Happy day after Thanksgiving!
What did you do for Thanksgiving? I had the most relaxing and enjoyable Thanksgiving in the history of Thanksgivings. I stayed in DC and my friend Paula came over. Paula is a vegetarian who dabbles in fish from time to time, so we treated ourselves to something we wouldn’t normally splurge on. I picked up crab cakes at Whole Foods, and we each made a side dish. If that wasn’t simple enough, one of Paula’s coworkers gave her an apple pie for no reason. How great is that?
The two of us made Thanksgiving “dinner” (dinner being served at 2PM) in my kitchen. My kitchen is, shall we say, slightly behind the times. Have you ever made Thanksgiving dinner in a kitchen with one outlet? I have.
Paula is a super-mega-feminist (I’m just a super feminist, by comparison) so I wore an apron like a 1950’s housewife to antagonize her. When our crab cake Thanksgiving was ready, my friend Herald texted us saying he was around the block picking out a ham. I force-fed him an entire Thanksgiving dinner exactly half-an-hour before he was due at his sister’s place. Poor guy is going to be miserable today.
On that note, let’s talk about that. Let’s talk about the misery and guilt seventy-five percent of you are feeling today and do not want to admit.
I’m going to cut through the bullshit and state the facts: It’s not cool to be healthy on Thanksgiving. In our culture, we like to brag about how much food we’re going to eat and the debauchery that will take place on family holidays. Bringing the salad, skipping the rolls and mashed potatoes, serving green beans without cream of mushroom soup, and picking the marshmallows off the sweet potato casserole will not earn you the popular vote at the dinner table. Each of your family members is downing three thousand plus calories in a two-hour timeframe, and eying your plate of lettuce and white-meat-only turkey is not going to make them feel thankful for you or your healthy habits.
Therefore, we all cave and we pretend that sleeping in the fetal position because we’re too full doesn’t bother us. But it does.
I’m not trying to suck the fun out of Thanksgiving. I’m trying to address something you’re all thinking because I think about it too.
Health and nutrition always played a big role in my life. When I was in college, I ran in a track program where we were weighed, measured, and had our body fat tested on a regular basis. By track standards, I was huge. I could lift more than the vast majority of my female teammates, but it didn’t matter. Compared to the other runners on the line, I looked obese.
For that reason, there have been times when food stressed me the fuck out. If I was in my own kitchen making my own meals, I was fine. But big family holidays or multi-course meals at restaurants were my worst nightmare.
A few years ago, I was leaving DC to go visit my grandparents for a weekend in Pittsburgh. I was all sorts of anxious thinking about the restaurant food I would devour throughout the weekend. I confessed this to someone I knew, and their response was something I’ll never forget:
It’s not about the food; it’s about the people.
My obligation that weekend was to my grandparents. It was my job to enjoy the few days I had with them. I had no moral or social obligation to eat anything in front of me. The point of each meal was not the dishes placed on the table—it was the people who sat around it.
This simple thought gave me peace of mind in the years to come. I still eat inappropriately-large quantities of food over family holidays, and I usually wake up with regret and a bloated stomach the next day. But whenever I feel this compulsion to eat each and every dish in front of me, I just look up and remember my only duty is to enjoy the company surrounding me.
If you ate too much yesterday, don’t let it bother you. It’s not your job to be stressed-out this weekend. Your one and only responsibility is to enjoy your time with family and friends.
Happy Thanksgiving, Kara