A Thanksgiving Compromise

So, my family has decided to come to our home to celebrate Thanksgiving, contingent on the request that it’s traditional food and not “healthy recipe crap.”

Honestly, I wasn’t planning to make “cauliflower mashed potatoes” or “almond flour stuffing” but I assured them that the food would be traditional, like our usual holiday meals, and asked them to help me create a list of the important dishes so I didn’t leave any out.

While my plan did not include healthy remakes of recipes, I was planning to limit the number of dishes I made, for example, only one style of potatoes instead of two and choosing between green bean or broccoli casserole, not both.  With my family joining us, I’ll take into account their favorites and make sure they’re on the table.

I chose to compromise because having my family at our first hosted Thanksgiving is important to me.  That social gathering and time together is more important than any food related goals I have.  This does not mean that I can’t make healthy choices, but I’ll go into that later.  You may also be asking, “Don’t you want your family to be healthy?  Why wouldn’t you encourage them to try a different, healthier dish?”  Here’s why.

This Thanksgiving is going to be different.  There are already changes in place.  This will be the first holiday without either of my grandparents.  The first Thanksgiving not at their house.  The first Thanksgiving not with my aunt, uncle, and cousins.  This year will be a big change.  For the last 30 years of my life, holidays have included the same traditions, same food, same people, and same location.

This change is going to be hard on everyone.  It will be different, and different is uncomfortable.  When I talk with people about making a change or starting a new habit, I ask them to think about something that seems easy and that they feel confident doing.  Once that’s a true habit, we’ll add another habit, again, something that seems like an easy change.  These gradual progressions could (and should) continue forever, but the changes should all be manageable and executed with confidence.

I know this Thanksgiving will be different.  Asking my family to try some new recipes or go without a food that holds good memories would be too much of a change.  Compromise is okay and I’m choosing to make our first hosted Thanksgiving a positive and memorable success.

As you enter the holiday season, ask yourself:

  1. What are my short term goals?  Narrow this down to the next few hours, event, or day.  Is it to enjoy time with family?  Is it to prioritize protein at meals?  Is it to take a walk daily?  Set behavior goals and hold yourself accountable.
  2. What are your long term goals?  These can be any length of time from a few weeks away to years away.  Do you plan to run a marathon next year?  Do you want to live a healthier lifestyle on a day to day basis?  Are you trying to lose or gain weight?  Keep this in mind and revisit question 1 to make sure your behavior goals are in line with your long term/outcome goals?

Once you’ve looked closely at both types of goals, make the decisions that are going to keep you happy, healthy, and guilt-free the next day.

A few tips:

-Try to avoid “banking” calories.  Starving yourself before the holiday meal will only contribute to reduced willpower, poor decisions, and damaged metabolism.  Eat portion-conscious meals at your normal meal times.

-If you’re concerned about overeating, use a smaller plate.  It is likely you will fill the plate you have so choose a small one.

-Use a smaller utensil for serving.  You’ll put less on your plate.

-Prioritize protein and healthy vegetables.  Put these on your plate first and eat these first.

-Eat until you’re 80% full.

-Choose the foods that you love.  If you’re not spending the other 364 days of the year waiting for your aunt’s pecan pie, then go without.  Just because it’s there doesn’t mean you have to eat it.

-Wait at least 20 minutes before deciding if you want 2nd helpings.  Ask yourself, “On a scale of 1-5, how hungry am I?”  If it’s a 4 or 5, go ahead, in moderation.

-With the many events that may come up over the next few months, choose the important ones and the reasons you’re going.  If you don’t want to hang out with the people in your office, don’t go to the office party.  Or if you do, limit your time or eat before you go.  If the only reason you’re thinking of going to your friend’s party is because you haven’t seen them in a while, invite them over for dinner instead.  But if you live for the party-social interaction, go to the party, have fun, make decisions based on your behavior goals, and don’t have regrets in the morning.

-If it’s a potluck, make a dish you’ll be happy to eat and share with others.

-There’s no rule that says you can’t pack your own snacks.  If you’re worried about temptation, pack some snacks that will help curb your cravings and align with your goals.

The holidays are a time to appreciate family and friends, and there are increased temptations.  Revisit your goals frequently and remind yourself of what’s important to you.

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