How To Enjoy Your Thanksgiving Meal Without Feeling Your Worst When It's Over

Content warning: This article discusses eating disorders.

While some of us may have been playing Christmas music since the day after Halloween, there is another holiday to enjoy before the twinkling lights and decorations are set up. Thanksgiving is a time to gather with loved ones, give thanks, and eagerly await the early holiday shopping afterward. But most importantly, it is the one day a year centered around one special someone — the Thanksgiving turkey. A 2020 survey by Statista found that 83% of Americans plan on enjoying turkey, 74% will pair that with mashed potatoes, and 77% will enjoy stuffing as well.

You may not find the "traditional" turkey and cranberry sauce on every table, but you will see most Americans gathering to celebrate the holiday in some way with their families: 90% of Americans celebrate Thanksgiving, making it the second most popular holiday after Christmas (via Family Handyman).

While the foods we feast on may look different in each household, we can agree that Thanksgiving dinner is always a delicious one full of special family recipes that have been passed down for generations. With all the excitement around this once-a-year meal, it can be easy to get ahead of yourself and overindulge. When you eat so much on Thanksgiving that you feel uncomfortable and bloated before dessert, it can definitely ruin your holiday spirit.

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Healthline recommends knowing your food intolerances and which foods can be inflammatory ahead of time. We all love a good dollop of whipped cream with our pumpkin pie, but your lactose intolerance may not. Registered dietitian Erin Palinski-Wade also suggests eating small portions throughout the day instead of waiting for the big feast, telling Healthline, "Waiting too long in-between meals until you are ravenous can often lead to eating too fast and too much, which can trigger an increase in bloating." Knowing your physical limits and respecting them will keep your stomach satisfied without the discomfort of feeling too full.

Eating to the point of feeling physically sick is definitely something to watch out for, it's not the only hardship people face during this food-based holiday: for those who struggle with their relationship to food, Thanksgiving can be especially challenging.

Eating disorder therapist Carrie Wasterlain, LCSW told EveryDay Health that the holiday centered around a meal can be extremely triggering for people who struggle with all types of eating disorders. She recommends focusing on the "gratitude" part of the day rather than the meal, and setting boundaries with yourself about certain family habits. If someone comments about how much or how little you are eating, have a planned exit strategy: moving seats, changing the subject, or even confronting them directly are all great options.

This Thanksgiving, enjoy your meal without judgment and pace yourself to avoid any discomfort — both mentally and physically.