In the year 1621, the pilgrims who had settled in the United States set time aside to gather together, reflect on the past year, and give thanks for their fortunes, blessings, and plentiful harvest. This day became known, over the years and decades, as Thanksgiving. As it is defined, Thanksgiving is a day for giving thanks for the blessing of the harvest and of the preceding year. Today, many Americans celebrate Thanksgiving Day, which is a time to gather with friends and family for a holiday celebration. And, as we know, nearly every holiday or celebration includes food.
Over the years, the focus of Thanksgiving Day has become less about reflecting on the past year and giving thanks, and more about the celebration, which includes eating large amounts of food. This is one reason why Thanksgiving is a particularly stressful holiday for people who have food-related issues. Stress can also occur for many reasons: when certain foods trigger wanting to eat more than is wise, when gaining weight is a fear, or when mindfulness is abandoned, allowing mindless behavior to rule.
One way to enjoy the Thanksgiving meal is to practice mindful eating. This is the practice of paying attention to the food you eat, and enjoying it in the spirit of appreciation, rather taking it for granted. To begin practicing mindful eating, consider allowing yourself to do the following:
- Pay attention to what you eat – become aware of the texture, taste and smell of the food
- Embrace the positive and nurturing value of the foods you choose to eat
- Slowly savor the foods you eat
- Notice your responses to what you choose to eat – without judgment
- Reflect on your experience of eating mindfully
You will find that the more you practice mindful eating, the more thankful and appreciative you will become about the food you eat. And being thankful is, after all, the true purpose of the Thanksgiving Day holiday.
The following is a review of what I consider to be the principles of mindful eating.
Guidelines for Eating Mindfully
- Reject the dieting mentality – no matter what it takes
- Honor your hunger – eat what your body truly wants
- Make peace with food – refuse to see it as ‘the enemy’
- Eat when you are truly hungry – allow hunger to happen
- Stop eating when your body is full – regardless
- Eat without distraction
- Eat sitting down and in a calm environment – savor
- Eat as if everyone is watching
- Cope with feelings without eating
- Honor your body, the nourishment and the experience
- Enjoy the food, the taste and be in gratitude
Can you adopt these basic guidelines to the approaching holiday called Thanksgiving? Would it be possible to envision “Thanksgiving”, the fourth Thursday of November, to be a day of mindfulness? Of mindful eating? Perhaps this day could be an opportunity to put food itself on the back burner and allow wisdom choice to come to the forefront. Being grateful…having a heart of thankfulness…is, after all, the meaning of the holiday. Let’s allow food to be something to savor and celebrate while we allow gratitude from the heart to guide our way.