Is Thanksgiving Day an excuse to over eat?
Does Thanksgiving serve as a time to justify over eating? Should we be more vigilant of how much we eat on Thanksgving Day?
Mary Jo Rapini, a psychotherapist specializing in intimacy and relationships at Methodist Hospital Weight Management Center in Houston discusses this with me, via telephone:
Stefan Pinto: Thanksgiving is an American institution but do you think the celebration of food has become the focus rather than giving thanks?
Mary Jo Rapini: Food and gatherings are very important to most cultures. What is not as established, are the types of food. Junk food has become popular because it is fast, easy – and takes almost no time. If families really gather and love one another they should generalize that love and concern for each other by creating a wholesome, nourishing meal that will sustain everyone’s body in a healthy way.
SP: Boxes of stuffing, breasts of turkey, pre-packaged pies and canned vegetables are all on sale. Some, you can even get for free. How can you possibly persuade people to spend more money on healthy food that is most often not on sale?
MJR: Advise them that it is cheaper to buy and create healthy meals then the insurance premiums they will need to cover their medical products if they don’t take care of their bodies with good nutrition.
SP: Is eating healthy reserved for the wealthy?
MJR: No. My mother raised nine of us with fresh veggies and lots of beans, rice, and fruit. It is expensive to eat out, and most of the food at the restaurants you mentioned are not prepared with love, by this I mean, they are prepared with speed — sacrificing health for price and availability. [Note: See more on “Is eating healthy only for the wealthy?“]
SP: Often, people would say, “oh, one day won’t kill you.” How would an obese or overweight person — who is now commendably trying to control their weight — handle a situation where there is nothing healthy to eat at the Thanksgiving dinner table?
MJR: Bring a dish that is nutritious and healthy for themselves as well as others to share (a healthy vegetable or fruit tray are two of my favorites). Focus on building relationships by enjoying conversation rather then eating (many morbidly obese people feel bad about themselves so they “hang out” with food; a comforting friend). It takes a while but if they are encouraged they can and will join conversation and forget about food. Stay away from too much alcohol. It is high in calories and it also lowers your inhibitions and you find yourself over eating again.
SP: How would you counsel someone who overate on Thanksgiving?
MJR: Everyone falls off the wagon. The key is the next morning to eat your normal small breakfast (protein, carbohydrate, and coffee). I tell my patients it’s one, two, and three. One meal you binged on, the second meal you scale down to an almost normal sized meal, the third meal, you’re back on track.
SP: To lose weight is the most common New Year’s Resolution. Why do you think most people 1) make this resolution and 2) never seem to see it through?
MJR: An intention to want to feel better; about themselves, to become healthier, and, yes, to change their appearance by losing weight. But instead of changing their lifestyle they change their diet. Diet alone will not make you lose weight. You have to change the reasons for eating, the physical activities you are doing, and by making smarter, healthier food purchases. An easy way to start, and stay on track, is commit to eating more meals at home.
SP: What are you thankful for?
MJR: Having an ability to help others with their struggles regarding their intimacy/obesity/relationships and parenting issues. I feel very blessed that I can serve in this way.