We’ve all been there. The dinner table is set, and it features an array of foods that are reserved for that special day of the year — roasted turkey, mashed potatoes with gravy, casseroles, pumpkin pie, and so much more. You’re ready to indulge, but your mind is already on your meal plan for the upcoming days.
How do you get over the feeling of guilt that could follow a big meal? What should you do if you feel like you ate too much? The Star spoke with Tara Miller, a Toronto-based certified nutritional practitioner and intuitive eating counsellor, for insight on striking a balance with food around Thanksgiving.
Reflect on why you feel like you ate too much
First, ask yourself this, Miller suggests: After Thanksgiving dinner, are you experiencing physical discomfort? Or is there another reason why you feel like you went too far?
Often, the answer is based on “external information” such as calorie counting, or because a diet says you can only eat a certain amount of carbs, Miller says. If that’s the case, she suggests you start “focusing on the internal” — paying attention to the physical cues your body is giving you instead.
Examples of true physical discomfort could be one’s clothes feeling tight after eating or having a stomach ache, she says.
Take a compassionate approach
“You should never have to feel guilty for enjoying one of life’s pleasures,” Miller says, adding that it’s important to separate morality and food. “It’s a very natural thing to want to enjoy food among family and friends.”
If someone is experiencing physical discomfort after eating, Miller recommends they drink water, take a nap or go for a walk, and move on.
“I would encourage them to care for themselves by speaking kindly and with compassion, remembering that the feeling is temporary and it will pass, (and) remembering that they are not ‘good’ or ‘bad’ based on how they ate.
“This kinder approach — over one of punishment, guilt and shame — will help improve folks’ relationship with food and themselves.”
Avoid a cycle of restricting and binging
Going into Thanksgiving dinner with the idea that in the following days, you’re going to be restricting your food may cause you to eat differently at dinner, Miller says.
“(If) you’re like, ‘OK, this is it. I’m gonna go for it because I’m going to be ‘good’ next week,’ there is automatically a reaction to kind of go into this hoarding mode or ‘last supper’ mode, because there’s a perceived deprivation coming,” she says. “Even just the psychology of feeling like, ‘this is my chance’ causes us to eat differently, because why would you give up that chance if it’s your only chance?”
This could change if you let yourself eat leftovers the next day, for instance, Miller says.
When people do follow up by restricting themselves, she says the body’s biological response will tend to have you either constantly thinking about food or binge eating.
Alternatively, a dieter may restrict their food even more than usual before Thanksgiving, because they know they will be having a large meal, in which case they’re doing themselves a disservice, she says.
“You’re going to be so primally hungry and reacting to this restriction you’ve been engaging in, that you’re not even able to listen to your cues anymore, and it’s just not that eating too much is a bad thing, it’s just not super comfortable.”
Listen to your body
“Use your inner cues, experiences and desires to help dictate your food choices,” Miller suggests. That alone can indicate to you whether you should eat more or less of something, she says.
“It’s about getting out of your head and into your body,” she adds. “It’s also honouring (that) you might want seconds, and you might want to say ‘I’m full, thank you,’ and all of that’s OK.”
Lastly, Miller emphasizes that when eating, it’s important to consider emotional health. She suggests people embrace the meal, rather than approach it with fear and stress. That way, they can be more focused on their connection with the people around them and the pleasure of eating.
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