Thanksgiving Then & Now

By Debbie Koenig

The other day I was comparing Thanksgiving plans with some friends, and one of them mentioned how differently she approaches the day now than she used to. That sent me back to the years when I weighed more than 250 pounds, when the only thought I gave to food was where I could get more of it. I’m coming up on my 20th anniversary as a Lifetime Member so the way I eat now is just, y’know, the way I eat, but I still remember how things used to be:

Thanksgiving Day Breakfast Then: A bowl of cereal with milk. Probably a sugary cereal, too — I had a weakness for Golden Grahams. This left me ravenous by 10 a.m., so I’d head into the kitchen and grab whatever I found to nibble on. I’d keep wandering back to the kitchen, right up until lunch.

Breakfast Now: I plan ahead for a smart, filling breakfast. This year, it’ll be steel-cut oats with chopped apples, made in the Instant Pot. (Put it in the pot, set it for 6 minutes at high pressure, and walk away!) I’ve been eating this daily since the weather turned chilly, and for just 5 SmartPoints® value I know I won’t be hungry again until lunch.

Thanksgiving Day Lunch Then: Zero planning went into this meal. I’d open and close the fridge and the cabinets several times, hunting for something that appealed to me. Sometimes I’d wind up with microwave mac and cheese, sometimes PB&J, but I guarantee there were no vegetables involved.

Lunch Now: For the last 20 years, lunch on Thanksgiving has consisted of mostly vegetables. A large salad, steamed vegetables with brown rice, a giant bowl of roasted cauliflower…. This year I’m planning to make a big salad with artichoke hearts and chickpeas.

Thanksgiving Snacks Then: Lord only knows what I shoved in my maw back in the day. Basically, if it was available and it looked yummy, I ate it. Most of the time I arrived at the dinner table already comfortably full.

Snacks Now: That big salad will keep me satisfied for most of the afternoon, while I work on the turkey and stuffing. I love raw string beans, so I’ll buy more than I need to serve with dinner and munch on those while I cook. Just before dinner I’ll have a piece of fruit, to make sure I’m not coming to the table starving — I make smarter choices when my stomach isn’t rumbling.

Thanksgiving Dinner Then: Whether I was hungry or not, I had at least two servings of stuffing and gravy every single year. I’d tell myself it was only available once a year, so I should eat as much of it as possible. Sweet potato pie with marshmallows took up another third of the plate. Turkey and vegetables fought for what space remained. They would be the last things to hit my plate, an afterthought at best. I didn’t stop eating until my plate was clean, and when dessert rolled around I’d have full slices of at least two pies. By the end of the meal I’d be in pain, and regretting most of my choices that day.

Thanksgiving Dinner Now: I’m cooking this year so I’m in complete control. I planned the menu with extra vegetable sides and a killer dry-brined turkey recipe (if you save your Weight Watchers Magazines, it was the cover story for November/December 2015). That lets me have a full serving of stuffing, and a little bit each of the apple crisp and pecan pie I’m baking — stuffing and dessert are my must-haves at Thanksgiving, so I make sure I can fit them into my budget. I’ll leave the table satisfied, but not in pain. And with no regrets.

Follow Debbie on Connect @debbieskoenig

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