As the leaves turn into autumn’s golden and crimson glory, and the weather has you cozying up for colder days and nights, it’s likely you sense Thanksgiving is right around the corner. While the festive gatherings and communal feasts sound enticing and celebratory, there is often a prevailing holiday question: How can you make peace with your plate this year?
Spanning temptation, overeating, lack of self-control, and general overwhelm, the holiday season is a stressful time of the year for many. Follow these three nutritionist-approved steps to see how you can transform your Thanksgiving into its original intentions of pleasure, celebration, and gratitude.
1. Eat a Balanced Breakfast
Although you may be busy preparing your favorite Thanksgiving dish or planning to save up your calories for the big afternoon feast, making time for a balanced (read: low-glycemic foods that have few—or no—carbohydrates) breakfast will provide you with many benefits, including:
- Decrease your sugar cravings: When you eat a well-balanced, low-glycemic breakfast, you help to decrease your cravings. Although calorie loading may sound like a good idea on a festive day such as Thanksgiving, when you show up to Thanksgiving “hangry,” not only do you often eat more, you also may eat faster and more recklessly.
- Improve your mood: For many people, Thanksgiving entails a lot of preparation, travel, and/or, challenging Thanksgiving interpersonal dynamics. Stabilizing your mood will work to your benefit on a day such as Thanksgiving. When you eat a balanced breakfast, your brain chemistry responds in a favorable way. A small study showed that balancing your blood sugar may relieve anxiety, depression, and other mood swings, although further research is needed.
- Boost your metabolism: Eating a low-glycemic breakfast gives you more energy for the rest of the day. Your blood sugar is sometimes referred to as the backbone of your metabolism; staying ahead of your blood sugar curve all day is an asset that will ensure you are setting yourself up for success this Thanksgiving.
2. Practice Mind-Body Eating
Mind-body eating is the practice of being aware of the connection between the state of your body and the state of your mind during mealtimes. Digestion, absorption, calorie burning, and all of the digestive functions of the body are affected by your mind, emotions, and lifestyle—one meal at a time. Studies show your digestive function is directly affected by stress. Consider these mind-body eating practices as you sit down to enjoy your Thanksgiving meal.
- Breathe before you bite: One easy way to tap into your mind-body connection is through your breath. Slow, deep breaths relax the body and mind and activate the parasympathetic (calming) branch of your nervous system. Studies show that when you are in a calmer state of being, such as after practicing yogic breathing, managing IBS and associated symptoms is enhanced. Breathing before you take each bite allows you to listen to your body, feel your hunger and satiation cues, improve your digestion, and stay the witness in your eating experience and best navigate your Thanksgiving meal.
- Chew: Have you ever counted how many times your chew each bite of food? Do you reach for the next bite before you are finished chewing the last? While the average person only chews each bite a few times, the results of a small study of Chinese men suggest that you should be chewing each bite up to 40 times for optimal health. Chewing helps to stimulate the digestive enzymes that begin secreting in your mouth, supporting a healthy and strong digestion as well as increasing satiation, while also encouraging you to slow down and pace yourself through your meal.
- Experience your senses: Your senses are active in the present. Therefore, observing your senses while eating can assist you in ensuring that you are present in each moment during mealtime. Using your senses as a tool during mealtime not only brings more mindfulness into your eating experience, but it also elevates the pleasure you experience through your senses—your vehicle for pleasure.
3. Include Gratitude
You have probably heard the saying, “It’s not happy people who are thankful, but thankful people who are happy.” While the Thanksgiving holiday was intended to accentuate your gratitude, practicing a state of gratitude has many diverse and positive results that go beyond what you may imagine.
- Improve eating habits: Gratitude is a positive state of mind. Gratitude fills your body with loving thoughts, positive intentions, and reverses judgment and criticism (of self or others). One study showed that gratitude may be a fruitful avenue for people who wish to become not only happier, but healthier.
- Improve patience: While Thanksgiving is meant to be festive and fun, for many people it is challenging, exhausting, and ridden with conflict. Research shows that practicing gratitude can increase your internal well of patience and keep you calmer and centered in yourself, helping you to better handle any challenges that may come your way.
- Improve self-care: Gratitude, cultivating a positive mindset and attitude, is the perfect ingredient to boost wellness-based activities and self-care. One study found a positive correlation between practicing gratitude and focusing on healthy behaviors such as diet and exercise.
Focusing your intention on a peaceful and relaxing holiday season is a task work undertaking. Enjoying the good in your life and savoring the pleasures that you have is the perfect way to express your gratitude this Thanksgiving season.
*Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only; does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Chopra Center's Mind-Body Medical Group; and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.
Want to learn how to stay energetic and balanced all year long? Learn Deepak Chopra’s simple practices to tune into the healing wisdom of nature and thrive, with our self-paced online course, Secrets to Vibrant Health. Learn More.