I know the calendar says that tomorrow is Thanksgiving. Trust me, I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s food as much as the next guy.
But “Wellness Wednesday” is when we talk about the “Eat Right” part of our creed to “move right, eat right, think right, and live right.”
It’s Not What You Think
I know what you’re thinking.
You’re probably thinking that my job is to bash you over the head with nutrition talk so you don’t get to enjoy Thanksgiving tomorrow. You expect me to wag a scolding finger in your face and warn you about calories and sugars and fat.
I want you to enjoy tomorrow. And the day after. And the day after that.
Thanksgiving is a time of…(spoiler alert!)…giving thanks, of celebrating, and of enjoying the fruits of the year. While New Year’s Day is a time to look ahead and set unrealistic goals for ourselves, Thanksgiving is a time to look back and talk about the good things that have happened.
Should you be mindful of your food choices if you have high blood pressure, diabetes, or some other food-based illness? That’s probably not a bad idea.
Should you obsess about the caloric value of the gravy? No.
One of the problems I have with most diets and weight loss plans is that they obsess over the minutia of points and grams and calories, and miss the larger picture of health.
I understand the desire to be slim and fit, but there is a tendency in America toward vanity and self-obsession in our appearance. When our focus is on our appearance, it takes all the joy and pleasure out of life. I think it’s important to take care of yourself and maintain your appearance (it’s just as easy to get into a ditch by ignoring your grooming entirely). You need to be able to manage your appearance without obsessing over it. It can be a tough balance.
Some people have a hard time with that, and it’s based in insecurity. More than likely, someone made a comment about their appearance when they were very young and it cut them so deeply that they have spent the rest of their lives trying to make themselves “acceptable.” Whether the jab was, “you’re too fat,” “you’re took skinny,” “your nose is too big,” “your feet are too big,” or whatever, people go to unhealthy extremes with their bodies trying to heal that wound in their souls. I knew a girl that injured her feet by constantly buying shoes that were too small because her dad used to criticize her large feet. We do crazy things to ourselves because people do to stupid things to each other.
One other thing I’ve observed. If you spend two hours on your look every morning, your kids will pick up on that. If you’re constantly talking about your weight or your physique (good or bad), your kids will pick up on that, too. People with unhealthy self-perceptions raise kids with unhealthy self-perceptions. If you’re one who has to look perfect every day, ask yourself why. Your honest answer might startle you.
Here’s a tip: if you focus on your appearance, it’s a slippery slope to becoming self-obsessed, but if you focus on good health, your appearance will take care of itself. As an added benefit, if you want to take a day to splurge on some rich foods (like Thanksgiving), you can do it with a clean conscience because you’re not living meal-to-meal, worrying about how each bite might violate your self-perception. (I’m not going to say there won’t be any consequences. If you’ve removed all the sugar from your life, a day of indulging on pie will leave your head spinning, not unlike a hangover. But it might be worth it. I’ll leave that up to you.)
Again…if you focus on good health, your appearance will take care of itself.
How to Have a Healthy Thanksgiving…Without Obsessing Over Every Bite
Like I mentioned earlier, if your lifestyle is generally healthy, a day of excess won’t kill you. Of course, if your lifestyle is generally excessive, counting calories isn’t going to help much, it just frustrates you. It’s a mindset shift. If you eat to manage emotions, no diet will fix that. It’s better to eat for the purpose of nourishing your body. Plan your food around nutrition and balance. When that becomes your lifestyle (I don’t like the word “diet,” because it has come to mean a short-term fix instead of a way of life), then a day of indulgence is no big deal.
Here’s what I recommend:
- Stop eating before you’re full. Blue Zones calls it the “80% Rule.” Give your body some time to process before you go back for seconds. It will still be there, and you won’t be quite as hungry, so you won’t be as tempted to overdo it.
- Start small. It’s better to start with “no-thank-you” helpings of several things, and then go back for seconds of your favorites later. Remember, your stomach is about the size of your fist, and the exit door into your intestines is much smaller than the entrance door from your throat. I don’t mean to gross you out, but it’s uncomfortable and unhealthy to hyper-extend your stomach. If you fill your plate, it’s already more than your stomach can handle all at once. Pace yourself.
- Drink plenty of water. This is a lifestyle habit that will trump any diet plan, 100 times out of 100. Water aids digestion, manages your appetite, manages your fat stores and blood sugar, cleans and moistens your skin, and nourishes your hair. Water is the key to a healthy appearance.
- Move. Go for a walk, help clean up the kitchen (I’m looking at you, men), play a game that involves your whole body. A lifestyle of healthy movement will always keep you healthier and stronger than periodic, guilt-based trips to the gym (plus, I’ve got dozens of simple movements on my “Move Right Monday” playlist on YouTube that you can do right now and see great results).
- Get honest about sadness. The holidays can be painful times. If this Thanksgiving finds you alone, disappointed, or sad, I’m so sorry. It’s easy to use food or alcohol to medicate your feelings. Please don’t. That’s another slippery slope to self-destruction. If you need to reconcile with someone, this is a perfect time to do it. If you can’t be with the ones you love, find something to celebrate. Go back to the last few “Think Right Thursdays,” where we talked about writing down the things you are thankful for, even if they’re small things. Small sprouts become huge trees when you give them a little attention. I don’t want to minimize your pain, but I do want to give you some alternatives to help deal with it.
I want you to enjoy Thanksgiving. Enjoy the time with friends and family. Enjoy the food. Enjoy the day off. Celebrate. An anxiety-based diet is no way to live. Let’s live healthy, strong, confident lives and look back on 2015 with joy, not obsessing over food.
I’m so thankful for you. Thank you for being here with me. God bless you the rest of this year.
If this was an encouragement (or just a good reminder) for you, please take 4 seconds to share it with your friends. You never know whose life it might change.
“At the end of your feelings is NOTHING. At the end of your principles is a PROMISE.” — Eric Thomas