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Giving Thanks

Okay, now, it’s done, over, finito. You got through Thanksgiving—through all the delicious foods, your anxieties about eating too much or too little, your fears about what people might say about your weight, and the dread of being with relatives that make you want to divorce your family. If you weren’t Ms. or Mr. Perfect on Thanksgiving, you may be in a remorseful, beat-yourself-up state of mind today, so here’s a chance to leap frog back over to mental health where you belong.

Rather than focus on what you did wrong, stick with the Thanksgiving theme of gratefulness. What do you have to be thankful for regarding food? If you can’t think of anything, here are some general thoughts. Be thankful that food is abundant because you are not poor, that you live in a country that is not torn by war so that you can eat in peace, that you live in a culture that celebrates the joys of family and friends (even if your family doesn’t bring you joy), that you have people around that love you. Pick one of these ideas and think about it for one minute, letting your gratefulness sink in all the way down to your toes.

In terms of that Thanksgiving feast, no matter how badly you think you did, it’s time to drum up whatever you did right. If you can’t think of anything, try these: You didn’t binge, you didn’t binge as badly as you could have, you didn’t purge, you purged less than you might have, you paid attention to what you were eating more than at any other Thanksgiving, you didn’t over-exercise like you usually do to ward off putting on weight, you really tasted the food because you were aware of what you were eating, you came away full but not stuffed, you gave the food police in your head the day off, you didn’t eat out of emotion but out of hunger, you made selections you wanted and were less self-conscious about enjoying your preferences, you didn’t get bent out of shape when someone commented on your weight, you felt more relaxed eating than you expected, you focused more on family than food, you felt more connected to your body when considering food and eating, you had moments of “normal” eating.

What is it like to take measure of the positive things you did rather than the negative ones? If you’re having a difficult time feeling gratitude and your mind keeps swinging back to, “Yes, I did that, but…” it probably means that you’re more used to focusing on what you did wrong than on what you did right. Gently push away thoughts of perfection and wanting to undo. That was yesterday, this is today. Now come up with one more thing you did right at Thanksgiving and give thanks for your triumphs!