Turkey. It always starts with turkey. Then sweet potatoes, stuffing, asparagus, brussel sprouts with bacon, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce. Smother it in gravy. Happy Thanksgiving!
If you were fortunate enough to celebrate Thanksgiving with a big meal, congratulations. Thanksgiving was started by the Pilgrims to celebrate not being shitty farmers on year, and we’ve continued that tradition with binge eating, overwhelming family antics, and watching people get tackled.
Today is the Monday after National Binge Eating Day; you may call it Cyber Monday. Your e-mail is being bombarded with deals, and you’re likely at work. After feasting this weekend, I ask you: How are you feeling?
Slugging? Energized? Guilty? Relieved? All of the above? Let’s talk about our feelings. Our modern iteration of Thanksgiving focuses more on celebrating our family and loved ones than a successful harvest, but food is the epicenter of the holiday. How does that make you feel?
There are always two sides (and an edge) to every coin, and we look at Thanksgiving dinner in several ways. For some, it’s a right of passage, a justified binge, stuffing our faces until full. For others, it’s an extended moment of misery, questioning dedication to ones diet and wreaking metabolic mayhem. We get anxious with each additional side dish, and the guilt consumes us while we consume. It makes you ask, “How can I recover from Thanksgiving?”
Before we answer that, I believe we should ask, “Is there a right way to do Thanksgiving?”
The answer is a big fat no. There’s no “perfect” way to handle Thanksgiving meals, but I hope we can agree that feeling guilt or shame regardless of what we do is not living the best life. Rather than focus on strategies to prepare for food-centric holidays, let’s discuss the other days. Over the weekend, I read a statement that was similar to this:
“How you eat during Thanksgiving doesn’t make your body; how you eat the other 364 days does.”
Makes sense, right? A Thanksgiving binge doesn’t destroy your efforts or lead to overnight weight gain. It is simply eating way more food than you’re accustomed to, and there are probably bigger psychological effects than physiological ones. Your body doesn’t mind all that much, but if you dwell on indulgence too much, let’s reset your thinking.
It’s Monday; Let’s get back to your normal. However you’re normally eating, do that. I don’t care what set of acronyms or registered trademarks you use to describe your eating habits, let’s get back there. We’re already in December, and the holiday season is upon us. There are holiday parties coming your way, and they’ll have the four main food groups: candy, candy canes, candy corns, and syrup.
The Holiday Season isn’t about ‘being prepared’ for overly processed festive foods, or building a mind of steel with will-power for days. I don’t agree with the attitude to “Just stick to your diet. If you’re strong enough, it will work.” It’s a cute idea, but it’s foolish advice in reality. Just because it works for some overly-obsessed hard-ass fitness fanatics doesn’t mean it works for everyone.
Good luck avoiding all of the [fill in the blank food that you consider your weakness] at your first holiday party. There’s nothing wrong with the sensible sampling of sweets, provided we account for it the rest of the time. Let’s look at Thanksgiving. Allow me to assume that you ate a King’s share on Thursday night. Pretend that you ate a sizable but smaller portion at least one other time this weekend. Woe is me, eh!
How did you eat on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of last week? My bet is that you were right where your ‘normal’ was. You were doing your thing, aware of the upcoming holiday. You may have thought, “Hey, I may be eating more than normal in the next few days. Let’s stay on track.” That’s the ticket!
Balancing our diet isn’t just a daily routine: Weeks and months add up! In situations where we know that an afternoon or evening is going to be filled with eating, we can prepare for those by reinforcing our own food rules in the days beforehand. If we believe ourselves to be in control of our eating actions before the party and we trust ourselves after the party, that self-efficacy will yield greater control and better long-term results.
Dietary Deviance isn’t a sin. In fact, there are times when over-eating may be better for you than avoiding it. Thanksgiving is a day to celebrate what you have, and I genuinely hope that you did just that. Celebrate your friends and family, and celebrate YOU. Let us not stress over a food-filled weekend. Instead, return to your regular habits and strategies that bring you closer to your goals. Recovering from Thanksgiving isn’t about excess exercise or 72 hour fasts. It’s about finding balance between your physical and mental goals, making fine adjustments to your course, and having confidence in your decisions and actions.