What is it about Thanksgiving that makes us feel so guilty?
Growing up, I can still hear the chatter of those around me after a Thanksgiving meal:
"Ugh, I feel disgusting."
"I'm so full I can barely move."
"I'm definitely not eating anything tomorrow."
"I can't wait to burn off all of these calories."
We gear up by starving ourselves and refraining from seasonal sweets and treats, running The Turkey Trot and getting in a few extra strides on the elliptical all in preparation for the most indulgent meal of the year.
But Thanksgiving is about so much more than the food.
Although it might seem like it's all about what's on the table, it's really about the people around you.
Food has a beautiful way of bringing people together, and that's what Thanksgiving is all about: togetherness and the opportunity to stop and be thankful for this wild, crazy world we live in.
If you find yourself struggling with an "I can't eat that" mentality, remember you are human and you have the power to eat, drink, converse and enjoy as you please.
Here are a few things to remind yourself before heading back home for a fun-filled turkey day:
1. Enjoy the holiday, and say bye to your diet rules.
We see millions of memes online about the weight we'll gain over the holidays, the average number of calories consumed on Thanksgiving and the overarching opinion that the the food we eat at Thanksgiving is "bad."
But you know what? One day of pumpkin pie, sweet potatoes and stuffing will not kill you. In fact, it's good for you!
The more you restrict yourself of something, the more you want it, am I right?
Allow yourself to be human. It is OK to have a second helping and an extra roll if you feel like it.
2. The pumpkin pie will be there tomorrow.
It's not the Thanksgiving apocalypse, people! You don't have to fill your plate so high that it's overflowing with a tsunami of gravy.
Sure, we don't eat these foods year-round, but that doesn't mean you can't fix yourself a nice little plate of leftovers tomorrow.
Stuffing yourself so full only leads to guilt and a very uncomfortable feeling. Make a delicious plate of food, and enjoy each bite while you chat with family and friends.
If you're hungry for more, make a second plate. If you're full, that's OK. Pumpkin pie will live until tomorrow, and you don't have to binge.
3. A cheat day doesn't mean you're in for punishment tomorrow.
But with that being said, I think it's important to note that just because you allow yourself to enjoy foods that come only once a year, you don't have punish yourself the following day with an extensive exercise routine and restricted diet.
If you end up eating a bit more than you planned, that's OK. Remember, you're human, and Friday should still include breakfast, lunch and dinner.
4. It's not a competition.
It may not apply to everyone, but I know for me, I often compare myself to those around me.
Although it's not food-related, I think many people struggle with comparisons, especially over the holidays.
You see family members and friends, and you worry about explaining your relationship status, career choices and more.
It's inevitable for family and friends to ask what you're up to, but remember you are exactly where you should be at this very moment.
Everything happens for a reason, and just because your parents are so proud of your sibling for their latest accomplishment doesn't make your latest venture inadequate.
Remember you are imperfectly perfect, and you're home to enjoy the holiday season. No judgement allowed.
So instead of preparing yourself to survive Thanksgiving and fighting the urge to dig in, remind yourself this is the beginning of the most wonderful season of the year.
It's a time that brings everyone together, with food at the heart of it.