Monday, November 23, 2009

An Attitude of Gratitude

Dear in. Wellness readers,

Please forgive my brief hiatus from posting, but I have some exciting news to share.

A little over a week ago, I got engaged! You have heard me refer to my boyfriend "B" or Brian. Well, now he is my fiance B.

It's been a very exciting week and two days, but I must admit that in the meantime I let some of my responsibilities go. The dishes piled up, the dust bunnies gathered, and the blog posts went unwritten. We were out and about relishing this fun stage of our relationship and lives.

And now I'm back. Ready to tackle our wellness.

This coming Thursday is Thanksgiving.

I have a friend who each year on Thanksgiving has an eating competition with his brother. They both weigh in before and after the big meal. Whoever has gained the most weight, wins.

Now these two brothers have fast metabolisms, so they can afford to play such games. For most of us, this is not an option.

Did you know that the average American eats 4000 calories on Thanksgiving? And gains 7-10 pounds during November and December?

In our culture, celebrating the holidays has become almost entirely equated with eating.

In these past two weeks, I have been giving workshops around the city on how to have healthy holidays, and sharing tips about portion control, etc. I'll share a few of these tips towards the end of the post, but first I want to discuss how we can connect having a healthy holiday to the larger meaning of the particular holiday.

I love Thanksgiving for this reason. Despite the complex political history of the holiday, it has now become a day dedicated to Gratitude. Expressing appreciation is one of the most powerful ways you can transform your health and your life. I am a strong believer that what you focus on is what you will create. Focus on what's wrong and that's what you are going to see. Focus on what you already have,  and more abundance will surely follow.

"In our daily lives, we must see that it 
is not happiness that makes us grateful, 
but the gratefulness that makes us happy." 
—Albert Clarke

How can gratitude help you to stay healthy through the holidays? Well, rather than approach this Thursday with an "I get to stuff my face" attitude, try a "I am going to celebrate all that I am thankful for and this beautiful food and my healthy body" attitude. By connecting to the larger meaning of the holiday, your food choices will naturally reflect this joy and appreciation. If we are truly stopping to give thanks for our health, we will be much less likely to eat so much that our poor digestive system goes into shock.

I'm not trying to spoil your fun. In general my feeling is that if you are normally eating well and caring for yourself, it's more than OK to go a little overboard on the holidays.  You better believe that I will be indulging in a full plate this Thursday, and I never say no to sweets. But there is celebratory indulging and then there is indulging that edges towards destructive. I am simply suggesting that you stay mindful of the big picture, and approach the holiday with a healthy attitude and a game plan.

Here are some tips that will help:

1.    Choose your indulgences. Indulging is fun and it’s important to relax and ENJOY the holidays. Pick some of your favorites and allow yourself to indulge in them. But try to compensate by skipping something else. Love egg-nog? Go ahead and have a glass just try to have a smaller portion of mashed potatoes. Etc.

2.    Salad and veggie dishes first. When creating your plate, load up on salad and veggies first then add just a small amount of meat, stuffing, etc. Limit fried or creamy appetizers, sauces, high-calorie side dishes, and desserts.

3.    Chew your food. By eating slowly and chewing your food, you get to enjoy it for longer and it helps you feel full faster. Experts say you should chew one bite 32 times! Don't worry yourself with counting, but do slow down and chew. Your food should be in almost liquid form but by the time it enters your stomach.

4.    Don't starve yourself. Many people will not eat all day on Thanksgiving so they can go to town when they sit down for the big meal. This strategy usually backfires and leads to over-indulging and eating even more calories than you would have if you just had three square meals. Eating a satisfying breakfast can ward off the temptation to overindulge later in the day.

5.    Put your hands up and walk away from the table… Many families like to sit around the table when they are done eating. This can be a lovely time for chatter and laughter, but it can lead to 2nd helpings that you aren’t even hungry for. See if your family is willing to move the party to another room away from the food.

6.    Take a walk. Walking helps you digest your food. This can also be a great way to spend time with your family that doesn’t involve eating or watching TV, etc. Create a tradition around the walk; use it as your time to reminisce about the past year. Have each family member say one thing they remember from last Thanksgiving, etc.

7.    Watch your alcohol consumption. Alcohol itself has calories, and mixing it with soda or juice adds even more. Limit these and other sweet drinks such as eggnog, and stick to a glass of wine or two. Try alternating your alcoholic beverage with a glass of seltzer.

Taking in IN:

What are you thankful for this year? Many families have a tradition of sharing their thanks at the dinner table. If you don't already do this, perhaps it's something you can suggest this year? If you don't think this will fly with your particular family, that doesn't mean you can't take a few minutes on your own to look at your life with the lens of gratitude. Once you get going, you may be surprised by how much you have to be grateful for.

Post one thing you are grateful for as a comment below!  Every person who posts will receive a surprising, intangible prize (This was my fiance, B's, idea.  Prizes will be awarded by B.).

I have gotten some questions about how to place comments. You have click on "Comments" below and follow the prompts.


  1. I am grateful for the opportunity to watch my daughter Nora's wisdom come into full gorgeous bloom.

  2. In what has been an exceptionally challenging year, I have a lot to be grateful for. Most importantly, I am surrounded by friends and family who, despite of all the challenges they themselves face, have the strength and the will to give so much love and support. I am also grateful that I remain smart enough to keep all these people close at hand. It takes a lot hard work to follow your heart, and we should all be thankful, perhaps even celebrate, the instances when we do so.


  3. I am grateful that my children, Nora and Aaron, have both found such wonderful mates (or mates to be). I am grateful for this web site, which has already given me new ideas about how to make life more of adventure.

  4. I am grateful that I'm learning accept that I am a work in progress...and that others are as well. It's very liberating!!! My life is a journey...

    Congratulations Nora...I wish you much happiness.

  5. and im thankful for intangible prizes.

  6. i am thankful to finally have a sister. (besides sarah). And for soy rice pudding. And for over-indulging in soy rice pudding.