Learn to Separate Thanksgiving the Meal From Thanksgiving the Holiday

Robby is a 30-year-old weight-loss/health-gain/rad-maintain fanatic in Washington, DC. You can find her at fatgirlvsworld.blogspot.com and @fatgirlvsworld on Twitter. In the “real world” you can find her being tortured by an elliptical or throwing punches in a boxing ring. She has two cats who use her as a trampoline in the middle of the night. She loves wine, hates umbrellas, and has never seen an episode of True Blood. She may or may not be a ninja.

I don’t even want to imagine how ludicrous it might have looked: everyone sitting around the Thanksgiving table trying not to say the wrong thing in front of my boyfriend or stare at him too long. Sure he was a little big, and a bit different than the rest of us, but he and I had been together for so many years and I had grown to love, cherish, and rely on him. But I can see things from my family’s perspective as well. Why did Robby bring her refrigerator to Thanksgiving?

Yep. I just said that. For years I had been in an exclusive, dependent, and toxic relationship with my refrigerator. I would come home from work and go straight to him. If work was bad, I’d find something inside that would comfort me. If work was good, I’d find something inside to celebrate. If work was neither bad nor good, I would still check in to see what was happening. Same thing when I was bored, excited, tired, stressed or even without any discernible emotion.

Thanksgiving brought out the worst in my disordered, foraging behavior. I would eat as if these foods were only available once a year and I had to use my stomach to store pie, stuffing, mashed potatoes, or turkey for months to come like a hibernating bear. Oh, and the pie. I ate to the point of discomfort and feeling bloated. Side note: I’m willing to bet that you can put your hand on your stomach and recall the stomach aches from years past.

All the emotions I projected onto my refrigerator (comfort, companionship/camaraderie, care) I would project onto Thanksgiving the day as well as Thanksgiving the memories: the comfort of my grandmother’s hospitality, the camaraderie of being able to eat like all the men in my family, and the feeling of love I felt after being stuffed to the gills and satiated (and of course, I’d find room for the pie). Now that I’ve had a chance to work with a dietitian, to spend the time learning about myself and what I actually need from people (not inanimate objects or food), I want to break up with Thanksgiving dinner the same way I broke up with my refrigerator:

Step 1: Admit that a refrigerator is not a person that can reciprocate love and attention. For Thanksgiving I just need to remember that I can’t converse with people if my mouth is full or build relationships with them if I’m in a food coma. This year my attention is on people and the food just happens to be there. The cranberry sauce will just have to entertain itself!

Step 2: Admit that I know exactly what is in the refrigerator at all times. Just like nothing will magically appear or disappear from my refrigerator, the foods on the Thanksgiving menu do not appear for this one day and do not disappear after this one day. And let’s face it, there are better red wines out there than Beaujolais Nouveau. There is no special magic that makes these foods taste better on Thanksgiving or any other day. I just need to trust that if these foods are that (ZOMG!) important to me on Thanksgiving, that I’ll be able to cook them another time, in a manner that is healthy for me, and in portions smaller than the size the actual dinner table.

Step 3: Admit that I was visiting the refrigerator way too much. I had a meal plan, but I was visiting the refrigerator when it had nothing to do with sticking to said plan. Midnight booty calls to the fridge are beyond unsexy. Thanksgiving would just have to become part of my plan. I don’t need to exercise like a mad person to “prepare” for Thanksgiving, nor do I need to starve myself to compensate for the extra calories. I will eat small portions of all my favorites and food log as I would any other day. Just because it’s Turkey Day doesn’t mean I should stuff myself like a turkey! (Plus, I’ve already confirmed that my gym will be open the day after!)

Step 4: Admit that my relationship with the refrigerator was obscuring my actual needs. I need to be loved and cared for (I bet you do too!), but because I was hyper-focused on my unhealthy relationship with food, I was putting up barriers to other people. Making Thanksgiving all about the food is also a barrier. By putting down the fork and paying attention to the people around me I can find a new way to make the day meaningful. The short of the long of it is that when you have emotional space (instead of indulging in a feeding frenzy), you create opportunities for the unexpected. Trust that your energy is better spent when you unplug the emotions tied to the food and plug in the emotions tied to the people around you. Focus on creating new memories where food is just the footnote.

As for me, who knows? Maybe since I’m breaking up with Thanksgiving dinner, there’ll be room for an actual person under the mistletoe.


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