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.

Becoming a Food Anthropologist Helped End My Binge Eating

When I used to binge on peanut-butter chocolate-chunk cookies while hiding in my dark kitchen late at night, my internal dialogue afterward sounded something like this:

“I’m so disgusting. I have no self-control. My willpower sucks. I can’t be trusted to have cookies in the house. I should know better by now. Why can’t I eat like a normal person? Starting tomorrow, no more sugar; I'm addicted!”

These voices in my head were anything but helpful, especially since I would find myself back in the same place doing the same thing again just a few days later.

Unable to take this torturous binge-repent-repeat cycle anymore, I reached out for help. A very wise teacher taught me that I had a choice: I could either ban the cookies or ban the voices.

Since I loved the cookies and hated the voices, the decision was pretty easy—even though it seemed like an impossible feat considering how ingrained in my brain the voices were.

A Powerful Ally Voice
Making peace with food and your body requires silencing the voices in your head that are constantly critiquing, criticizing and condemning your eating.

Replacing these disempowering, unhelpful voices with empowering, supportive voices is key for reclaiming the Intuitive Eater within you.

One of the ally voices identified in Intuitive Eating that my clients and I really gravitate toward is the Food Anthropologist.

The Food Anthropologist is a neutral observer of your thoughts and actions.

It doesn’t make any judgments or emotionally react. Instead, it witnesses what’s going on from a place of pure objectivity.

Unlike your internal Food Police that dictate if you’re good or bad based on what or how you ate, the Food Anthropologist simply states the facts. It sounds like this:

  • I ate six cookies at 10:30 p.m. and experienced stomach pain and feelings of guilt, regret and shame.

  • I skipped lunch, which led to strong sugar cravings at 3 p.m.

  • My eating felt out of control with all the different food options at the party.

  • The uncomfortable pressure in my stomach indicated I was full, yet I continued eating. I was angry at myself for overeating.

  • When I felt anxious yesterday, I ate a pint of ice cream while watching TV.

Distant Perspective, Deeper Connection
The Food Anthropologist voice gives you much-needed distant perspective. Yet, it also helps you stay in touch with your physical and psychological cues by eliminating all the noise that typically disrupts this connection and clouds your thinking.

When coupled with curiosity, the Food Anthropologist helps you expand your self-awareness and empowers you to better understand and release beliefs and behaviors that are no longer serving you.

Not a Lack of Willpower
When I became an objective observer of my binge-repent-repeat cycle, I was able to see clearly what was driving my cookie binges. It didn’t have anything to do with a lack of discipline or willpower, a character flaw or a sugar addiction.

Instead, I discovered my binge eating was driven by multiple factors including a restrictive diet, rigid food rules, a false persona, perfectionism and a pleasure deficiency. By addressing the root causes of my behavior and amplifying my ally voices, my binge eating eventually stopped.

If the loudest voice in your head is a critical one, it can take time to shift to a neutral, nonjudgmental voice like the Food Anthropologist. If you would like help identifying and strengthening your ally voices, give me a shout.