Thanksgiving is a holiday filled with special foods.
By "special foods," I mean foods that you love and rarely get to eat.
That stuffing that your grandma makes that you only get once a year.
That incredible pecan pie from the bakery 200 miles away from where you live.
Those mixed nuts that never taste as salty and sweet and tangy and amazing as right before the Thanksgiving meal.
Special foods exist all the time (birthday cake, ice cream from that special place from your hometown), but it sometimes seems like Thanksgiving has 10x the number of Special Foods. Stuffing, sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie, buttermilk biscuits...my list goes on and on.
Yet for many of us, Special Foods are synonymous with overeating. We have to eat two pounds of apple pie now, the thinking goes, because we won't get it again until next year.
Here's the problem, though: when you eat past fullness, you don't actually enjoy foods anyway.
I'm not trying to get you to count calories--I'm just being (lovingly) realistic. Your stomach can only fit so much before you start feeling uncomfortable. And if you're eating when you aren't hungry or way past fullness, you just aren't going to feel as good or enjoy the food as much.
Even worse, it's not like those Special Foods will only appear at one meal. We're about to enter December -- which is basically 30 straight days of fabulous yet indulgent foods.
And finally, how amazing would it be to end the meal having deeply enjoyed the food, but also feeling great?
So instead of piling on the food, I lovingly suggest that you try some of the following instead:
1. Plan to take home leftovers.
It's so much nicer to get to eat a special food twice when you're hungry, than to eat it once and make yourself uncomfortably full. If you're not at home, or it's not one of "those" events where you can formally ask for leftovers, I see no harm in being a little sneaky and wrapping up one of those almond macaroons in your napkin and popping it in your bag for later.
2. Ask for the recipe.
Of course, some cooks won't reveal their secret sauce, and goodness knows I'll never make a brisket quite as good as my grandmother's. But you can probably create something 95% as good, which is far better than feeling overly full and frustrated with yourself at the end of the event.
3. Remember: you don't have to finish anything.
Just because you took a bite out of that sugar cookie doesn't mean you have to finish it. In fact, it can feel really joyful and like you are taking great care of yourself to just take a bite or two, and then decide to move onto something else.
4. Take small bites, close your eyes, and really savor the food.
If you look forward to eating chocolate-dipped shortbread cookies all year, you don't want to wolf them down at once. It can feel nice to take small bites and really prolong the experience. And closing your eyes for a moment to eat might get you teased by family members, but you'd be amazed how awesome it feels to close your eyes and really deeply enjoy what you're eating. And if it's your favorite food, why not?
5. Remind yourself that the holidays isn't the only time when you can eat obscenely delicious foods
The biggest problem with holiday foods is the story we tell ourselves about holiday foods: If I don't eat this gingerbread cookie right now, I won't get another chance for a whole year.
But is that really true? It's certainly true that when I am with my family during the holidays, I am convinced that I will never find foods as delicious all year, but it is also true that as soon as I get back to New York, I am hunting down the perfect almond croissant.
Have you tried any of these ideas? Which excite you the most? Let me know -- write your comments on the blog!
I'd love to hear in the comments: Which one of these ideas would you like to try at Thanksgiving this year? Or is there something else that really works for you?