto other things–either other people or positive mental states. Here are four areas you can focus on that will help you maintain your weight loss goals.
1. Focus on others. Whether you will be alone or with a large group, contemplate the needs of others in your life, your community, or the world. If you are with family, really devote yourself to connecting with them. Express gratitude for their presence. Enjoy their company. Appreciate their good qualities. Even if they can be difficult (as some family members are) let this day be one of going with the flow–even if it is just for today. Enjoy the company of your pets. Put some extra bird seed out for the wild birds. Smile at a neighbor. Send a warm-hearted email to someone you haven’t seen in awhile. Thanksgiving is one of the few holidays that aren’t overly-commercialized, so it really lends itself to putting the focus on others. Positive mental states help decrease stress and improve overall health.
2. Be grateful. Okay, this may be an obvious one on Thanksgiving, but inspirational speaker Marie Forleo has an excellent tip to super-charge gratitude. Basically, you need to get really specific about what you are thankful for. Too often, we are overly general and rattle off a list without really delving into what we have. If we focus in on one specific thing and list five sentences (in writing), it really puts our mind in a positive place. Try it. And take that mindset with you during Thanksgiving dinner. When you are tempted to overeat, bring your mind to the gratitude list. Make new mental lists, or let everyone at the table list five things. Rather than focusing on another piece of pie, let your mind get really specific about things in your life that are good.
3. Breathe. Never underestimate the power of mindful breathing to help avoid impulsive eating. Emotional eating is a big pitfall on Thanksgiving (with all the family dynamics, loneliness, and holiday pressure). Take some slow mindful breaths to unite body and mind, and to hit the “pause button” before making impulsive eating decisions. See this post about mindful breathing to find out how. If you are tempted to eat something that is not in line with your goals, take a few breaths. In that pause, re-focus your mind on gratitude or connecting with others. Breathing also connects you to your deepest self—one of the most important connections we can make.
4. Eat mindfully and enjoy. Slow down your eating, and take time to really savor the food. A weight loss plan shouldn’t be about joyless deprivation, but rather a realistic, satisfying way of life. Put a set amount of food on your plate, and determine to make that last for the duration of the meal. Enjoy the aroma, texture, color, and flavor of the food. Drink pure water or tea, and savor that. Take in the beauty of how things are presented. Consume with your eyes and nose as much as your mouth. Contemplate where your food came from, and how many people worked to get it to your table. You won’t appreciate your food any more if you eat more of it. However, if you eat mindfully, you can truly increase your pleasure.
I hope that some of these tips are useful in making Thanksgiving not only a happy holiday, but also a healthy one! Have a great day.