How to Nourish Yourself During a Family Thanksgiving

14 Tips for Thriving During the Holidays

by Christiane Northrup, M.D.

Thanksgiving is one holiday that is all about the food. There is often a lot of anticipation about the day and lots of planning around the meal. These traditions can be wonderful and joyful. And it can be nice to celebrate in the tradition of our parents and grandparents and their ancestors.

But as with any holiday, Thanksgiving can bring up many unresolved issues around food and family. That’s often because we live very different lives than our relatives live. So, it’s important to update our holidays with some new traditions to go along with the old rituals.

Here are 4 practices to help make Thanksgiving and any holiday joyous:

  1. Create a time to express gratitude. Enumerating what you feel grateful for can give you a greater sense of well-being. Saying out loud that you are grateful for your family, your health, or your personal circumstances can actually make those things even better. Sharing your gratitude with others also has an uplifting effect.
  2. Cultivate a spirit of sharing. While preparing a huge feast can energize some people, it can leave others feeling overwhelmed. Offering to help someone with the cooking or allowing others to help you creates a sense of togetherness and can help ease any tension that may exist among family members.
  3. Allow your family rituals to evolve. Studies show that the most successful rituals are those that change with the times. Bringing new members into the fold (husbands, wives, in-laws, children, or friends) is an opportunity to learn new traditions and expand your outlook. And remember that Thanksgiving can have a different meaning for some. For example, some Native Americans mark Thanksgiving as a day of mourning.
  4. Practice forgiveness. True forgiveness is a complex process that requires long-term work. But letting go of petty issues you may have with a sibling, spouse, or parent for one day or one meal while you celebrate can go a long way toward helping you cultivate gratitude and perspective. When you do this, you will enjoy your holiday even more.

How to Avoid the Food Wars During the Holiday Season

During the holiday season, with all the family meals and treat-heavy traditions, it can be hard to steer clear of unhealthy food. But there are ways you can enjoy holiday meals while staying true to your own food values.

Here are 5 healthy tricks I recommend to get you through the holidays with both your body and spirit intact:

  1. Plan ahead. Breaking bread with family does not mean you need to eat food that you are not comfortable eating just to please them. Decide beforehand what you’re going to eat in a way that pleases you. If you know that the food being served is not the type of food you like, bring a dish or two of your own so that you can enjoy the meal as well. If you are the host, allow others to bring a dish of their choice so that they feel part of the tradition and have food that they enjoy.
  2. Know what to say.  In theory, saying “no, thank you” should work when you are passed a dish that you prefer not to eat.  But we all have relatives and friends that insist you eat everything being served.  If you know you will encounter this situation and you are not willing to eat certain foods, it is good to be prepared with your response. You could say, “I’m gluten intolerant,” if you are passing on the stuffing. Or, “I have given up sugar,” if you do not want to eat pie.   You don’t need to go into long explanations.
  3. Relax your food rules. Sometimes it’s good to relax your food rules a bit.  For example, you could pick one meal, such as Thanksgiving, where you allow yourself to experience food without your usual restrictions. This can help make the occasion more joyful for you and everyone else. You can simply return to your preferred way of eating during your next meal.
  4. Eat for pleasure. The most important part of any meal is the enjoyment factor.  So be sure to taste your food.  It may sound obvious, but savoring the flavors and textures of your food makes it a pleasurable experience, which allows the entire event to be healthful. In addition, when you savor your food, you are less likely to overindulge and may even stave off unwanted digestive issues.
  5. Try some new recipes.  Thanksgiving is a great opportunity to try something new.  While there may be some naysayers at the table, you and others may enjoy trying creative, healthy, easy-to-prepare alternatives to traditional dishes. This can help take some of the pressure off the meal, create a more lighthearted atmosphere, and can even help you forge new family dynamics.

Here are my 5 Tips for Coping with Energy Vampires During the Holidays

At some point most of you will have to spend a holiday with someone who is your own personal energy vampire. Here’s are my 5 tips for getting through it:

  1. Laugh it off. The holidays are not the best time to resolve family conflicts. But having a sense of humor can go a long way. Recently, my friend Susie told me that her mother fell and was experiencing some sore muscles. Susie had a significant and painful sports-related injury that she was healing from, but she went to visit her mother and cooked dinner for the family. When Susie’s father asked how Susie was feeling, Susie’s mother snapped, “Hey guys, this is about me!” Susie responded in a jovial tone, “Yeah, Dad. How dare you ask about me!” Everyone laughed, and the family was able to enjoy their meal. If it’s too difficult to laugh, try getting outside frequently for some fresh air.
  2. Load up on self-love. Remember that you can’t heal a vampire. Focus on loading up on lots of self-love before and after you are in their presence.  Check out Matt Kahn’s videos on YouTube such as “Raising Your Vibration.
  3. Say “no.”  Vampires are good at making you believe that something is wrong with you. Saying “no” when your vampire tries to force you to engage in a conversation or activity that causes you stress lets them know that your feelings and emotions matter and that you are willing to stand up for yourself. You do not need to be confrontational. Simply say “no” or “no, thank you” and change the subject or leave the room for a bit. Hold your truth in your heart, whether or not your personal vampire validates it.
  4. Distance yourself.  After the holiday, take a break from your personal vampire, even if that person is a sibling or parent. If the holiday was particularly hard for you, you can write a letter telling your vampire what you feel. You don’t have to send it.
  5. Plan your “ideal” holiday.  You can always change the dynamic of your next family holiday with a little planning. Write out the list of people you will include, what food you (and others) will prepare, and how you envision the entire holiday looking and feeling.  You can also plan what you will say to those you do not include. The important thing here is to create what works for you and leave behind what doesn’t.
Last Updated: November 19, 2019

Christiane Northrup, M.D.

Christiane Northrup, M.D., is a visionary pioneer and a leading authority in the field of women’s health and wellness. Recognizing the unity of body, mind, and spirit, she empowers women to trust their inner wisdom, their connection with Source, and their ability to truly flourish.


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  1. Megan
    3 years ago

    Thank you so much for this info. I love the holidays, however, it is particularly sad for me because of family situations on both sides and lots of family arguments that have led to a “not so happy” thanksgiving or x-mas dinner. I am thankful for what I have been through and what I have in my life. Healthy, Happy Stability and a great support system in my husband. It is just us now on the holiday which if I let myself really think can bring me down, but I would rather have that then the toxic drama associated with family members coming over and ruining the happy home that we have created together! Happy Holidays Everyone!

  2. Mark karum
    6 years ago

    Love the holiday recipes by Jessica Ruth Shepard❤️

  3. Connie Freeman
    6 years ago

    Thank you so much for this blog and your referral to Matt Kahn’s “Raising Your Vibration” on youtube. It’s funny how the universe works, as I had just prayed to understand a better way to deal with difficult people. Your article and Matt’s video were just what I needed. As a good friend used to say, “Today, you were God with skin on.”

  4. Susan Blanda
    6 years ago

    Just love this. Anticipating your new book. Thanks for your beautiful support. ❤️

  5. Josephine
    6 years ago

    Thanks Dr. Northrup. This was very helpful. I especially liked the paragraph about the personal vampire – oh boy did I live that with my X-husband. And then have some family who do it too.
    I came to learn it how they do so, but sometimes, it can take you off guard.
    I listen to Abraham Hicks and raise my vibration.

  6. Sailor
    6 years ago

    Thank you for sharing these spiritual healthy and self love tips for navigating the upcoming holidays, which can be very stressful. I’m looking forward to our hosting the first blended family Thanksgiving & next year is (sans family) but Friends/Orphans Thanksgiving! Happy Thanksgiving All

  7. Joni
    6 years ago

    I am thankful for your gifts of wisdom, love, practicality and Fun!

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