Monday, November 24, 2008

On Thanksgiving

Recently, I overheard the following exchange:

"What are you doing for Thanksgiving?"

"We're going to the so-and-so's. They're having 20 dishes. It's disgusting. I'm going to bring a salad for myself."

I read somewhere that Americans consume an average of 4,500 calories at their annual Thanksgiving meals. As we all know, what began as a feast of gratitude has morphed into a national binge. Many people report feeling uncomfortably full after their meal. Sure, we all eat past fullness on occasion, but the culturally sanctioned degree here is cause for concern, as nausea trumps satiety with the rationale that we're all in this together.

In response, especially for people who struggle with disordered eating and body image, there's Thanksgiving day anxiety. . . or disgust. 20 dishes? That sounds like a smorgasbord of wonderful opportunity--a chance to sample a little bit of this, a little bit of that. But, because we don't trust ourselves to do this, because we see such occasions (similar to cruises) as respite from the shackles of dieting, we go overboard.

So, where does moderation lie? Somewhere between 4,500 calories and carting along a salad as armor against the spread. . .


PTC said...

I was just discussing Thanksgiving in my session this morning. I'm not looking forward to it at all. All that food...eyes watching the "eating disordered daughter" to see what she is or isn't eating and how much she is or isn't eating...and again, just TONS of food. I hate it. I love spending time with my family but I'm not looking forward to the holiday feast where I'll feel as though I've eaten too much and gained a million pounds. It causes my stress and anxiety and I do plan on working out for a while that morning, though I know that's a bit disordered.

(REALLY FUNNY, the verification code at the bottom of this is "PICATE" I "Pic" at what I "ate)

Unknown said...

It strikes me there are two problems here - one that we have a society so living in restrictive mode that it scares us to get 'permission' to eat, and two that we are more afraid of one large meal than we are the dangers of restricting all year!

We've lost sight of the idea of the holiday being about eating things we like - instead we see it as about HOW MUCH of those things we eat. Sad!!

Good topic - thank you!

Anonymous said...

So, where does moderation lie? Somewhere between 4,500 calories and carting along a salad as armor against the spread. . .

Totally. And people need to remember it's ONE DAY. Most of the food is even "healthy," if you care about that kind of thing. The Thanksgiving meal itself can be quite balanced and wholesome. Again, I don't particularly care about that myself (ONE DAY) but the freakouts are all out of proportion to the actual impact of eating some turkey, cranberries, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and probably a green vegetable.

I am really skeptical of that 4,500 calorie statistic. I'm a big eater and it's possible that I could eat that much over a whole day (when I do I feel rather stuffed and sick as you describe), but it would be basically impossible for me to consume that much for one meal. It sounds like one of those numbers that assumes everyone has 3 pieces of pie and counts the meal itself plus the leftovers the next day, or something, in an effort to shock us with how fat and greedy we all are.

Anonymous said...

I agree with spacedcowgirl about the inflated calorie content of this ONE meal. The thing is, in my family, we don't really eat anything else besides the Thanksgiving meal. So maybe 4,500 calories in the day (though I doubt anyone but my older brother, whose legs just might be hollow, eats that much), but not in one meal (which implies there would be probably two more meals that same day).

Anonymous said...

My partner and I celebrated the holiday early since I will be visiting my family on the real turkey day and eating at an (ick) restaurant. I don't eat turkey but we dined on homemade mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberries, green bean casserole, yeast rolls, and pumpkin pie with whipped cream. All made from scratch using real butter milk and cream. I just went on one of those free calorie counting sites and put in a generous helping off each (including the 4 rolls with butter i scarfed down and the extra large slice of pie) and my total calorie count was right around 2100. While I didn't feel sick after eating I was definitely full and remained full for hours. No way in hell I could have put away 4500 calories especially considering that one of the lowest calorie foods one eats at thanksgiving is turkey and I skipped right by that. And besides. I think if anyone actually does manage to stuff themselves with that many calories it is because, as you mentioned, this is the most culturally sanctioned binge day in our country. Sure you could have a reasonable portion today and munch on leftovers tomorrow but that won't happen because tomorrow you have to be back on your diet.

April D said...

Holidays centered around eating (Thanksgiving of course but also Christmas, Easter, Fourth of July, etc) always seem to be these events that are so blown out of eating-proportion.

I love holidays. I love eating. I love COOKING huge meals to share! I get so saddened to hear all the talk in the office this week already about "Oh, I'm gonna need to exercise all morning and then the next day to "make up" for Thanksgiving!" Yes. That's exactly the attitude; the spirit of the season. Let's all give thanks that we have a plethora of available foodstuffs by avoiding it and lashing out at our desire to actually consume it.

Anonymous said...

I find the post and some of the comments sad. I am with Laura Collins. I just don't see what the big fuss is about- I enjoy the food we have on Thanksgiving, and the opportunity to be with as many of my family members as possible. Most of the foods are things I don't eat on a daily basis, such as home-baked pies. Some of them are "normal" foods for me. In any case, I don't eat to the point of feeling ill,and I NEVER have a salad (that would just fill me up so I wouldn't have room for pie). We eat early, so we often snack or have a second dessert in the evening. Interestingly, one of the reasons Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday is that it is all about celebrating our good fortune- by eating, drinking and "being merry". There is no religion, no gift buying, no issues of whether we are "really observing" the holiday.

And yeah, 4500 calories sounds like B.S. to me.

I Hate to Weight said...

wow, most people sound so centered. i hate the binge holidays. if i can, i prefer to skip them and spend the day doing things that feel safe to me (a life of eating disorders here) and make me happy. i'll go see two movies, read a book, take multiple bubble baths and eat nice and normally. my boyfriend likes to be with family, and i like his family, so it's okay, but i have to stay SO present and take care of myself internally the whole time. a lot of work, but it's okay now. NOT a few years ago

April said...

Dr. Stacey --

More on this later, but check out my blog today:

I think it's one you'll agree with!


Anonymous said...

MelissaS, I'm so sorry to hear you call Thanksgiving a "binge" holiday. Maybe it's that labeling that causes part of the problem. I see it as a fun, no-pressure, warm and fuzzy holiday that happens to involve food. Of course, I'm Jewish so just about every holiday revolves around food but Thanksgiving has the added benefit of no religious connotations (at least not for me).

azusmom said...

Dr. Stacey:

April said...

I do think the fact that this holiday has become about food is regrettable. I like the way my yoga studio is celebrating: by encouraging us to meditate on gratitude, posting quotes and leading guided meditations on what we're thankful for.

Vegan or turkey eater, mindful eater or those who wish to indulge in whatever they come across -- we can all join together in a national day of thanks. And maybe be thankful that we have so much freedom to choose what we eat.


I Hate to Weight said...

i only consider thanksgiving a binge holiday for me. there is always a frightening (for me) amount of food. and the emphasis on food is very difficult too. i'm a recovering anorexic and bulimic and compulsive eater, so every part of my eating disorder gets terrified in november.

Katie said...

I think your blog is incredible. It is inspiring and it really makes me look at my ED (I'm recovering) from a new perspective. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!

charengiwooman said...

Various dieting、beauty, healthy is written in this blog.

Japanese langueage バックシャン backshan

It sees instinctively turning around when it dresses, it behaves, and the woman with beautiful appearance to walk is seen.
After there is a word beautiful backing in Japan, the woman with beautiful appearance is said.
Will you think it is too good somehow though it is not used now?

Gayle said...

Thanksgiving = eat, puke, eat, puke, eat, puke . . .

ledemure said...

Should have done more reading before I sent you an email.

Thank you for your blog.

I totally buy into the idea that 4500 calories on average are consumed. Take into account things like bread bowls (it is a must in my family, sourdough bowl filled a mixture of cream cheese, sour cream, onions, and dried ham), deviled eggs, olives, a drink or two, rolls, dinner (itself might not be that caloric but i know there is a lot of butter used in about everything) pie (crust is ladden with butter).....4500 doesn't seem that bad for one day considering some people eat this much everyday. For an active adult this is twice the number of calories i need in the average day.

But it is not one day that kills the health of a person it is the whole season if you let it. It could be like this until after the New Year for many people. Office parties, holiday cookies, egg nog.....and the collective season therefore it is the straw that broke the camels back.

For some people I can see how the holiday season is the start of a battle that goes on year after year. Time for a change in tradition?

I used to avoid the holidays because of the food. Now I am starting to be able to appreciate preparing food with my sister, having a little of the things I like.

I appreciate that my family doesn't press food issues. The kids aren't forced to eat, in fact they get to make their own plate and I watched as they took only as much as they ate, 10 year old boys just eating turkey and a roll. They aren't picky eaters but they were saving room for a piece of pie. By not pressing them to eat more foods or being critical of their choice I think it keeps some of the danger of over eating away. I just watched because it seems healthy.

Sure you can say they need a veggie or fiber, but I figure, just as one day of overeating doesn't have to be all bad, not getting a well balanced meal one day doesn't have to be all bad either.

These conversations are great, especially for those of us banking knowledge for the future family we might have one day.

Skinny Lady said...

I just discovered your blog and think you might be interested in an eating disorder blog I write together with a friend. (Here's a Thanksgiving post: The blog is therapeutic - it helps us to cope and laugh at something that dominates all aspects of our lives. We hope our humor & sarcasm is obvious, since we are not at all pro-ana.