The holidays are upon us with the arrival of Thanksgiving in just a few days. And, with this arrival comes delicious feasts of food, relaxation, nourishing traditions and time with family and friends. But also, the holidays can bring stress, both emotional and physical, as we navigate family dynamics, travel with young children and eat food that we savor, but can also cause unsavory digestive issues. Also, as we partake in all of the delicious extras like wine and desserts it can wreak havoc on our blood sugar balance causing fatigue, sugar cravings and mood swings. All of which makes dealing with stress more difficult. Add to all of this if you’re on a healing diet or trying to make better choices about how you care for your body by what you eat and a healthy Thanksgiving may become a really isolating and challenging time.
When I was at my most sick with autoimmune disease and was following a strict autoimmune protocol (AIP) diet, I would bring my own food to Thanksgiving dinner in Pyrex to heat up in the microwave while everyone else ate turkey and all the trimmings. I always knew I was making the best choice for my body, but I was keenly aware of the loneliness that came from the missed camaraderie and emotional connection by not eating or drinking the traditional foods of our family. Thankfully, my family has always supported how I take care of my health even when they haven’t understood it. But sometimes and probably far too often, when you choose to not partake in something or to do things a little differently with food, people can see that as a reflection on their own choices and self-worth. This can lead to awkward comments at best and sometimes rudeness from those we love. It’s difficult to navigate other people’s feelings when you’re doing the best you can to manage your own emotions as you make hard decisions for your health.
So, as you navigate all of the ups and downs the holiday season can bring, here are my top two tips for how to have a healthy Thanksgiving and support your mental and physical health—regardless of what you eat—through the Thanksgiving weekend.
Move your body
When I say move your body I don’t necessarily mean go out and exercise. Sure, if your family has a Turkey Day fun run by all means participate or if you want to go to the gym the day after Thanksgiving then please do. But, movement doesn’t need to be exercise in order to be beneficial for your physical and emotional health. Even when we move in simple ways our body gets so many benefits, like supporting your digestion to move all of that tasty food through your body in a timely manner, which reduces bloating and feeling over-full for days. Movement also helps curb cravings so instead of having that third serving of pie you may feel satiated after just a couple. And, simple movement helps balance our blood sugar and dampen those blood sugar spikes and crashes, which can make us more irritable and cranky when that one uncle wants to push your political buttons. Movement also has so many mental health benefits, like giving you space and time to manage your emotions (what people call “clearing your head”) and boosts those feel good endorphins that help lower anxiety and feelings of depression. It can also be plain old fun.
So get up and move your body any way you can this weekend: take a walk after lunch to reconnect with your partner, dance while you cook the mashed potatoes, clean your house for the guests arriving for dinner, have the family master that crazy Tik-Tok dance challenge you’ve watched so many times or have a family stretch session after breakfast with your coffee in hand as you plan the day. Movement doesn’t have to be complicated, intense or take a lot of time to gain the rewards!
Drink some water
Thanksgiving is definitely a time when people imbibe. We make toasts with champagne for all that we’re grateful for, drink the latest microbrew as we watch the football game and have an extra glass of wine with our turkey dinner. All of this imbibing can be fun, but it can also cause mood swings due to more blood sugar spikes and dips (alcohol is often full of sugars) and make us hangry if we forget to eat. Alcohol can also cause us to become dehydrated, which slows digestion and gives us a not-so-fun hangover the next day even if you have just a couple. So try to be mindful of drinking water throughout the weekend.
When the body is properly hydrated it eases digestion, decreases bloating and helps our body soak in all of the nutrients from that delicious green bean casserole. It also helps flush our digestive system, which can make us feel more energized, refreshed and ready for leftovers during the weekend.
Some great ways to increase your hydration over the weekend is to put a glass of water next to your bed at night and drink a full glass of water 30 minutes before sleeping and again upon waking. Or, my favorite, squeeze half a lemon into 24 ounces of water first thing in the morning to wake up your body and support your liver. Also, rotate your beverages throughout your celebrations by trying to drink one to two glasses of water between each alcoholic drink you have, which not only hydrates you, but can prevent the effects of your body absorbing too much alcohol too fast as well. And, if you’re going to a potluck your contribution could be a large pitcher of infused water to share. You can put lime, lemon, cucumbers and a dash of sea salt into the water as a refreshing and mineral rich infusion, which I’m sure other guests will thank you for.
So that’s it—move your body and drink some water. Sometimes things really can be that simple to have positive effects on our mind and body. And, of course, enjoy all that Thanksgiving has to offer!