my guide to thriving on thanksgiving

(note: this post was originally published in 2015. It’s been updated for 2018!)

Years ago, I dreaded holidays like Thanksgiving. For weeks in advance, I’d have thoughts like:

There’s going to be so much food there, how am I ever going to be able to control myself the entire time? 

More recently, my thoughts have been:

Oh gosh, there are going to be so many family dynamics going on and so many activities, how am I going to make sure I take care of myself and stay centered throughout it all? 

These days, I look forward to holidays. Instead of dreading the food, I’m so excited by it, knowing I can enjoy my family without having anxious food thoughts cloud my brain. And, since I’ve spent a long time learning what I need to feel centered and grounded, I can navigate these (sometimes) crazy times with more intention and balance.

I want that for you too, so I’ve put together a short little guide with my best tips for not just surviving, but THRIVING on Thanksgiving.

Because you deserve to thrive. Enjoy!!

1. How Do You Want To Feel?

Danielle LaPorte is the master behind the concept of deciding FIRST how you want to feel, and then setting goals or actions around those feelings to help you feel those exact feelings..

Imaging yourself on Thanksgiving day. How do you want to feel? Choose 1-3 words. Maybe it’s connected, relaxed, calm, or energized.

Then, think about what actions, practices or steps you can take to help yourself feel that way. For instance, let’s take the word “calm”. If you know you want to feel calm, how can you feel calm on Thanksgiving day?

Maybe you…

  • get up 30 minutes early so you have some alone time before rushing to your in-laws
  • drink hot tea throughout the day
  • take frequent 5 minute bathroom breaks where you get to retreat from all the bustling conversation and regroup with yourself
  • get organized the night before so there’s less to think about the day of
  • watch how much sugar you consume (if you’re someone who loses the feeling of calm when you have sugar running through your system)

Setting intentions for how you want to feel and then taking action to plan to feel that way can leave you feeling great on any day, even Thanksgiving.

And the better you feel, the less you’ll need to turn to food to fill in the voids or snap at your mother.

So, how do you want to feel on Thanksgiving?

2. Move Your Booty

It’s much easier to take care of yourself when you feel connected to yourself. And one of the best ways to feel connected to yourself is by getting IN your body – moving your bones!

Try to carve out at least 30 minutes to move on Thanksgiving Day. Go for a brisk walk with your cousin, take a family trip to the gym, or make up your own workout in the backyard.

It can be something totally silly, fun, and random, but do something that gets you IN your body and feeling connected (so often we forget to acknowledge that we have a body from the neck down!).

I’d recommend doing this in the morning before the day begins, and then if you can, doing something again in the afternoon, even if it’s just swinging on the swings for 10 minutes. Any movement breaks you can take will add up to helping you feel amazing and energized all day.

3. Dress for Success: Comfy Chic + Your Vibe is What Matters (not your pant size)

Set yourself up to feel great on Thanksgiving by wearing something fun and stylish yet comfortable at the same time.

If you have pantyhose digging into you or a blouse that’s too tight, you’re going to automatically feel like crap.

And usually, when we feel crappy, we eat to soothe our uncomfortable feelings and it tarnishes our mood.

Why put yourself through that?

Pick out an outfit that feels fun to slip into but that’s also completely comfortable. Go for soft materials, pants that are actually your size, and tops that hug you in all the right spots. If you’re not super excited about your outfit of choice, you can always spruce it up with a bold necklace and a red lip.

Have fun with this, and remember that it pays to feel comfortable all day long!

Also, if you’re feeling insecure about your physical appearance on Thanksgiving, remember this: people care WAY more about your vibe than your looks. They are WAY more attracted to a present, authentic, confident vibe than they are to a jean size. So, what will allow you to give off the vibe you want to give off? What inner critic thoughts do you need to let go of? What NEW thoughts about yourself do you need to practice thinking? What outfit will help you get there? YOU get to show up as confident as you want – you don’t need to lose a single pound to earn that feeling.

4. Fullness-wise, aim to feel “good” at the end of the day. That’s it.

There might be tons of food thoughts running through your head right now — how much can I eat? What if I eat one piece of pie and can’t stop? 

Thanksgiving is a big food day, and even normal eaters will overeat on Thanksgiving. It’s normal. It’s human. It doesn’t matter.

Restricting yourself will feel like crap — you’ll feel deprived and likely, you’ll end up binge eating later. So I would advise not to go that route.

However, out of love for yourself, you deserve to feel good at the end of the day. On these holidays, I try to just say to myself “let’s try to feel good”. I don’t have to feel ready to run a marathon, but I also don’t want to feel like I’m going to be sick.

If you simply went into the day with the intention to feel “good” afterward, what would that look like for you?

5. Be Present With Your Loved Ones

Imagine waking up after Thanksgiving and feeling like you really settled into ALL the love and connection around you, rather than being in your head all day about the food. How good would that feel and how proud of yourself would you be?

Often times we turn to food for pleasure, but what if we got SO much pleasure elsewhere?

Think back to a time when you were so happy that you forgot about food. How can we channel some of that toward Thanksgiving?

Although sweet potato casserole and pumpkin pie bring me as much pleasure as the next girl, there is also SO much other goodness that Thanksgiving brings.

Football games, funny cousins, getting to squeeze babies, belly laughs, fascinating conversations, etc.

Play a little game with yourself to see how much fun you can have with the people around you. How much can you love them?

6. Check In with Yourself + Your Needs

Frequently, throughout the day, take 30 seconds to check-in with yourself. You can even set phone reminders every few hours to go off that say “hi, how are you?”. During these mini-checkins, you can ask yourself:

  • how is my body feeling? Is there anything that I need? Water? A stretch? To sit down? To move around a bit?
  • how is my energy? Do I need food? A break?
  • how is my mood? Am I having fun? Do I feel insecure about how I look? Do I feel aggravated at my mother? What do I mentally and emotionally need to feel better?

These mini check-ins send a message of love to yourself. They help you pause, check-in, see what you need, and give that to yourself. This is how we stay grounded and how we keep our own cup full so we can continue to give the overflow to others.

7. Take Time To Reflect On All The Good

My family has a tradition of going around the table and everyone saying something they’re thankful for ( I cry like a baby every time — ridiculous), but this year I’m going to aim to also have some time on my own to personally reflect on everything good going on in my life right now.

Gratitude is SO crucial for a happy life. It’s so easy to get caught up in comparison, lack, and what’s wrong, and the anecdote to that is gratitude and appreciation.

It’s fun to start making a list of everything you’re grateful for and watch it keep growing and growing. All of a sudden you realize how much good you have going on.

Remember, what we focus on grows. 

In the comments below, I’d love to hear:

How do you want to FEEL on Thanksgiving day? What’s one thing you can do to help yourself feel that way?

I hope you have a delicious, joyful and love-filled Thanksgiving.

Love,

Jamie

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Join the Conversation

  1. I’m feeling really good going into Thanksgiving for the first time ever! We’re hosting, which is my favorite thing to do. I’m starting my day with a Turkey Trot with girlfriends and did a ton of prep work so that the day of I can just relax. I delegated the turkey to my husband. I’ll be working the oven as I warm up the sides we prepped and am looking forward to kicking back in my PJ’s after the main event! 🙂

  2. After reading your thanksgiving guide ,I feel much better about the day, my family are coming over and we always have a good time,I am going to enjoy them and think less about the meal…..

  3. I LOVE this guide 🙂 Great job, Jamie! As far as what I’m wearing…AH! I don’t know yet either! I just got a couple of flowy tops that are really pretty, but I also have a flowy dress….too many options 🙂 Happy Thanksgiving!

  4. wearing a dress with wedge boots and a new full coverage push up bra that flatters me nicer than the regular coverage ones 😡 TMI? And Jamie, I plan on removing myself for dessert. I’m not in a good place right now :/ I also plan on fake drinking with lite grape juice. Is this strategic or disordered?

    • Bethany, thanks for sharing. I’m not sure what you mean by not being in a good place right now, but what I’ve found is that “removing” ourselves from dessert or telling ourselves we can’t have something usually just makes us want it more. Our Soul feels like she’s missing out on life! It’s hard to advise you in this post, but I would say just to choose whatever you feel like is the most loving thing you can do for yourself on Thanksgiving. Maybe it’s enjoying 1 decadent dessert and truly savoring it? Maybe it’s slowly drinking a delicious glass of wine? Or if this feels like too much, maybe we can work on it for next year. Follow your heart, darling 🙂

  5. thank you for posting this Jamie! great tips – I love the one about dressing for comfort =) I am thankful for you and your blog!

  6. Love these tips! Thank you for sharing them!! We have pretty casual plans (a giant potluck party by the beach), so I think I’m going to wear riding boots, skinny jeans, an oversized cozy sweater, and a newsboy cap so I don’t have to deal with cooking AND making my hair cute. 😉

  7. This was perfection. I’ve been feeling a bit panicky about thanksgiving and this just calmed so many fears. I especially love choosing a few words to focus on and challenging myself to see how much fun I can have rather than agonizing over ever little morsel of food. As far as outfits, I’ve picked out my favorite comfy jeans, riding boots, and a float cream sweater. To jazz up my outfit of comfort, I’m throwing on a cheetah print scarf, cause everything’s better with cheetah 😉

  8. LOVE this post! I just started the 21 day IE challenge, and this post came right on time to prepare me for the holidays. I especially liked “How do you want to feel”; that really hit home. I want to enjoy wine and food and not feel super stuffed and uncomfortable 🙂

  9. Wonderful guide! I want to feel connected on Thanksgiving and for me that means being vulnerable with my family and letting them know how much I love them and what our connection means. Sometimes my instinct is to be a bit removed and try to project perfection but that doesn’t lead to feelings of connection at all. I want my family to know how and who I truly am and for them to know that I love them deeply.

    • Oh Meg I love this so much!! I hope that you were able to let the perfection shield down and show your vulnerability to create that intimate connection. You are thinking about this SO right. Lots of love! xoxo.

  10. Thank you Jamie! I want to feel relaxed on a thanksgiving. My family tends to only talk about careers, money, etc. and it can leave me feeling anxious. I am going to go to a yoga class Thursday morning to center myself and feel more relaxed before going to dinner. Also love the bathroom break tip!

    • Hi Hillary! I hope your Thanksgiving WAS relaxing – so sorry I am seeing this comment just now! And yes the bathroom break is always a good one for ANY occasion 🙂 I do it all the time. xoxo!

  11. This is your Uncle , I’m looking forward to seeing you and not snapping at your mom,too

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