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Foodie’s Guide to Mindful Holiday Eating

By Michelle May, M.D.

What How I Eat on Thanksgiving

Because I write and speak about fearless and mindful eating, people often ask what I eat. I usually just say I’m a foodie-I eat what I love and love what I eat.

I’m not trying to be evasive but balanced eating isn’t just about what you eat. It’s about how you think about what you eat. Since the holidays can be a challenge, I decided to finally answer the question, “What do you eat?” by sharing my typical Thanksgiving.

48 hours in the life of one foodie

The day before Thanksgiving, I eat my usual breakfast: yogurt, high fiber cereal, and fresh fruit, coffee with skim milk and a non-nutritive sweetener. I’ll go to my favorite yoga class in the morning and when I get hungry again, make something yummy and satisfying like a Panini or a Southwestern salad (greens, black beans, shredded cheese, salsa, and a few tortilla chips crumbled over the top). I might have walnuts and dried cherries for an afternoon snack; not only are walnuts are a good source of omega 3’s, they remind me of holiday baking with my grandmother.

We’ll pick up vegetarian and pepperoni pizzas for Wednesday’s dinner because it’s easy and we love them. I usually have three slices of the vegetarian. For pizza, I’m willing to feel a little full when I’m done-a “6” on the Hunger and Fullness Scale for those who’ve read my books-but not stuffed.

Our family tradition is to go hiking near our home on Thanksgiving morning. November is beautiful in Phoenix and we have the largest urban trail system in the country. When we get home, we’ll eat a late breakfast that won’t mess up the kitchen-for me, probably yogurt and cereal again but no fruit, knowing what’s coming.

The first of the two Thanksgiving dinners we attend is around 2:00. By the time we arrive, I’ll be hungry (a “3”). Although there will be a lovely veggie tray out, I’ll skip it to avoid filling up before the main event. I keep myself busy setting up the buffet which also gives me a chance to check out all the options. We have a big family and everyone brings their specialties so I get to be very choosey about what I’ll eat.

By the time everything is ready and we’ve given thanks, I’ll be around a “2.” I prefer to eat with the intention of feeling better when I’m done than I did when I started. I’ll aim for a “6” or “7” since we have another house to hit in a few hours. I set myself up near the end of the line. It gives me a chance to chat with people that I don’t often see. By the time it’s finally my turn to serve myself, I’ll know exactly what I want to try.

I skip the roll and butter, the fruit salad, and the relish tray since I can have those any time. There are two different kinds of stuffing so I try some of each to decide which I prefer. I take a little turkey but pass up the cranberry sauce if it’s shaped like a can. I zero in on the green bean casserole and mashed potatoes and gravy, two of my favorites.

Since I usually end up with more than I intended, I eat mindfully-slowly and attentively. (Watch this short TV clip on Thanksgiving tips and Mindful Holiday Eating.) I’ll leave what I don’t love and have seconds of what I do. I might sample just a bite of my husband’s pie; even though I’m full, I still feel good-and I don’t want to spend the afternoon sprawled out on the couch complaining! By the time we get to the next house a couple of hours later, they’re ready for dessert-and I will be too.

That does it for me on Thursday. Friday will be back to normal-except that I get to have leftovers for lunch!


About the author

Michelle May, M.D. is a recovered yo-yo dieter and the founder of the Am I Hungry?® Mindful Eating Programs and Training. She is the award-winning author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat: A Mindful Eating Program to Break Your Eat-Repent-Repeat Cycle , winner of seven publishing awards. She is also the author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat with Diabetes, Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat for Binge Eating, and Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating for Bariatric Surgery. Michelle shares her compelling message and constructive keynotes with audiences around the country, offers workplace wellness programs, and has trained and licensed hundreds of health professionals to facilitate Am I Hungry?® Mindful Eating Programs worldwide. She has been featured on Dr. Oz, the Discovery Health Channel, and Oprah Radio, and quoted in Diabetic Living, Fitness, Health, Huffington Post, Parents, Self, USA Weekend, US News & World Report, WebMD and many others. Her personal success story was published in Chicken Soup for the Dieter's Soul. Michelle cherishes her relationships with her husband, Owen and grown children, Tyler and Elyse. She regularly enjoys practicing yoga and hiking near her home in Phoenix, Arizona. She and Owen, a professional chef, share a passion for gourmet and healthful cooking, wine tasting, photography, and traveling.

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