As millions upon millions of Americans look ahead to Thanksgiving with trepidation about overeating, Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D., a brain and cognitive scientist specializing in the psychology of eating, offers this timeless wisdom:
Thanksgiving, with its underlying message of gratitude, can help, not hinder, willpower around food.
In fact, says Susan — who is President of the Institute for Sustainable Weight Loss author of the forthcoming book, Bright Line Eating: The Science of Living Happy, Thin and Free (Hay House, March 2017) — when incorporated into the scaffolding of your life, giving thanks before EVERY meal has immeasurable health and weight control benefits, for the following reasons:
It reinforces the routine of eating meals on a regular schedule
Eating regular meals at consistent times is crucial in that it lengthens the body’s fasting window, which increases fat loss and strengthens the process by which cells recycle and repair. It also improves insulin sensitivity and lowers cholesterol.
It takes the burden off willpower
Willpower depletion is a very real phenomenon. In fact, research shows we may have as little as 15 minutes of willpower at our disposal before it runs dry. However, research also shows that something as simple as making a gratitude list can replenish its stores. Hence, practicing an “attitude of gratitude” is one of the best ways to harness the brain’s ability to resist unwanted and unneeded extra food.
Turning thoughts toward gratitude eases temptations themselves
No matter where you are in the world, no matter what party or occasion, no matter what restaurant, you can always turn your mind toward gratitude. Doing so shifts the focus from what you want, or crave, to what you have. It also supports mindfulness, helping sharpen awareness of your actions and lead to better choices.
Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D. is a psychology professor, a brain and cognitive scientist, and an expert in the psychology of eating. She is President of the Institute for Sustainable Weight Loss and CEO of Bright Line Eating Solutions, a company dedicated to sharing the psychology and neurology of sustainable weight loss and helping people achieve it.