You are stronger than you think!
In the USA, the 4th Thursday in November is Thanksgiving Day. The American holiday of Thanksgiving traces its roots all the way back to 1621, when colonists held a harvest feast with local natives. So the holiday officially originated in what was known as the ‘New World’ at the time. In 1863, Abraham Lincoln declared an official Thanksgiving day to be celebrated on the last Thursday in November. Because some years had a fifth Thursday in November, this date was later changed from the last Thursday to the 4th Thursday by Congress who passed a law on December 26, 1941 fixing the date after a public outcry when President Franklin D Roosevelt kept changing the date from year to year.
The first official, annual Thanksgiving in Canada was celebrated on 6 November 1879. In 1957 Canadians established their Thanksgiving Day as the 2nd Monday of October, (which is Columbus Day in the US). Thanksgiving may pre-date both the US and Canada as countries, but it began here on the North American continent. Over the decades other traditions such as the Thanksgiving Parade, football games, and certain foods have evolved with the holiday, and in some instances it has spread to other a few other countries. There are nine other nations besides the US that have a version of Thanksgiving which is associated with giving thanks for the bounty of the annual harvest. Canada, Norfolk Island, Liberia, and Granada have similar versions of the ‘traditional’ Thanksgiving associated with the USA. Germany, China, Japan, South Korea, and Japan each have their own unique versions of a ‘thanksgiving day’.
Financially, the average cost of feeding a family of ten, with leftovers, is under $50.00 according to the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual survey. That of course is ASSUMING you have a sane amount of food, and make most of the food from scratch. Some families go way overboard with with holiday meals.
The beginning of the holiday season marks an abundance of calorie-laden, rich fattening foods, coupled with less physical activity as people spend more time indoors to avoid the chill of winter, and lessening amounts of daylight. For people struggling with their health and finances, Thanksgiving dinner marks the first half of a double-whammy, as next month they get to do it ‘once more’ with a fattening, expensive Christmas dinner.
Focus on what’s important.
My first permanent health decision as an adult occurred in college when I made up my mind once and for all to become a vegetarian. This was a lifestyle choice that my late mother could not quite wrap her mind around. My mother DID NOT COOK. I kid you not, the woman could burn water. We ate our holiday meals at my aunt Arleen’s home. Thanksgiving dinner was easy, there were many choices that were ‘meat-free’ on the table. Christmas dinner was not. That first Christmas I refused to eat my aunt’s famous lasagna which she slaved for days to make. She made the sauce from scratch, she shredded the mozzarella by hand on a cheese-grater, she browned Italian sausage and ground beef, boiled noodles, mixed cheeses, and assembled pans of lasagna. Enough to feed everyone, except one resilient vegetarian, who ate cheese pizza while everyone feasted. Fortunately my aunt understood. The following year, she made a small, special, personal cheese lasagna for her favorite nephew.
So, you have to ask yourself, what’s more important? The food on the table? Your personal health? Or, are the people seated around the table the real reason to celebrate?
Just because there are NINE different desserts doesn’t mean you MUST eat each and every one of them. Heavens to Betsy if you should miss aunt Betsy’s special cracker pudding. Or Grandma’s famous jasmine rice pudding with golden raisins and chopped pistachios. Or cousin Ethel’s pecan pie. Believe it or not, some of the more common desserts like pumpkin pie are available year round. The special family dishes that your family worked so hard making are the more important dishes. The dishes that they made as a token of their love for their family and friends gathered. Yes, there are signature recipes that are associated with the people we know and love, but the people are the important part of the gathering. So ignore the more common foods when planning the meal, and highlight the dishes that are unique to your gathering. If there are still too many choices available, your other option is smaller portions. Maybe a table spoon of the cranberry relish, or a half-scoop of mashed potatoes. The key is not to over-eat.
Water is your friend.
So you STILL have a plate of high-calorie fatty foods after making the agonizing choice of passing on the coconut custard pie with whip cream topping and nut meg. Limit your drink choices to water. A glass of water before, during, and after a meal will fill you up while helping to metabolize fats and flush toxins from your system. The sparkling juices, sodas (and in some cases alcohol) only add empty calories and will ruin your diet.
The food may all taste delicious, but it still takes about 20-30 minutes for your brain to register that you have eaten enough food. By eating your meal at a more reasonable speed, you might discover that you weren’t really starving to death after all, and you might actually get to participate in the lively dinner chatter around the table. By giving yourself time to actually eat your food instead of shoveling it in your mouth, you may find that that second helping of whatever is not needed, because you are full.
Yes, it’s winter and the days are shorter and colder, but there are still ways to stay active. If you are a runner like myself, you can still find winter 5K races, even on Thanksgiving Day in some cases. You just have to dress appropriately for the weather. If you don’t like being out in the cold, there’s always the gym. Many fitness chains have extended holiday hours, or 24hr locations to accommodate the heath conscious individual. The key to success in maintaining your healthy lifestyle is to MAINTAIN it. If you fall off the health-wagon for ONE holiday meal, it’s not the end of the world. That ONE SLICE of pumpkin pie didn’t make you fat, giving up did. So enjoy the healthy choices you made for your meal, ignore the items you passed on, and celebrate the day with your family and friends. As always I wish you success and happiness!