This Thanksgiving holiday, before we even begin preparing the feast or fine-tuning our bank accounts for the sales, set the intention for what you could do to make the holiday most meaningful and establish a pattern of thankfulness and lasting gratitude for the year to come.
When did Thanksgiving become all about consumption? We eat a huge lunch of calorie-laden food and sugary desserts until the glycemic load ransacks us and we fall asleep watching football on the couch. We wake up long enough to eat ourselves back into a stupor, and sleep unit next day, when we shop ’till we drop, greedily seeking deals and spending far more than we ought to. Right? I do it – no judgment.
This is the nature of American Thanksgiving. Originally we celebrated to commemorate the first harvest and peace forged by the pilgrim settlers and natives in America. Nevermind the fact that one of these parties came up very short in the settlement, and the fact that most Americans descended from neither of these groups and probably came to the country long after. Seems like an apt moment in history to redefine our day of giving thanks.
In my family, the holiday is low-key. We eat a great traditional meal, sit around playing games and cracking jokes, and enjoy coffee and dessert. Historically, eating was the sport and I loaded up like I’d never again taste the buttery goodness of mashed potatoes again. The next day, I shopped with a moral hangover and caloric surplus. But it’s never the last time I eat potatoes and pie, and frankly, I enjoy myself a lot more when moderation has a seat at the table.
So briefly, before I really go into how to make it a worthwhile holiday, here are mandatory T-day diet tips on a few tried-and-true tactics to control the binge.
- Earn it. Workout in the morning, and go for a walk after the meal.
- Decide ahead of time what you will and will not eat. They say you should stop eating when you’re not hungry, but sometimes my appetite betrays me, so I decide what decent portion sizes are with my eyes. Only eat the things you love because there will be 10+ dishes on most of our tables, and serve small portions.
- Think as you eat. Be mindful: enjoy the flavors, texture, spices. Stop to savor, take breaks between bites to enjoy the conversation, and sloooooow dooooown.
- Realize there will always be more. There’s always more. Leftovers, meals throughout the year, next Thanksgiving. Most of us don’t need to create stores for the winter. Quite the contrary, in fact.
- Don’t go for seconds. One good-sized plate and dessert are plenty. If you’re hungry a couple hours later, eat again. Chances are, even if you weren’t hungry, you’d probably eat a few hours later. Be honest.
Now back to the intention. Somewhere along the line, we lost track of the goal of giving thanks. A lot of us go around the table and talk about what we’re thankful for, and then dive into the meal. Does the gratitude continue through the rest of the year? Does it even survive the day? This week and for the rest of the year, let’s give thanks.
Creating lasting gratitude is actually way easier than eating a modestly-sized meal IMHO. Why wouldn’t we at least try it?
Beginning this Thursday, no matter where in the world you are, here’s what we can do to actively give thanks for the year to come:
1. Think about why you’re grateful on a regular basis.
2. Help those that need a little kindness every day.
It takes two weeks to establish a habit, so if you give thanks every day for two weeks, you’ll be on the path to perpetual gratitude. When people say, “Well, it can’t get any worse,” they’re damn liars – it can always get worse. If you are alive, there’s always someone who has it worse. All we can do is work to make sure we’re happy with our lives, and celebrate what we’ve built. For some, this comes in the form of a daily meditation, for others it’s journaling, and for me, it’s praying. There’s always something to be thankful for: a loving family, good friends, health, reliable transportation, a stable job, nice weather, having everything that you need… It’s important even to to give thanks even for life’s most difficult challenges, and for the lessons yet to come, and have faith that you’ll make it out okay. It’s easy to get distracted by what you don’t have and all the things you want, but if you take time to really appreciate all that you do
have, I promise you’ll have a richer relationship and renewed appreciation with the people, things, and experiences in your life every time you put that positivity out into the universe. Find the outlet that works best for you – writing, visualization, prayer – and exercise thanks.
Help those who need it. In the past, I’ve served Thanksgiving lunch at local kitchens for the underserved, but not everything that we do has to be a grand gesture. Certainly, charity is good for the soul, and good for those who need it. However, it’s not always possible to volunteer on holidays, and sometimes, too many steps in the pathway to giving can be a deterrent to actually being charitable. Grand gestures are great, but tiny gestures can be equally impactful. Tell people why you’re happy to have them in your life, give a sincere smile to someone who’s having a hard day, buy coffee for a friend that needs the company, hold the door open for a stranger. Make a concerted effort to create in an act of kindness each and every day. Remember, it can always get worse, and you don’t know the situation of those around you. Be kind. You won’t believe how being nice affects people around you, and how you think of yourself.
Now more than ever, we need to celebrate what we have rather than lamenting what we don’t. Create contagious positivity. The Jewish grandmother in me is saying, “Eat, eat!” and well you should enjoy the feast, the celebration of family and friends, and the bounty and plentitude, if you’re so lucky. But Thanksgiving is really an opportunity to create a powerful mental shift – one that helps you and yours be content with where you are in life, that is helpful to those around you, and that’s powerful enough to last all year.