How do I think about Thanksgiving?
Politically correct answer: Thanksgiving is a time for spending excellent quality time with family and friends. It's a time for slowing down, reconnecting and being thankful for the fact that the Pilgrims were able to avoid the temptation of slaughtering the local denizens of Massachusetts for a nice moment of detente. Really, the food is a there to to be a symbol of celebrating everything I'm thankful for.
Factual answer: The part about spending time with family and friends is actually true. I will have been out of the country for close to two weeks, and I miss my family terribly. That said, I'm also thinking a lot about eating food. My mind is on a continuous loop of clicking through each rich dish on the menu. I'm thinking about wine, and I'm thinking about creating a giant depression in the couch while watching a feeble football game. The Lions? Really, why does this have to be a tradition? [Actually, I'm liking the additional night game, and getting both a Jets and a Saints game is pretty great.]
There is nothing particularly wrong at all with enjoying a big food day on Thanksgiving. I've been pretty good this past week on the road, which is always challenging for me. One benefit of not sleeping is that it's given me time for some ridiculously involved workouts. Other than a sleep-deprivation induced room service food bonanza last night, I've also been pretty disciplined/good on my food choices. Therefore, I'm not really worried about Thanksgiving day.
However, spending lots of time thinking about what's on the menu for Thanksgiving day has led me to a very sad conclusion: my brain is broken. It seems to be stuck on a an endless do-loop (raising my geek flag here) of visualizing and obsessing about things I am going to eat. It's an extreme example of something I do all the time: I obsess about my next meal.
I have a sneaking suspicion I'm not alone on this. I sometimes wonder if we humans are wired to constantly think about the next thing we are going to eat. I just finished breakfast 10 minutes ago, and I'm already thinking about what I'm going to have for lunch. Frankly, I already know what I'm having for dinner, but I'm thinking about that too. Why do I do this? Is it because I am channeling a past life as a cold, emaciated hunter wondering where to find that damned mastodon herd?
It makes it a lot harder for me to think about eating in a normal and restrained way when I'm constantly thinking about eating. I have a feeling that naturally thin people don't really think about food that much. I resent them all!
My brain is an overwrought and undisciplined place. I would do anything to be much more in control of what I think about. This is certainly true about food. I believe it is what makes living the healthy life such a challenging journey. It is why I get so frustrated when I hear people criticize others for not living up to the challenges of losing weight and then keeping it off. It's difficult because our brains are unruly.
So what to do? Increasingly, I find myself constantly reminding my brain how much happier it is when I make good choices. I remind myself how irritated my brain gets when I over-indulge and binge. I am starting to believe that my brain is capable of being gradually re-shaped over a period of time to reduce my obsession with food and therefore the reduce the likelihood of spectacular lapses in judgement.
The best tool I know of for this is planning. So therefore, here are my two options for Thanksgiving:
The less good option:
- Before dinner is even served, there will be a huge layout of appetizers in the form of dips and cheeses. I will transform myself into a factory robot with my mechanical arm constantly lowing and raising from the spread until I'm pretty full.
- Then I will ignore the fact that I'm full and start heaping as much Thanksgiving dinner on my plate as I can possibly fit. Are you a vegetable? I'm sorry, there's no room for you on this paltry 12" plate. Only starches are allowed for this trip.
- Dessert? You bet. With three different pies available, it would just be rude not to have some of each.
- From here I go home feeling totally bloated with a hideous case of heart burn.
- Avoid the appetizer tray. The Pilgrims didn't nosh on dip, so I'm not offending history if I don't either. That said, there will be a shrimp cocktail tray, and I will definitely hit that.
- For the actual Thanksgiving dinner, I will have a bit of everything, including the vegetables. They create a nice volume barrier on the plate so I don't have that fifth scoop of stuffing.
- Dessert? You bet. One normal slice of the blue ribbon winner of the pie contest should suffice.
- From here I go home feeling happy and well fed, but not like a goose headed for the fois gras factory.