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pumpkinpie2If you’re struggling with your relationship to food, you might feel like the Thanksgiving table for you is as dangerous as a fourth of July fireworks stand for a pyromaniac.

Does this sound familiar to you?

There is so much food everywhere, and everyone is eating a ridiculous amount. Not just the dinner, but the appetizers and munchies before hand, then the worlds biggest dinner, followed with dessert (Not to mention the fact that a piece of that pumpkin cheesecake has as many calories as three meals you would normally eat) and then more snacks as you watch football and play family games.

Once it’s all over you feel sick, unhappy, and guilty. Then, you spend black Friday looking for killer electronic deals online (or shopping at the stores you crazy person you!) and planning your next diet.

I spent years dreading yet secretly looking forward to Thanksgiving at the same time. I dreaded it because I knew how much I would eat and how awful I would feel, and that I would likely start a hellish juice fast the next Monday, but I also looked forward to it because I never allowed myself to eat as much as I wanted. Ever. Except this one day… oh and I would make this one day worth it. (spoiler alert: it was never ever ever worth it).

Then, one year, it all got better.

It got better because I dropped the restrictive dieting and started listening to my body instead. Then there was no more need to stuff myself silly.

But the Thanksgiving spread was still a little tricky for me to navigate since it was a little different than my day to day eating. So I developed a few strategies to help me create a more balanced approach to thanksgiving.

Here’s what I did:

1. I created a balanced plate: Because there are so many options available at Thanksgiving, it’s really simple to create a balanced plate with some lean protein, veggies and a few extras.

2. I brought something green: I volunteered myself to bring a green salad. But not just any green salad, but an amazing green salad with all of my favorite fixings and my favorite dressing so that there was at least one veggie dish there that I knew I would love.

3. I embraced the white space: when you’re faced with a huge offering of food, and given the task to serve yourself, it can be really easy to overfill your plate. While filing my plate with a balanced meal, I made sure that I could still see some of the plate, about 1/4th of it. I knew I could go back for more if I really wanted more, but by not overfilling my plate I didn’t feel obligated to eat when I had enough.

4. I enjoyed desert: I didn’t say no. If I wanted something I allowed myself to enjoy it without regret or guilt, regardless of the calories, carbs, or chocolate content.

5. I ate more slowly: I ate for the taste, enjoyed it for as long as it tasted awesome. What’s really interesting is that, the less hungry you are, the less tasty your food is. So once it was no longer awesome, and just “ok” I knew I had enough.

6. I trusted my body: For the first time in years I ate chocolate pie and didn’t feel guilty. I really did. Then noticed that I was a little less hungry for my next meal, and ate a light salad and felt awesome. My body naturally compensated for the extra calories I ate earlier on in the day. Learning to listen to your hunger and fullness can be the greatest tool for eating whatever you want and still losing weight.

7. I focused on things other than food: I went on a marathon shopping trip with my mom, enjoyed being with friends and family, played games (and lost to my brothers… nothing changes). There are so many other things to think about this time of year than just “what I should or shouldn’t eat.” I decided to relax, stress less about food, and enjoy the holidays more.

Wanna know what happened over the course of that week? I lost weight. That’s right 2 ½ pounds to be exact. I almost couldn’t believe it myself when I stepped on the scale, but my pants were feeling loose, I had no post-thanksgiving food baby, and didn’t start a nasty grass-juice fast the next day.

Your insights are important to me–Please share in the comments:

I want to know your strategies: how are you keeping the Thanksgiving holiday healthy and balanced?

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Ashley Palmer
Ashley is a Registered Nurse with a Master’s Degree in Human Nutrition. Ashley loves her son, her husband, and lifting heavy things then putting them back down repeatedly. She is a nutrition, fitness and weight loss coach and blogs at www.youtrition.net.

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