How to Survive Thanksgiving

The holidays are upon us. Delicious sweets, intoxicating drinks, late nights with friends and a general sense of abundance make this time of year precious. 

When it comes to the big family meals, I am all for a little indulgence. Personally, I have a hard time controlling myself when it comes to whipped cream. Especially when there’s pumpkin pie involved! 

It’s fun to overdo it a little bit. And eating healthily (whether following Ayurvedic guidelines or another food philosophy) isn’t about sticking to a rigid food plan at all costs or else because if you don’t do it, you’re going to feel just awful. Life is to be enjoyed. 

With that in mind, here are a few guidelines to help you get the most out of your indulgence:

  1. Get clear on the purpose of Thanksgiving for you: Is it connecting with family? Cultivating traditions?  Celebrating fall? Getting creative in the kitchen? Enjoying delicious food?

    Exercise: Answer the following questions:

    What is it about Thanksgiving that brings me the greatest joy?___________________________________________________

    This Thanksgiving, I am focusing on cultivating ______________.

    Take it one step further by programing a reminder in your phone with this phrase to repeat every day this week.

    Why do this exercise? By being aware about what brings you true satisfaction, you’re able to make choices that take you in that direction… and, perhaps even avoid doing things that won’t bring the satisfaction you seek (like that 3rd glass of wine).
  2. Don’t skip meals

    It can be tempting to “prepare” the body before and after big dinners by skipping meals. However, when the body is used to eating at regular times, its biological functions become optimized for that schedule, which keeps your digestion and general state of well-being humming along. When you interrupt this schedule, you can experience emotional and physical side effects like lethargy, grumpiness and anxiety. 

    So, instead of skipping meals altogether, opt for something lighter and easier to digest. Some great suggestions are:

    • Vegetable soup
    • Cooked vegetables with olive oil, lemon juice and herbs of your choice
    • Cooked apples, or warm applesauce, with cinnamon
    • Cranberry sauce with mashed potatoes
    • Fresh fruit

    Of course, if you’re still full or feeling digestive discomfort, then it may be best to avoid ingesting foods altogether.
  3. Prepare your digestion for the big meal(s)

    Drinking ginger tea is a simple way to boost your stomach’s ability to digest heavy foods. Drink throughout the afternoon and after dinner. You can either make it cup by cup, make a big batch to heat as needed or carry in your thermos.

    Few slices of fresh ginger
    Hot water
    Squeeze of lemon (optional)
  4. Notice how full you are

    Ayurvedic guidelines recommend eating until you are 80% full. This leaves room in your stomach for the food to be “massaged” and efficiently processed. Just remember the last time you overstuffed your washing machine and the clothes came out with chunks of laundry detergent in them. Eek.

    How do you know you’re 80% full? One signal is little belches. That’s your stomach releasing air so that it can make more room for the second helping of stuffing.

    See if you can notice your level of fullness without judgement. We’re going for a small dose of extra awareness.
  5. Chill out after eating

    Take a nap, lie on the couch and watch football, read a book. Get fairly horizontal and relax. By resting the body, your energy can be focused on digesting your meal.

    After an hour or two (depending on how much you’ve stuffed yourself), consider going for a walk with the family to start using some of the extra calories. Totally optional.

I hope this helps you enjoy your holiday even more! If you have any funny stories or challenges that come up, I’d love to hear them.

Happy Thanksgiving,


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