I recently meditated on my childhood behavior. I was shocked but not startled to recall my gourmand like characteristics. There was a little worry when I could see the end of a meal. I relieved the panic by reminding myself that because I was willing to cook, I could eat again when the appetite called.
This went on for years before Pa showed me an article of a basketball player who lost 54 pounds. It was inspiring, but also a little saddening. I was on the edge of change, not wanting to give up the daily pleasure of 6 or 7 Mexi-melts a day capped off by a homemade ice-cream shake.
It was an advanced thought for an 11-year old, but I simply didn’t want to leave a legacy of gluttony.
At some point in our lives, we come to this simple-minded wisdom: We have to eat sensibly most of the time.
I know this is eye-rolling and as stimulating as watching grass grow, but do we have a choice?
Eating modestly provided an immediate restoration of hope when the practice revealed to me that the law of diminishing returns is applicable to comfort foods too. If you don’t believe me, eat pizza for 12 days straight and see if you still want it.
This concept is similar to how the space between the notes makes the music.
But there are moments when one should eat handsomely. Thanksgiving is one of those times. The approach is an art. It’s more ballet, less rugby. The ancient urge to eat till it hurts is a consensus reality — a behavior adopted simply because everyone else does it.
If I may, can I propose an alternative approach to eating on Thanksgiving?
Since we all prefer to make our own discoveries and take credit for the conclusions we make, consider the following a step-by-step example that you will make your own. Take this model, and tailor it for your feast.
I never wake up hungry on Thanksgiving which produces a nervous energy. I must do something with this or else the mind begins to fabricate stories. Since the world is asleep on this day, I’ll get outside and move the body. Vigorous stretching, long-runs, or calisthenics are all fair game. If I can get to a park with dip bars and pull-up bars, even better. All this exercise depletes the glycogen making room for all those delicious carbs that will soon flood the system. I choose to skip the music and give myself the gift of listening to the silence for once. The cool down is a casual march through the neighborhood.
I’ll prepare myself for the feast. Shower, shave and then read something for 30 minutes or two hours depending on the prep time of the rest of the family.
When I get the signal from the wife that we are ready to go, that usually means we still have a solid 10–15 minutes before we are out the door. I utilize this pocket of time to pre-game it. The first rule to indulging in a feast is to never arrive ravenous — this is a surefire way you won’t make it to the end. Here’s a modest pregame ritual that sets me up for success:
- 1 TBS of apple cinder vinegar prepares the body to handle the calorie explosion and carbhoydrate bomb.
- Shooting a protein shake (2 scoops in water) will blunt any type of hunger and keep my food morals in check when my eyes meet the smorgasbord.
- Shoot one serving of a green superfood. This is like nutritional insurance. We both know that a nice green salad is not on the menu for Thanksgiving dinner (nor would we eat it if it were offered).
We arrive at the house. Greetings are first in order. There is a strategy here: I cannot say hello to Ma first because everytime her arms wrap around my waist, she crumbles a little bit. This requires emotional energy so it is wisdom to perform this act the end of the greeting rounds when she has all of me.
I begin with cheerleader delicacy’s also known as finger foods. The key here is to go for the best options. Quality is the driving force. Subtle choices reveal the maturity of a seasoned Thanksgiving eater. For example, choosing the posh sesame sticks over Tortilla chips to scoop into the spinach dip is a good move. If there are any stews or soups available, this is the time.
There’s no need to rush at this point — the whole night is ahead. Since we are terrible at determining if we are satisfied or not, after the finger-food parade, shuffle your way to a distraction. This step is nuanced. For the sports fan, you’ll gravitate to the screen. If you love kids, you’ll head to the spare bedroom. If you're the contemplative type, you’ll go outside for a walk. Perhaps you think of yourself as a person of depth and scope, then you might do all three. Whatever you choose, consider this halftime of the feast — a causal intermission serving as a buffer between appetizers and the main course.
Night has surely fallen, and the moods of the people begin to lean towards food. This is when the heavy dishes are served. I’ve found that when you wait to serve yourself after the initial rush, you’re less likely to hurry. I am a fan of John Wooden and he said, “Be quick, but don’t hurry.” Approaching the Thanksgiving dinner with this guiding principle, you become sensible. “What do I want?” is a good question to ask ourselves. This is our time to build the plate of our own tastes. Consider this art. The aim is to not eat at much as possible, but to enjoy the things you want thoroughly.
Eat. Take the time to taste the food. We probably don’t have to worry about quantity — there’s plenty left for seconds if you choose to.
This is when the decision for dessert must be considered. I’ve found after a big meal, your decision making skills are dulled, therefore making dessert unmelodious. Picking at two or three different desserts is fair game. Nobody expects you to take down a Mid-Western sized slice of pie after Thanksgiving dinner.
If there are leftovers, I will humbly accept as many foiled-wrapped paper plates as possible. Why? Because I will not be cooking anything for the next 48 hours. Instead, I will be spoon feeding myself stuffing, sweet potatoes, and green bean casserole straight from the fridge like a lazy savage.
Go home and skip the bedtime hygiene routine because there is so much serotonin floating in your brain that you can hardly walk straight. Don’t set an alarm for the next day if you can help it — on this night your dreams will be deep.
Wake up and don’t even consider the madness of Black Friday. Instead, sip on a pre-workout cocktail and prepare yourself for the best workout of your life. The influx of calories and carbohydrates will provide a surge of strength and unworldly pumps.
When the Thanksgiving weekend is over, return to your normal routine. You’ll discover that eating handsomely every once in a while doesn’t derail a year’s worth of upward trending consistency.