I love Thanksgiving. It’s been my favorite holiday for years, a chance to drive up to New Hampshire and reconnect with beloved family members. Still, I’ll acknowledge that the day is not without its challenges for me, which can be summed up in one word: food. Abundant, aromatic, calorie-laden, colorful, luxurious, mouth-watering food.
As a woman recovering from compulsive overeating, I follow a pretty careful daily food plan. I’ll write it down and bring it with me on Thursday. What I’ve learned over the past 18 months, though, is that it’s just as important to address the emotional and spiritual aspects of life as it is to work with the physical aspects, such as my choice of foods and exercise modalities.
So here are five things I’m doing to help myself this year. I’ll let you know how they work out. In the meantime, feel free to leave a comment and let me know what you think.
1. “Bookend” the day with someone you trust. Bookending is a way of setting up social support for yourself. Before the event, talk to a friend or helping professional about your concerns. Be brief, but be specific. “I’m worried that we’ll argue about X again. I haven’t done Y. They haven’t done Z.” Make it clear that you don’t expect the friend to solve the problem; you’re just asking for a kind listener. Offer to reciprocate, if this makes sense. Then, ask if you can talk with the friend after the event, to process what happened. That’s the other end of the bookend.
2. Break out into song and dance as you prepare for the event. Sing the words of your favorite recipe. Dance down the produce aisle. Draw pictures of pumpkins and turkeys with a child. Bringing in lightheartedness and creativity uses other parts of your brain and helps you and those around you break out of the box.
3. Connect with each person at the feast. Make eye contact, if that’s appropriate for your social circle. Smile. Tell your fellow guests something you appreciate about them, or about the occasion, or something you have in common.
4. If you’re alone, treat yourself as an honored guest. Gaze into a mirror and thank yourself for being here. Write down three things you like about yourself. Pay tribute to your courage, your kindness, your tenacity.
5. Breathe before you eat. Sit at the table and look down at your plate. Inhale through your nose, letting your belly expand gently with the in-breath. Exhale, letting your belly fall softly with the out-breath. As you breathe, notice the shapes and colors of the food on your plate, the smells, the warmth of hot foods and the chill of cold foods. Follow the sensations of your fingers raising your fork to your lips, the range of tastes and textures on your tongue, the rich variations in mouth-feel, the muscular movements of swallowing.
May you have a peaceful feast.