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We usually associate hangovers with drinking too much alcohol. However, hangovers don’t occur just from toxic levels of alcohol. And hangovers aren’t just physical. They’re also emotional – full of regret and disgust. Thanksgiving can be a challenging day for someone with a food addiction, like over-eating or addiction to sugar or wheat. If you want to enjoy this holiday without suffering the consequences of food addiction, there’s plenty you can do to have fun without over-indulging.

Focus on People More than the Food

Thanksgiving in America originated in 1621 between colonists of Plymouth and native Americans who shared a feast, but it’s also a Canadian holiday to celebrate the harvest and blessings of the previous year.

Until the 1900’s modern appliances and grocery stores didn’t exist, food was harvested and hunted and was shared as a gesture of unity.

The true meaning of Thanksgiving happens when we fulfill our hearts and not just our tummies. One man recently told me there were times when he left Thanksgiving feeling physically full but emotionally empty. He later realized he’d made the event about himself instead of connecting with others. Make a point of having conversations with those you love and new people in your company. Time together and companionship are the keys to forgetting about addiction. The more you extend yourself, the less you’ll look to food for fulfillment. It’s better to leave the table with a glowing feeling of love than a gnawing feeling of indigestion and regret.

If you’re lonely, there’s plenty of volunteer work available. Be mindful of someone who may not have a family or is new to the area and make plans to share the holiday together and even include others who would otherwise be alone. Volunteers are always needed at food kitchens and places like the Salvation Army. It’s a beautiful way to be of service to those in need.

Focus on Staying Healthy

Today, we not only have places to purchase food in person or online, but we also have massive amounts of products that aren’t always healthy. It’s not that difficult to prepare homemade food that’s higher in nutrition and less in sugar, wheat, and trans fats. A veggie tray with homemade yogurt dip or hummus is better for you than junk food and curbs your appetite. Sticking to meats and vegetables with smaller amounts of carbs can help to avoid stuffing yourself during the main meal. If you fill up on healthier choices, you will be less inclined to overeat desserts.

Take a dish you’ve already prepared if you’re a guest at a Thanksgiving dinner. One friend told me that she stopped asking people to bring food because they’d drop it off in her kitchen, and she’d have something else to cook. If you have a sugar addiction or wheat addiction, make a dessert with sugar substitutes and gluten-free flour. Even stuffing can be made with gluten-free bread. There are plenty of delicious recipes online. A fancy salad is nice, and you can always add turkey and other items from the main course, so you don’t feel deprived. This is the same concept as a recovering alcoholic bringing non-alcoholic beverages to an event.

Eat slow, savoring every bite, allowing about 20 minutes to finish your meal. It takes this long for your brain to register that you’re full. Instead of eating everything on your plate, put the rest in a container for the next day. If someone encourages you to eat food that will cause you to binge, tell them you’re allergic or you’re under strict doctor’s orders. Rather than falling asleep after you dine, take a short walk, or help with clean up. Keep moving.

Focus on Abundance, not Lack

You can start your day with a gratitude list. Start by looking around the room and write down a few things you appreciate; your pillow, desk, nature, friends, events, or even fond memories. You can say, “thank you for a safe place to live, the roof over my head, lights, the trees outside my window, for my health, my child, my plans today” – anything that makes you feel good. Make a few calls and thank people for their friendship.

Thanksgiving is about sharing and receiving. If you’re a guest, take something to the event. It doesn’t have to be expensive. You could even pick some flowers from your garden, make a decoration, cocktail napkins, a candle, or ask what the host or hostess might need.

Whether you’re a guest or a host, you can serve. Helping a little (without taking over) can go a long way. Be sure to let people know how much you love and appreciate them.

A few simple acts can protect you from feeling physically sick from overeating the wrong food (or, in some cases, foods that make you binge or want to purge). With good choices, you’ll avoid the emotional hangover from being remorseful about bad choices. It’s far better to wake up the following day full of energy and self-love than someone who feels sluggish and full of self-loathing.

Thanksgiving is a time to be grateful for what we have instead of what’s missing. It’s not a time to try to fill an invisible hole with something that won’t last. Instead, replace the void with memories that will keep supplying you with gratitude forever.


Dr. Donna Marks has been an author, consultant, public speaker, and psychotherapist for over thirty years. She was licensed as a Mental Health Counselor in 1987 and then certified in Addiction, Gestalt Therapy, Hypnosis, Sex Therapy, and Psychoanalysis. She currently has a concierge psychotherapy practice in Palm Beach, Florida.
She has appeared on numerous podcasts and local television. She is the author of two books, Learn Grow Forgive – A Path to Spiritual Success, and Exit the Maze: One Addiction, One Cause, One Solution (revised), and winner of multiple book awards. Her next book, The Healing Moment: Seven Keys to Turn Messes into Miracles, will be released in 2023.

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