How To Eat With Joy, Grace And Ease This Thanksgiving

18 November 2021 | Written by Xenia Ayiotis

Filed Under: Holiday Eating

Celebrations and holidays can be difficult when you struggle with food. The message we get from diet culture is to “be good” and restrict. There is another way to approaching food and eating in the holidays. The mindful eating way. Which is a gentler, kinder way. Here are some common obstacles when it comes to eating joyfully in the holidays and strategies on how to overcome these challenges.

Thanksgiving: the build-up and anticipation.

Before Thanksgiving there can be a lot of drama, discussion and worrying ahead of time about how you are going to handle the day. Perhaps this year it’s time do things differently and put the worry and drama aside?

This is a time of reflection and a time for connection. Think about the meaning of this time and create an intention. Is it to connect with family and friends in a meaningful way? Is it to connect spiritually? Is it to get through this time with grace and ease? Whatever it is, decide ahead of time and try not get entangled in drama around the days ahead. Be very clear about what you are willing to do and what you are not willing to do and as best you can – stick to your intention. When you notice yourself going into drama, gently go into grace.

Entertaining friends and family

There’s much to navigate; how to manage Covid, how many people to invite and still stay safe, how to arrange distancing and then the usual like what to cook, preparation, anxiety around entertaining, having enough food, worrying what people will think, wanting to impress your guests.

It IS about the food but it’s also NOT about the food. Give yourself enough time to prepare and delegate, delegate, delegate! If people offer help say YES!!

Most people are just so relieved that they are invited and don’t need to do all the hard work. We are way more critical of ourselves than our guests are! Could you try make the preparation as fun as possible? Remember to be there for YOU! Don’t let yourself get ravenously hungry – sit down and eat if you get hungry while cooking. We tend to neglect ourselves as we prepare for the lunches or dinners. Self-care is very important – a quick lie down, meditation, prayer, whatever works for you! Remember, there is no such thing as perfection – our peace and freedom lies in the acceptance of imperfection.

The sheer abundance of food and variety of dishes can be triggering.

Firstly, aren’t we blessed to have all this food and choice? Give thanks to the people who prepared the food, the animals who gave up their lives, the farmers, anyone who was involved in the food on the table. Secondly, if you are on a diet – stop right now! They don’t work – more about this here.

Give up the rules and diet mentality.  Let go of thinking of foods as forbidden. This never works and only leads to overeating or binge eating. Give yourself permission to eat what you want.  Please read more about this here – yes I know it’s scary, but it works.

Remember, you can never have enough of what YOU DON’T WANT. So give yourself what you DO want.

Specific holiday type foods available only at this time of the year.

Eat them!

Enjoy them!

Savour them!

If you eliminate these foods or restrict, chances are greater that you will binge or eat to the point of discomfort. It may feel scary but try to allow yourself to have these foods. Be selective and discerning.  If there are foods available all year around, rather choose the foods that are more unusual or more difficult to find. You can always go buy the other foods next week, but the homemade pumpkin pie made by Aunty Milly may be harder to come by! If the only thing you want to eat is potatoes and pumpkin pie, then eat that and enjoy it.

Fear of Missing Out

The reason we fear missing out on food is because we want to taste everything! Choose what you truly want and have it without guilt (I know this isn’t always easy) and with as much enjoyment as possibly.  Reality is that you will probably miss out on something. Perhaps accept that there is a lot that you want (with food and in life) and that you will miss out on some things and that it’s okay. Can you notice your urge to eat out of fear of missing out and be gentle with yourself? Remember you have a choice. You can eat everything and lots of it and not miss out on any of the foods. How are you going to feel after that? Chances are you will feel stuffed and uncomfortable.  You would be missing out on feeling good in your body. Or you could choose to let go of some the foods and feel more comfortable in your body?  There is no right or wrong here – it’s a choice – the question is how would you like to feel at the end of the meal? And feeling full or overfull is okay. As long as you don’t beat yourself up about it!

Eating to please the host and dealing with food pushers

There are many ways to show appreciation to your host other than by eating to the point of discomfort. Express thanks and gratitude. Acknowledge all the hard work and preparation it must have taken. Compliment your hosts, ask for the recipe, offer to help. A simple “No thank you” or “I couldn’t possibly eat more of this delicious food. I will feel so uncomfortable it will spoil my meal” is also enough.

Great Expectations

Hollywood makes it difficult not to have expectations of a perfect Thanksgiving. Remember no family is perfect. Most families have a level of dysfunction. This year, could you let go of the fantasy of “how it should be” and try to allow it to be “as it is”? Not everyone will behave or show up as you would like. Pain, conflict, drama, joy, happiness, it is all part of it. The drama and the joy will pass. When presented with a difficult emotion or situation – know that it will pass. Practice the “Power of the Pause” – pause before eating or reacting. As best you can, focus on the good in the moment, focus on what’s right and bring yourself back to gratitude. Remember the attitudes of: peace, gratitude, generosity and kindness.

All or nothing thinking

Very often it’s our thinking that triggers us and not the food! Be mindful of your thoughts

  • It’s a holiday so I am just going to eat and be good tomorrow!
  • I’ve blown it already so I might as well carry on?
  • That’s enough, I shouldn’t; I mustn’t (these thoughts are restrictive and often result in rebellious eating)
  • But everyone else is eating
  • Who cares! What the hell!
  • I will start again after the holidays

Every meal is an opportunity to practice, learn and start again. Learn from the previous meal and apply it to the next. We are aiming for progress NOT perfection –  imperfect action!

Body Dissatisfaction

Our relationship with food is closely linked to how we feel about our bodies. When we don’t like our bodies and we try to change them, it often creates dysfunction with food. Can you accept the body you have for this Thanksgiving? No matter the size of your body, your weight, your level of pain, your body’s limitations, it may be difficult to love your body but can you try to accept it as it is now?


Judgement of yourself, judgement of family, judgement of food … all of these judgements can lead to eating more to distract yourself. Can you replace judgement with acceptance or even better, curiosity or compassion? Notice when your voice is critical and gently replace the thought with something kinder or neutral, if kind is difficult – this isn’t easy but it feels so much better.

Food during the holidays is a celebration, a coming together, connection and creating of memories.

May you eat with peace, joy and pleasure this Thanksgiving.

All my best,

✨ Do you struggle with food and eating in the holidays? Check out my How To Handle Eating In The Holidays Online Course.

✨ If food is controlling your life, I would be honored to support you to develop a positive relationship with food. Book a free mini-session.

✨ Are you interested in finding out more – join my next retreat A Taste of Mindful Eating on 12 December.

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