Thanksgivings Past & Future: A Mindful Eating Story

By Marsha Hudnall
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Thanksgiving is definitely in the air.  Yesterday, Jacki shared awesome wishes/hopes/inspiration for those of us who struggle with the food abundance of this holiday.  I thought I would carry on with the theme with two short scenarios that might help you understand better how a mindful eater (aka intuitive eater) would enjoy Thanksgiving.  It’s a take-off on a class I do at Green Mountain called “When Is Cake the Best Choice?”  

I follow each scenario with questions that are meant to help you think through your attitudes about eating and the behaviors they drive.  Please do share your answers in the comment section below; the discussions that come out of similar questions in class have led to big gains in understanding for many of the women who come to us.

Scenario #1: Thanksgivings Past

It’s Thanksgiving and you’ve been so looking forward to it, particularly that yummy stuffing and gravy that you don’t get any other time of the year.  You’ve been cutting back a bit for several days already, to save calories for the big day, and you  decide not to eat that day at all until the meal — your family always has it as a late lunch anyway so everyone can enjoy it again for dinner.

When it’s time, you fill your plate, taking plenty of everything that looks good to you.  You can barely wait until everyone else fills their plates before you begin eating.  When you start, you dive right in, eating pretty fast as you always do.  When  you’re finished eating, you automatically go for seconds.  After all, Thanksgiving only comes once a year.

Then the pies come out and you really can’t pass up your favorite — pumpkin pie with whipped cream. When you finish that, you can barely move.  You think about how much you eat is going to affect your weight.  You think, “I’ll skip dinner tonight to make up for it.”

  • Did the decision to “save calories” the previous days and on Thanksgiving not eat until the actual meal accomplish what you were hoping?
  • Did you fully enjoy your food as you ate?
  • How did you feel after the meal was over?
  • Did you end up skipping dinner?
  • How did you feel the next day?

Scenario #2: Thanksgivings Future

It’s Thanksgiving and you’ve been so looking forward to it, particularly that yummy stuffing and gravy that you don’t get any other time of year.  You’re also looking forward to spending a wonderful day with family and friends, reflecting on all you have to be thankful for.

You know you’ll get too hungry if you don’t eat regular meals before the big one, so you enjoy a balanced breakfast at your usual time.  You’ve planned the big Thanksgiving meal as a late lunch, so when mid-morning rolls around and you’re a little hungry, you go ahead and have a light snack, maybe a piece of fruit.

Before you know it, the Thanksgiving buffet is before you!  Yum!!  You spend a moment reflecting on all the choices you have, then decide what you want to try.  You take a bit of everything that looks tasty and end up with a pretty full plate.  You sit, and as you wait for everyone else to do so, too, you reflect on the food you chose — what it looks like, how it smells, what all went into getting it to your plate right now.

When it’s time to start eating, you take a bite of what looks best to you — in this case, a bit of turkey with stuffing and gravy — put it in your mouth, begin to chew, and savor the experience.  When you’ve finished with that bite, you look again at your plate and decide what you want to eat next.  It’s a relatively slow process but it’s so worth it as you fully enjoy every bite you take.

As you eat, you stay in touch with how you feel.   Are you still hungry?  Are you satisfied?  You find that to be satisfied you want to finish all that’s on your plate.  When you do, you feel comfortably full but you still would like more of the stuffing.  After all, you really only have it once a year and you do so love it. So you have a bit more  — with gravy, of course — but you decide to stop there because you know will be uncomfortably full, and you want to enjoy your day. So you pass on the pumpkin pie, even though it’s a favorite, too, deciding to have it later when you have more room. There’s plenty of room later because after the big meal, you join in on a game of tag with the kids, then you all take a walk around the neighborhood, stopping to chat briefly with good friends along the way.  You feel great!

  • Did not being too hungry make a difference in how you ate?  If so, how?
  • Did eating slowly make a difference?  If so, how?
  • Is it okay to go back for seconds?
  • What was the focus of your day — the food or the social aspect?
  • How did this meal differ from your usual Thanksgivings?

Please do share your answers below.  And have an enjoyable Thanksgiving full of fun, family and gratitude!

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