Are you already starting to worry about overeating during the Thanksgiving holiday? It is such a tradition to eat until you are as stuffed as the bird that you may not even realize how full you get. Few escape the need to unbutton their pants or loosen their belts by the end of Thanksgiving Day. Why is that? Let me share three possible explanations you may not have thought of.

First is because we only get this meal once a year. Thanksgiving dinner includes fresh cut turkey, stuffing, pies and all the family recipes that get pulled out for this special occasion. When we finally sit down to dinner we know that this is a one-time thing, not to be repeated for another year. That is a long time, and we feel we have to get it now while we can, because we won’t get it again any time soon. So we sit down to dinner having been deprived of it for the past year and knowing we will be deprived of it again for the upcoming year. This sets the stage for overeating, often to the point of feeling sick. Did this happen to you last year?

The way to avoid this is to plan on having a turkey dinner again in the near future. It doesn’t have to be a 12 pound bird. There are lots of ways to purchase and prepare turkey that takes very little time. Then pick some of your favorite holiday recipes to go with it, without going overboard. In this way you can have a scaled-back, but equally similar and enjoyable meal without waiting a whole year. It also helps to have a mini Thanksgiving meal the day after, so that during the big meal on Thanksgiving you know that you will definitely have the meal again – the next day – so you don’t feel a need to eat so much of it all at once.

Second, the meal takes hours of preparation and we gather ahead of time to socialize, nibble and wait for the big event. During this time we are impatiently waiting and at the same time often bored, doing preparation chores or talking with family members with whom we may not be that fond or we may not have much to say to. So we eat mindlessly to keep our feelings of frustration, boredom or annoyance at bay or to give us a reason for a diversion. Or we could be having a great time, often accompanied by some alcohol, and again mindlessly eating from the dozens of hors d’oeuvres that surround us. By the time dinner is served, we’ve already had a fair amount of food and it doesn’t take much more to push us past the point of full. Do any of these scenarios match your typical Thanksgiving Day?

To minimize the amount you eat ahead of the big meal requires some consciousness and a bit of planning. If the meal will be served at 1pm and you have breakfast, then be aware that you may want to eat a bit of food in the late morning to tie you over until 1pm. If you are at home, have a balanced snack. If you are at someone else’s home, be selective about the hors d’oeuvres you select as your snack. You don’t have to deny yourself, but plan on just a few and scan what is available to pick the ones you really think you will enjoy the most. If the meal is later, such as 4pm, then have a balanced lunch around noon. Then you can enjoy a few of the best hors d’oeuvres just before the meal knowing you won’t be ravenous or overdoing it. The point is, eat ahead of time so that when you nibble before the meal it is limited and based on what you really want the most.

The third explanation is you may be feeling alone and wish you were with family or you are with family and wishing you were somewhere else. This can create emotions that are difficult to address and food is an easy way to push the feelings away. Food is a comfort and a coping mechanism for emotions. Do you anticipate some emotion during the Thanksgiving holiday?

The way to deal with emotional eating is to let yourself experience the feelings instead of turning away from them. Instead of numbing the feelings out with food, be aware of what you are feeling and how it is tied to your eating. You may want to do this the day before by journaling, letting the emotions out and understanding that this can be a challenging holiday for you. If you don’t address it, you will overeat and the feelings will simply be repressed only to surface again at another time.

This Thanksgiving be conscious of your hunger levels, find ways not to feel deprived, plan your day so you don’t get to the table filled up on hors d’oeuvres, and recognize if you are having some emotions so you can address them without turning to food. Then enjoy all your favorite things about the holiday meal.

© Copyright 2006. Alice Greene & Fit Beyond 40

Author's Bio: 

Alice Greene, Lifestyle fitness and inspirations coach, founder of Fit Beyond 40, creator of Help Yourself Today, Living Free Diabetes and radio show host.