Happy Thanksgiving! I’m looking forward to enjoying that yummy meal as always, but I’ve been thinking about how hard this holiday was when I was first healing my relationship with food. I also know how hard this week is for some of my clients who are doing just that. Not only is the day focused on a big meal, but we’re visiting with relatives we may not see often, there will inevitably be diet culture comments that can feel triggering, and just the enjoyment of a soul-nourishing meal can be a trigger for guilt or shame to sneak back in.
But, let’s pause and talk about the food for a minute. Like most families, we have some traditions that I just love. My dad makes the turkey, usually on his Traeger. My mom makes mashed potatoes and gravy, nothing fancy but always homemade and delish. My mom or sister makes this spaghetti corn casserole that’s always a staple on my plate. We, of course, have the classic green bean casserole, the only on the back of that package of crunchy onions! My mom makes homemade dinner rolls, usually from the Magnolia cookbook. We usually have some sort of salad or fruit and sometimes deviled eggs, which are my dad’s favorite.
My husband’s family has a similar layout with a few exceptions, but delicious just the same. That’s one thing I love about marriage (among many others)- double holiday meals! 😉
If this week feels heavy or even causes a bit of anxiety for you, you’re not alone. Even though it’s been years since I struggled with restriction and hating my body, I still have to give myself a bit of a pep talk going into family holiday gatherings. Here are a few things I’m thinking about this week to help me:
- It’s not my job to convince every person I speak to that diets don’t work. Don’t get me wrong, I cringe when I overhear the conversations around weight loss of a relative, the new diet so-and-so is starting next year, or all the guilt they proclaim about the food they’re eating. BUT, I won’t waste my energy on every little comment. Most of the time I’ll let those comments roll on by, try not to acknowledge them so that I don’t get caught up in some argument with someone who wasn’t reachable in the first place. I’m thankful that my immediate family knows the drill, and these comments aren’t an issue. But, sometimes when we have larger extended-family gatherings, all bets are off and I need to remind myself that not everyone is reachable and I’ll be much more energetic and peaceful if I move on in the conversation.
- I’m the expert of my body and what it needs, I have no idea what someone else’s body needs in any given moment. Okay, maybe this is the dietitian in me, but I’m constantly getting the comment from relatives like, “uh-oh! the dietitian’s eating vegetables! Uh-oh, don’t judge my plate!!” Eye roll. Dietitian or not, I know what my body needs to feel satisfied at this meal, so I’m not focusing on anyone else’s plate but my own (and maybe my kids since I’ll be fixing their plates too). No one else has the right to judge what or how much food I put on my plate. Also, my kid’s are going to eat differently on Thanksgiving. It’s exciting, it’s different than our typical routine, they might skip a nap, it’s totally normal if they eat a dinner roll and some juice, and I’m not letting anyone else try to sneak in a guilt-trip for that. I’m packing balanced snacks to offer throughout the day and we’ll have a more normal routine on Friday where they can make up any lacking needs.
- My body knows what to do with the energy I gave it today. Maybe you make it through the awkward convos unscathed, but you eat past the point of fullness. You feel physically uncomfortable for a few minutes, but the greater discomfort is the shame you feel about how much you just ate. Oh man do I know this feeling. That’s the thing about healing your relationship with food that I don’t think is talked about enough. Sometimes you do the work of eating regular food and eating enough, but you’re still practicing how to talk to yourself after the fact. It’s hard. Remember that your body knows how to deal with food. It will process those carbs, fats and proteins just as it was designed to do. Your body knows what to do with energy, and guilt, shame or punishment from you do not make that process any more efficient.
What are some of your favorite thanksgiving foods or traditions? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!