Cabot Psychological Services

Thanksgiving Dinner: It's Just A Meal

by Dr. Amanda Mulfinger

So, let’s take a quick, bold step into reality. Thanksgiving dinner really is just another meal. It’s a meal we spend a lot of extra time preparing and thinking about, granted, but it’s just one of 21 (give or take one or two) meals in a week. The week that contains the fourth Thursday of November is really nothing special—it’s just a week that you (or somebody you know) has to make sure their floors are mopped and their oven is working. Rather than stressing out about the kickoff into the Holiday Season of Overeating, why don’t you spend a little time planning ahead, not in a “how-do-I-fit-22-people-in-my-50s-rambler-home” type of planning, but in a “how-do-I-not-feel-miserable-on-Thursday-evening” type of planning. Here are some tips:

  1. Plan on eating three meals on Thankgiving. This means that you have a normal breakfast beforehand, so you’re not going into your main meal starving, which feels like a green light to over-eating. It also means you don’t have to eat enough to last you till bedtime—you’re going to eat again, and you’re probably going to eat more of this same stuff. So, maybe seconds and thirds become…dinner.
  2. Don’t save all your favorites for Thanksgiving. Part of the reason we tend to overeat on Thanksgiving is because it’s the only chance we get all year to eat green bean casserole, Grandma’s stuffing, that crazy sweet potato casserole that Aunt Geraldine always makes. This doesn’t have to be the case. If you can read a recipe, you can make those dishes any other time of the year, AND YOU SHOULD! And if you don’t feel competent in the kitchen, how great is Aunt Geraldine going to feel if you ask her to make her sweet potatoes for you in July? Or at the very least, send a serving or two home with you after the big meal.
  3. Be mindful with your choices. This means two things: 1) Don’t feel like you have to sample everything. If you don’t like broccoli, you probably won’t like the new casserole your mother made this year. Skip it! 2) Take all the things you love, in small portions. You can always get more (or better yet, take some home with you), but start with a couple bites’ worth. Once you’ve had a couple bites of everything you love, plus a healthy portion of lean, white turkey meat, you’ll probably be plenty full. Before you go back for more, take a moment and assess your hunger. If you’re honest with yourself, you probably aren’t hungry for more. (And referencing back to #2, this is not your last chance until next year!)

Thanksgiving is a really special holiday. It’s a time to enjoy family and friends without the pressure of gift-giving. Try re-thinking the meal part of the day, and see if you actually go home feeling a little less guilty, and a little less ill. Meanwhile, happy Thanksgiving!!!!

Ugh, Thanksgiving Dinner…the calories, the fat, the deliciousness that comes with a price—fatigue, regret, two extra pounds. Does it really have to be this way? No! Time to change our perspective on this stress-inducing, misery-causing meal. Maybe, just maybe…it’s “just a meal.”

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At Cabot Psychological Services, we have a team of trained professionals who can assist you with your mental health needs. Whatever the issue, we can provide you with treatment options. Call or text 952-831-2000, email info@cabotpsychologicalservices.com or complete our Contact form.

Dr. Amanda Mulfinger is the Owner and President of Cabot Psychological Services in Edina, Minnesota. She studied psychology at Harvard University prior to receiving her master's degree and PhD from Auburn University.

Read other articles from Dr. Mulfinger

We tend to put a lot of expectations on Thanksgiving. We’re going to have perfect family harmony, we’re going to respectfully discuss the things for which we are grateful, and we are going to eat delicious food, walking away from the table satisfied and just full enough. Take a moment and reflect on your last five Thanksgiving dinners—how many have gone this way? None? Well, join the club. This scenario is a fantasy, cultivated for us by countless holiday movies and all our friends’ Facebook posts with pictures of happy families and perfectly golden-brown birds.