4 Intuitive Eating Tips for a Peaceful Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving can be a stressful time, especially if you have a fraught relationship with food. Following are four Intuitive Eating tips to help you navigate the holiday (and every day) with greater ease.

1. Fire Your Internal Food Police
Your internal food police are the loud voices in your head that tell you that you’re “good” or “bad” based on what or how you ate.

They try to enforce the unreasonable rules diet culture has created and make you feel guilty and ashamed about your food choices. And, they compel you to take compensatory measures to make up for your “food sins,” like exercising excessively or detoxing post-holiday—unhelpful behaviors that usually backfire.

In order to have a peaceful relationship with food, you must fire your food police by challenging your beliefs and rules and removing any morality and judgment surrounding food.

Keep in mind that…

  • All foods are emotionally equivalent regardless of their nutritional value. A baked sweet potato is equal to sweet potato pie; eating one or the other doesn’t make you good or bad.

  • Making peace with food means giving yourself unconditional permission to eat whatever looks good, tastes good and feels good in your body, without internal judgment or external influence.

  • All foods fit in a balanced diet. This includes everything from turkey, stuffing and green-bean casserole to Brussels sprouts, mashed potatoes and mac-and-cheese. 

  • Normal eating includes sometimes eating simply for pleasure and sometimes eating until you're stuffed. Neither one is a crime you have to pay a penance for.

  • Unless you stole your food or harmed someone to get it, there’s no place for guilt in your eating world.

2. Set Boundaries with External Food Police
Your external food police are people who say things like “Do you really need more mashed potatoes?” or “You’re gonna regret that second slice of pecan pie!”

Regardless of the food cop’s intentions, you have the right to eat whatever you want without having someone negatively comment on, criticize, judge or question your choices.

Whether it’s a family member, partner or friend patrolling your eating, it’s important to set boundaries regarding what comments are inappropriate and unwelcomed. Here are a few comebacks:

  • I trust myself to give my body what it needs.

  • You mind your own plate and I’ll mind mine.

  • I know you mean well, but your comments aren’t helpful.

Head on over to here for more ideas.

3. Say No to Food Pushers
Whether they are trying to express their love, be a gracious host or offload their extra food, food pushers can be tricky to say no to, especially when they’re persistent. However, you’re under no obligation to take food you don’t want, either because you’re full or simply don’t desire it.

If a simple “No, thank you” doesn’t work, try responding with:

  • It looks so yummy but I’m full; I’d love to take some home or get your recipe.

  • I’d really love to eat more, but couldn’t possibly swallow another bite without feeling uncomfortably full.

  • I know I usually say yes, however, I’m trying to honor the messages my body is sending me, and right now, it's telling me it's full! I’m sure you can respect this.


4. Squash the Diet and Weight Talk
“I’m being so bad! Today is definitely my cheat day!"

“This is a calorie bomb! We'll need to burn this off tomorrow!”

"I can't believe how many carbs I'm eating. I'm going to pay for this!"

During the Thanksgiving feast, it’s not uncommon to hear remarks like these. Nor is it uncommon for such remarks to trigger feelings of anxiety, guilt and shame.

Set an intention before the festivities to not participate in diet and weight talk. Instead, switch the topic to travel, sports, or the reason for the season—gratitude.

I hope these tips help you have a more peaceful and relaxed relationship with food, both on Thanksgiving Day and every day of the year.

How to Make Up for Eating Too Much Halloween Candy

With bowls and bags of Halloween candy scattered around the office and home, it’s easy to eat way more sugar than you typically would.

For many of us, eating episodes like this are considered a food sin and often lead to a make-up mentality that sounds something like this:

To make up for being bad, I will…

  • skip breakfast and lunch tomorrow.

  • cut carbs and work out extra hard all week.

  • go on a 10-day detox diet.

  • not eat sugar for the next month.

This penance approach frequently results in a vicious cycle of restrict-binge-repent-repeat. It’s ineffective, physically and psychologically damaging, and causes a lot of unnecessary suffering.

The key to avoiding this painful cycle is to stop believing you have to make up for your eating decisions—and stop making a fix-it plan.

Instead, when you feel like you’ve committed a “food transgression,” remind yourself that it's normal to overeat sometimes—then move on with your life.

Rather than feeling guilty, beating yourself up, and shifting into make-up mentality, simply resume your daily self-care practices.

And listen to your body. It will tell you what it needs.

For example, you may wake up tomorrow and find your appetite is smaller than usual. So eat a smaller breakfast.

Or, you may find you’re hungry for your usual breakfast or something completely different. Go for whatever sounds the most nourishing and satisfying.

Don't deprive or punish yourself and your body because you feel you ate badly. Doing so always backfires.

By avoiding the make-up mentality, you’ll experience a greater sense of ease and peace with food and your body.

I Just Want to Eat Like a Normal Person

A comment I often hear is:

“I just want to eat like a normal person.”

To better understand where someone is coming from, I always ask:

“What does normal eating mean to you?”

Of course, everyone responds differently depending upon the impact our diet culture and confusing food environment has had on a person's relationship with food.

However, almost all the answers are packed full of “shoulds” and “should nots,” such as:

  • I shouldn't eat so much.

  • I shouldn't think about food all the time.

  • I should eat fewer carbs.

  • I shouldn’t grab the chip bag when I’m stressed.

  • I should be able to control my sweet tooth.

  • I should eat more vegetables.

  • I should eat only whole foods; no processed foods.

  • I shouldn’t snack at night.  

  • I should avoid anything with added sugars.

  • I shouldn’t have seconds.

  • I should never keep chocolate or ice cream in my house.

  • I shouldn't be an emotional eater.

  • I should only eat dessert once a week.

  • I shouldn’t eat so much cheese and bread.

Normal to Not Eat Normally
Sadly, it’s pretty normal these days to not know what it means to eat normallyor how to do it.

The definition of normal (or healthy) eating for many people has come to include a lot of restrictions. The result: a disconnection from your body, a fraught relationship with food, and feelings of guilt and shame when you break the rules.

When my clients ask me what normal eating looks like, I often refer to Ellyn Satter, a well-known expert on feeding dynamics and eating competence. She created the following definition 35 years ago. Despite how much our food landscape and diet culture constantly changes, her words remain true.

Normal Eating is...
Normal eating is going to the table hungry and eating until you are satisfied.

It is being able to choose food you enjoy and eat it and truly get enough of it—not just stop eating because you think you should.

Normal eating is being able to give some thought to your food selection so you get nutritious food, but not being so wary and restrictive that you miss out on enjoyable food.

Normal eating is giving yourself permission to eat sometimes because you are happy, sad or bored, or just because it feels good.

Normal eating is mostly three meals a day, or four or five, or it can be choosing to munch along the way.

It is leaving some cookies on the plate because you know you can have some again tomorrow, or it is eating more now because they taste so wonderful.

Normal eating is overeating at times, feeling stuffed and uncomfortable. And it can be undereating at times and wishing you had more.

Normal eating is trusting your body to make up for your mistakes in eating.

Normal eating takes up some of your time and attention, but keeps its place as only one important area of your life.

In short, normal eating is flexible. It varies in response to your hunger, your schedule, your proximity to food and your feelings.

Truly Liberating
I love how Satter's interpretation of normal eating removes all the judgement, moralism, rigidity, rules, deprivation, willpower and perfectionism that are so common in our relationship with food these days.

Instead, her definition supports a way of eating that is intuitive, pleasurable, sustainable, nourishing and truly liberating.

You can access a PDF of Satter's definition to post on your fridge here. She also offers many helpful resources on her website

“Normal Eating is…” Copyright (c) 2018 by Ellyn Satter. Published at www.EllynSatterInstitute.org.