4 ways to survive Thanksgiving

Seasonal decoration

You don’t need me to remind you that holidays can be especially tricky when they’re centered around food. Thanksgiving is certainly a food-centric one! All those special treats being offered, traditional foods served, interspersed with new, tempting ways to cook old favorites, are delightful but treacherous for those of us with restricted diets.

Although a wonderful pleasure for those who can indulge, the rest of us are besieged by an inner dialogue.

Mine typically goes something like this…what’s safe that I can eat…how much shall I take…start small and go back for seconds…

Growing up in England then moving to California at 31, the associations around Thanksgiving may not be as strong for me as for native-born Americans. Nevertheless, I’ve always enjoyed the traditional meal.

Now, with a vastly restricted diet, I approach Thanksgiving differently, using awareness as a navigation tool.

Mental preparation precedes any behavior, followed by emotional feelings afterwards. What you’re thinking about prior to eating can influence your food choices, and affect how you feel afterwards. Eating without thinking first can leave you feeling guilt, disgust, despair, second-guessing, regret, glum or resentment about what or how much you ate. These feelings can dampen the aftermath.


Ways of approaching holiday feasts.

1. Rehearse your approach first.

Take a minute to think strategically. Plan how much you really need (not want) to eat. Decide ahead of time which foods you’ll pass on. Imagine feeling full and satisfied.


2. Eat low carb foods first.

The mindful way to respond is to first take the “safe” lower-carb foods, maybe turkey and

Roast turkey and veggies

veggies. Approaching the table with a plan of action cuts down on the impulse to load your plate with “harmful” foods. To do so is giving in to “eye” hunger, or “emotional” hunger, not physical hunger, the only type that should be attended to. By first eating safe foods, you’re more satisfied and full, therefore better able to resist the tempting side dishes that are less safe like sweet potato casserole (here’s a safe low-carb version), or the array of desserts.


3. Practice mental noting “seeing, seeing”.

For the unsafe foods, I make a mental note of “seeing, seeing”. This helps me understand that what’s truly happening in the present moment are that my eyes are receiving the sight of food.

From a mindfulness perspective, this is no different than my eyes receiving the sight of fluffy clouds against a blue sky.

Understandably, it’s easier if, like me, you have a poor sense of smell! But, if aromas are the pathway to temptation, then mentally note “smelling, smelling”. Whichever is the dominant sense you receive, just become aware of that, and use mental noting to aid with focusing on sensation.

This will typically curtail any storyline in the mind waiting to be embellished, and believed in.


4. Focus on the true meaning of the holiday

It’s not just about the food. Thanksgiving is a time to come together with those we care


about, and practice gratitude. Having gratitude is the recognition of not taking for granted what we rely upon in order to not just live, but flourish.

Take a moment, individually or even better, collectively, to acknowledge the people and situations that enhance our lives. Whether it’s an unexpected stroke of good luck, personal recognition from others, a delicious meal “survived safely”, or just an absence of distress, acknowledge your gratitude.

This simple touching moment offers you and those you care about the lasting gift of feeling appreciative and being appreciated. Although often held in the heart, we overlook the powerful gift in its expression.


Leave a comment about what you’re grateful for…


Filed under: Diet


  1. ganesha says:

    Brilliant! Your writing is very well paced and engaging, the suggestions invaluable.

  2. Vicki Kron says:

    Hi Josie,

    I’m going to be doing a lot of seeing, seeing and smelling, smelling this Thanksgiving. But one thing that I’ve learned is to take just one bite of the high carb food, and not an entire serving.

    Sometimes I realize the “forbidden” food really doesn’t taste as good as I thought it would. Sometimes it’s even better than I remember, but that one taste lets me get through the rest of the meal without feeling totally deprived. It helps me to feel that I’m in control of the food and not the other way around.

    Thanks for all your helpful advice, and Happy Thanksgiving to you too.

    • admin says:

      Thanks Vicki. We overlook the power of ALL our senses. Deprivation is in the mind, and even when we expect to find it, we may be surprised when it doesn’t arise. Or how little it needs to be satisfied and fade. Enjoy your Thanksgiving!

  3. Hey Josie! I also agree that thanksgiving is more about being with my family vs all the good food. I am very grateful to have both of my parents around so my grandchildren can enjoy them as much as we have.

    This is such a wonderful article. Thank You for sharing and Have a Wonderful Thanksgiving.
    Chery :) )

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