THE BLOG
11/24/2010 02:27 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

5 Tips for a Guilt-Free Thanksgiving Meal

Already fretting about how many calories are in pecan pie? Anxious about weight gain this holiday season? If you struggle with post-Thanksgiving food guilt, let gratitude be your guide this year. It sounds deceptively simple, but it can be a difficult mindset to adopt if you worry about what you eat. Enter the day with a grateful spirit to help you end the holiday without food guilt.

Stop Thanksguilting and start truly enjoying Thanksgiving. Here are five tips to do just that:

1) Set the Table: Thanksgiving is a great reminder that eating is a "special event." The way we eat on Thanksgiving is often the polar opposite of our typical eating habits -- drive-through in the car, snacking directly out of a bag, or "fitting in" meals on your lunch hour. Even a fork can be a luxury in our fast-food culture. Instead, Thanksgiving gives you an opportunity to take great care to set the table with nice dishes and cook a meal from scratch. You're likely to choose food to bring to the meal with intentionality and careful planning. China and linen placemats aren't necessary. Just do whatever makes this meal feel special and honors the sheer act of eating.

2) Take a Seat: The tradition of the "family meal" often falls by the wayside when it has to compete with working overtime, running your kids to soccer practice and other responsibilities. Start with being grateful for the basics, a moment to sit down. Look around. Feel your back against the chair. Notice your feet touching the floor. Drink in the moment.

3) Take Time to Smell the Turkey: Use your five senses to slow down the rush-rush of the holiday. Smell the aroma of pie baking. See how delicious the food looks in serving dishes. Hear the chatter of your guests. Hug someone special. Genuinely gush over your favorite dish. Tell your aunt how much you appreciate her bringing your favorite dessert.

4) Say Thanks: Sharing small, simple thoughts of gratitude can help unify the people at your table and deepen the experience of eating together. Go around the table and share your top ten moments of 2010 with your guests or write them down for yourself. Consider keeping a "gratitude journal" for the future to keep this grateful spirit going.

5) Eat Mindfully: Say a prayer before your meal or a meaningful quote to get into a thankful mindset. Or, just take a split second to look at your fork and acknowledge your gratidute for this bite. Visualize the journey it took from garden to table. Too often we are thinking about and craving the next bite of pumpkin pie before finishing the one we have. When you slow down, you enjoy food, savor each bite, and eat more mindfully. This prevents later food guilt.

Gratitude turns around your mindset from the desire to consume more to being thankful for what you have. Isn't this a wonderful life lesson? We are constantly desiring a bigger house, better job, and more money rather than being content and grateful for what we have in the present moment.

The benefits of simply saying a genuine thank you is a well-hidden secret. Approaching life with a grateful heart helps your overall general well-being. Gratitude has been linked to an improvement in mood, self-esteem, depression, life satisfaction, body image and the ability to cope with adversity, and it promotes positive feelings. It can even bring you better sleep.

Here's sending you a genuine thank you for reading this article and wishing you a happy Thanksgiving. Eat, drink and be mindful!

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