Home » How to Approach Thanksgiving as an Intuitive Eater (5 Tips)

How to Approach Thanksgiving as an Intuitive Eater (5 Tips)

by Dana Bean, RD

When you think of Thanksgiving what do you think of? Is it a fun day filled with family, delicious food, and games? Or is it a day of restricting, very uncomfortable fullness and guilt? We have 5 tips to help you to approach Thanksgiving as an intuitive eater instead of letting diet culture get you down into the restrict/binge/guilt cycle.

How to Approach Thanksgiving as An Intuitive Eater blog title with Thanksgiving meal background

The best way to set yourself up to feel out of control hungry at Thanksgiving is by not eating before! Your body needs regular meals and snacks before 4pm (or whenever you eat Thanksgiving dinner) on any regular day, and why would today be different?

There tends to be this idea of “saving up” your hunger for the meal later, but this only leads to thinking about food ALL day, probably some hanger or whatever extreme hunger symptoms you experience, and feeling uncomfortably stuffed later.

Instead, eat regular meals and snacks during the day with a variety of nutrients! This will help regulate your hunger and mood.

Since your hunger will be nice and regulated from tip #1 going into the meal, let’s talk about how to regulate fullness. Now I want to preface this by saying there’s nothing wrong with feeling full and more full than you normally would from a meal on Thanksgiving. But what we want to try prevent here is uncomfortable fullness and fullness that is not physically pleasant.

Do a check in with your fullness midway through your meal. How are you doing? Is this fullness feeling pleasant? neutral? unpleasant? Maybe you didn’t realize that you were approaching fullness quicker than expected. Or maybe you are hungrier than you thought and it’s feeling great to continue. Either way getting this information with that check in is important! The hunger and fullness scale can be helpful to gauge this.

What foods are you enjoying? Are there any that aren’t tasting great or are losing their appeal as you eat?

From this check in we get to find out what you’re actually loving and what you could pass on. Maybe you’re feeling like the mashed potatoes are perfection and you’ll want more of those, but the sweet potato casserole just isn’t doing it for you today. Maybe you are loving all of it!

When we see food as “good” or “bad” it creates a moral and emotional drive with food that can dictate what we eat and how we feel about those choices. It can also lead to the restrict/binge/guilt cycle that creates irregularity in eating patterns and distrust with our body.

So instead of labeling that Thanksgiving side or dessert as “good” or “bad” let’s work on neutralizing that food. We can instead say things like “that is [insert yummy Thanksgiving food]. It is food!” or “that food has more x,y,z ingredient”. The point is to take the judgmental thoughts or words away from the food. If pie is simply pie as green beans are green beans, the guilt can be released from eating it and the negative thought spiral can be stopped earlier on.

Are you worried about diet culture talk with family members? Maybe your aunt always comments on your body. Or a sibling will mention what’s on your plate in relation to exercise later. It’s ok to not engage and set boundaries! It doesn’t mean you don’t love your family, but rather value the relationship and want to communicate your needs. It can look something like “I know you mean well, but would rather not hear comments about how my body has changed”. Or “we don’t need to earn our food! I’m working on my relationship with food and movement”. You could also change the topic altogether.

I’ve heard many stories of clients being able to feel more free, present, genuine, and less guilty, stressed, and upset during the holidays by using the 5 tips above! It can feel strange and uncomfortable to address your relationship with food with holidays in the mix, but it is well worth it. If you feel that you need more guidance, reach out to a therapist and dietitian who specialize in intuitive eating!

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