Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving is upon us, and I don’t know about you, but I ALWAYS overeat. It feels almost mandatory - if you don’t completely gorge yourself, you’re poo-pooing the whole idea of the holiday. 

Every year I sit at the dinner table, my hands intertwined with those of my loved ones, and I take a moment to give thanks for the bounty before us, making a silent promise to eat only until I’m no longer hungry, that I’ll use reason, restraint this year.

I shouldn’t make promises I can’t keep!

Knowing that I faithfully misplace all self-control on that annual Thursday in November (and that it most likely won’t change in the foreseeable future), I’ve been preparing some strategies to mitigate the damage I’m inevitably going to do at the turkey table.

GIVE THANKS FOR MORE THAN THE FOOD.

If you don’t practice this tradition already, then I invite you to take a few minutes before diving into the Durkee onion-topped green bean casserole to go around the table and allow everyone to share both what they were grateful for last year, and what they look forward to for the year ahead. Acknowledging the Good in our lives shifts the focus off the food and onto our family and friends, reminding us of the true essence of the holiday: sharing what we have with those closest to us, and being grateful for those precious people in our lives that provide us food, shelter, warmth and love everyday, unconditionally.

Once the food is on your plate, consider practicing a little “portion control” (knowing that half the fun is helping yourself to “seconds”), and slow down by chewing each bite 30-40 times. Conscious chewing heightens flavors, improves digestion, and gives the body the time it needs to recognize that it’s full. Enjoy your Thanksgiving meal, don’t inhale it!

(doesn't this looks delicious...and reasonable?)

PLAN AN ACTIVE POST-THANKSGIVING WEEKEND.

My favorite part of Thanksgiving is picking out our Christmas tree on Friday and decorating it over the weekend. Knowing that I have an egregious amount of excess calories to burn off, I love the manual labor Christmas decorating demands. So I jump in with both feet and mildly annoy my family with an inordinate amount of holiday spirit, understanding that even though we all might prefer to lay around like sea lions watching bad movies, we will be happier and healthier if we put our heads down and string the Christmas lights up.

If Christmas ain’t your thing, then perhaps take a long weekend walk at your nearby park or nature reserve, a stroll on the beach, or an adventurous bike ride. Take your kids to a bouncy house (and bounce with them) or head to your local museum and soak in some culture.

Whatever you decide to do, make it active, social and fun. And although Thanksgiving leftovers will and should be consumed throughout the weekend, be sure that Sunday is devoted to getting your diet back on track. Remember, Christmas is just around the corner, with a Mavericks-worthy wave of holiday temptation to drown in.

WEBMD: 10 TIPS FOR A THINNER THANKSGIVING

GREATIST: HEALTHIER THANKSGIVING RECIPES

GIVE BACK.

One of my most enduring childhood memories is the first time my mother took me to volunteer at a soup kitchen on Thanksgiving. I remember being nervous, surrounded by life-worn strangers on a cold Colorado afternoon, and I wrung my hands with worry that I wasn’t going to live up to the job, uncertain of what was expected of me.

But as I helped pass out Thanksgiving dinner, a feeling welled up in me I had never experienced as a relatively self-absorbed 10-year old. The expressions of gratitude by the guests, the energy of kindness permeating the room, the palpable spirit of the holiday evoked in me a sense of CONNECTION – connection to the grateful and smiling faces, to my compassionate community, to something much greater than myself.

The act of giving helps us appreciate just how good we have it, and you receive so much more than you give when you open your hand to someone who needs help.

So this Thanksgiving, why not choose to Give Back? Go to VOLUNTEERMATCH or IDEALIST to find volunteer opportunities in your area. Get your family and friends involved and make it an annual tradition.

In a nutshell: GIVING = GRATITUDE.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and Gobble Gobble…don't forget to chew!

Xoxoxo - Lara