Thanksgiving With No Regrets

A healthy Thanksgiving mealLet’s face it – Thanksgiving Day is a license for Americans to unashamedly overeat, gorging and grazing and stuffing themselves beyond full. This is the one day of the year where this behavior is socially acceptable. Then it’s back on track the next day, right? Not a problem. That is to say, not a problem for normal eaters!

The thing about normal eaters is, after overindulging, it’s second nature to snap back into “moderate mode.” Their bodies don’t scream for more (especially the foods that contain sugar), and their minds don’t obsess about it. Most days, food equals fuel for a normal eater. And even when tempted to reach for something that looks good a moderate, responsible eater usually has the ability to stop eating when they have had enough.

Unfortunately, I wouldn’t know anything about this! I only know about it from observation and conversations with people who regularly engage in normal eating behavior. I am far from “normal” when it comes to eating, as you have probably figured out by now. 😉 What I do know is that my addiction to sugar is a very real mental and physical disease. Available evidence and scientific research shows that sugar and sweetness can induce reward centers in the brain and trigger cravings that are comparable in magnitude to those induced by addictive drugs. In fact, recent studies have shown that sugars in processed foods are proving to be eight times more addictive than cocaine.

The abnormality in my own eating was not just reserved for Thanksgiving, it was a year-round state of mind. There would always be a brief interruption on January 1st for the Obligatory New Year’s Diet. This would last (at the very latest) into mid February when my willpower and restrictive behavior could last no longer. I always went back to the food, year after year.

When I finally realized that my life had become unmanageable and miserable and I couldn’t control myself around food (and that this was way bigger than just a lack of willpower), I made a decision to make the behavioral changes I needed to in order to stop the cycle. The first and most impactful change was to stop eating sugar in the form of desserts, candy and processed foods. Since sugar is like a powerful drug to me, I couldn’t just pick and choose the days I would have it and the days I wouldn’t. In order to recover I had to be “all in”, just like all addicts.

By the first Thanksgiving of my recovery, I had accepted the terms of my new life. I ate no pie, no bread (certain breads behave like sugar in the body), no sweet potato casserole with marshmallow, nor any kind of sugar-infused goody or dish at the Thanksgiving table. Instead I ate a wonderful meal of the foods that nourished me and didn’t give me the desire to eat MORE. I was not obsessing about the sweets or about what I was going to eat, I wasn’t worrying if there would be enough and how much I could have without looking too gluttonous. (In essence, plotting and planning my drug use!) These thoughts were finally far from my mind and I was able to focus on what was going on around me; God’s wonderful provision and a loving family.

Now, going into my sixth Thanksgiving “drug-free”, I can honestly say I don’t miss it. I DO have a choice; to go back to the life I lived before recovery (miserable, obese), or sacrifice a few bites of temporary pleasure that always end up tasting like regret. To me, the choice is clear. Abstinence is a God-given gift to me, it’s what makes me free. And I don’t feel cheated at all, especially considering what I am getting in return!

As I sit here reflecting on all these years of “just saying no” I am so very thankful that God has continually answered my daily prayer of “please make me willing to abstain today.” He has been my hope and strength through this and my ever-present Guide, reminding me that I don’t have to be perfect, I just need to keep taking small steps forward, one day at a time. The things I am learning in this process of recovery give me so much more peace, because I don’t have to fight the daily regret and shame of my bad decisions. And for that, I am SO thankful!

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