A cute Thanksgiving joke asks the question “Who is not hungry at Thanksgiving?” The response: “The turkey because he’s already stuffed!” While we can certainly chuckle at that, Thanksgiving often brings to mind an orgy of eating, bowl games, and more eating. For men and women struggling with compulsive eating or other eating disorders, Thanksgiving can be one of the most stressful days of the season. One remedy is to use mindfulness practices to shift to what is really important on this day and to allow us to really enjoy the pleasures of food. The good news is these practices can help anyone, not just those with eating disorders.
1. Prepare. We begin our practice of mindfulness even before Thanksgiving day. Decide on foods and practices that you will find filling, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Perhaps it’s a recipe that brings to mind loving memories of Thanksgivings past, a tradition that you’d forgotten, or something else.
2. Beautify. We can focus on mindfulness if we set the stage. Let the beautiful sights of autumn set the stage. Lovely centerpieces, candles, and setting the table with napkins and silverware, can help you to stop and use your sense of sight to appreciate the moment.
3. Breathe. Don’t rush into the day. If you find yourself becoming stressed, return to your breath. It’s amazing what a minute or two of conscious breathing can do. Another benefit of breathing is that it not only calms you down, it also prepares the digestive system to do its important work.
4. Give thanks (hence Thanksgiving). Part of mindfulness involves gratitude for our families and friends, the food we are eating, and the gifts we receive each day. You can give thanks with a prayer, and a moment of gratitude. Think of all the hands that were needed to bring the food to our table. A lovely Native American prayer says “We give thanks for the plants and animals who have given themselves so that we can enjoy this meal together. We also give thanks for our friends and family who have traveled here today. May this meal bring us strength and health.”
5. Eat sensually. When we use our senses we activate the true power of mindful eating. Before beginning your meal, take some time to look at it. Notice the color and arrangement of the food on your plate. Smell the enticing aromas. Now take a bit and slowly savor. Notice the food’s taste, texture and even the sound it makes in your mouth.
Most of all enjoy the day with family, friends and loved ones.