How to Enjoy Every Bite at Thanksgiving Dinner

As we head full force into the holidays, I can’t help but think of the advice coming at us about how to REALLY enjoy the holidays without all the guilt and added stress.  We are bombarded by things like, “How to not gain weight over the holidays”, “Make time every day to work out”, “Eat a salad or have soup before going to a holiday party so as to not over -eat”, “How to stay healthy through the holiday season”, “Avoid late-night eating” (isn’t this when we are most celebrating during the holidays?), or to “Take time for yourself”.  I don’t know about you, but these “tips and tricks” add a little bit more to my to-do list!

In theory, these recommendations are all good and true, but how about we re-frame these and talk about what they really mean? 

The holiday season IS about indulging, so we need to give ourselves permission to do so.  The delicious food and treats that we get only once a year are meant as an indulgence.  So, take away the fear and guilt, and enjoy them. We only need sensible portions to satisfy our palates; after that, the food may not be quite as enjoyable.  Feeling full is physical, but feeling satisfied is mental. Satisfaction may be eating what you want and when you want: TRUST and RESPECT your body’s intuition; rely on its hunger and satiety cues.  This is called Intuitive Eating and is defined as the dynamic interplay of using our instincts, emotions and thoughts to guide us on when to eat and when we feel satisfied.  These simplistic concepts give us “permission” to indulge and acknowledge when we are satisfied.

Satisfaction also means eating in an environment that is pleasing.  What does that mean for you?  Is it: Eating at a beautifully set table with a big bouquet of flowers?  Preparing and eating a meal with others? Or taking as much time to sit and enjoy the meal as it did to prepare it?  Each of these concepts is a part of “Convivial Eating”.  Convivial eating is defined as a “fondness for feasting, drinking, good company, pleasurable eating or eating with others.”  In today’s good food/bad food diet culture, we have strayed from what eating truly is – a way to nourish our bodies for energy and to enjoy the time spent preparing and eating with others. 

After all, isn’t THIS what the holidays are all about?

Michele DiCristofaro MS, RD, LDN

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