Nutrition Sciences Major Discusses Thanksgiving, Food, and Fear
Beatrice Glaviano ’26 discusses the great ways Thanksgiving can offer the chance to connect with loved ones over a meal. She also knows that a holiday with a focus on food can foster fear and anxiety, and she offers advice and support to her fellow Chargers.
November 21, 2023
Hello everyone. For this article, I highly suggest everyone to grab their favorite hot drink and snuggliest of blankets or sweater as you open your heart. I was asked by a friend to discuss the topic of “Thanksgiving Food Worries,” and as someone who has struggled with this for years, how could I say no? Given this, this article will contain themes of eating disorders, disordered eating, and negative thoughts around holiday foods. So, if that’s not your vibe, feel free to tune in another time.
When I was a kid, Thanksgiving started with the Macy’s Day Parade in Times Square. It would be my sisters, my mom, and me snuggled together on the couch at around 9 a.m. watching the livestream of the parade as my dad bustled around the kitchen making coffee for us to share. I remember me and my siblings asking each other which float or massive balloon character was our favorite (I was always a lover of Charlie Brown or Snoopy).
We’d always discuss what was on the menu for the day and who was bringing what. In particular, we always asked if my mom would make sweet potato casserole: a thick mash of sweet potatoes with a shell of crispy, oven-baked marshmallows that soothed your soul in more ways than you would think possible. To this day, this dish is perhaps the only thing that I look forward to on Turkey Day, though, pecan pie, stuffing, and my aunt’s very generic box-mix brownies are the runner ups.
So, why do we end up fearing or stressing over these foods?
Well, there’s this thing called “diet culture,” and it’s not the best. Over the course of my life, I distinctly remember as a kid watching adults turn down foods due to them being high in sugar, too many carbohydrates, or some other reason that gave food a negative connotation. While it’s good to watch out for one’s health (as every person is different, and may have different needs), it’s also important to watch out for the soul.
If we had a diet-culture Thanksgiving every year, imagine how many foods would be altered into a “healthy” version. Pie with fake sugar, keto bread, mac n’ cheese made with cottage cheese instead of cheddar – how horrible would that be? (Especially the latter – baked cottage cheese sounds absolutely horrendous). We don’t only consume food to keep us alive; it’s something that we connect to people with as it’s a huge part of our social, cultural, and intrapersonal traditions. Thanksgiving is a time to share a meal with those who you love, catch up with family and friends, and laugh over the adventures you’ve gone on over the past couple of months – not sweat the amount of calories or sugars you’re taking in.
At the end of the day, the amount of food you eat in one day does not determine your health or happiness, but your mindset. If we lived every single day in fear of what we were eating, I believe we’d all lose our minds collectively – or, at least, I started to. Not to mention, you feel horrible all the time. You’d constantly think about what you’ve eaten, what you will eat, so on and so forth. That’s not how I want to live my life. I’m not going to be remembered for the size of my waist or if I had no cellulite.
I’m going to be remembered for the art that I did, how many people I met and how many of them I hugged, and the way I looked when I laughed, the stupid tea-kettle wheeze erupting from me followed by a cackle of pure delight. People will talk about what I did with my life, not what I ate during it because, honestly, that’s just weird.
Thanksgiving is one day a year to share with people you actually care about. Or, at least, I hope that if you care for them, they care about you even more. (I don’t know what everyone’s situation is, but I hope this Thanksgiving is the best it can be because it’s what you deserve.) What Thanksgiving is not is a day of being afraid. It’s a day of gratitude for everything you have, and the food that’s shared across the table is supposed to represent how we are all able to appreciate what we have and the people who are willing to share their lives with us.
One of the biggest compliments I ever received in my life was that I was welcoming and non-judgmental. If somebody would want me to judge them, they’d either have to do something absolutely horrid or ask me outright. This is my favorite compliment because it showed me that I was the somebody I wanted around when I was a kid. I am the person I needed when nobody else was around when I was little. By being that person for others, I give that past version of myself that fulfillment.
Alright, enough of the sap. How do we deal with fear foods during the holidays?
Firstly, let’s start with the food itself. Is it the texture? The way it looks? Is there a memory tied to it that you don’t like? Did someone comment? Once you’ve figured out why you fear the food, we can work on how to accept and forgive that fear. Remember that our fear and anger are defensive mechanisms that are meant to protect us. While anger lashes out offensively, fear defends us from something we’ve identified as either a physical, mental, and/or emotional threat.
Secondly, how do we overcome this fear? This will vary for everyone, but the best advice I have to give is as follows:
- Baby steps.
- You don’t need to eat all of the fear food. Trying it is the first goal as it proves that you did not, in fact, spontaneously combust on the spot. Nobody is going to say anything. If you still don’t like the texture, well now you know for sure. Did that memory resurface? Will you allow yourself to make a new one?
- Similar to how you do reps at the gym and increase the weight over time, the same is done here. You cannot grow without pushing your limits a little bit. How much you push is determined solely by yourself. As long as you are aware that you’re pushing yourself, you can do anything.
- Celebration of Achievement
- Dude, you conquered the fear. Even if it didn’t feel “super big,” you still did something to conquer it. Rome wasn’t built in one day, and it won’t fall in one either. By giving yourself positive affirmations, you allow positive things to come into and about your life. You can make new memories, and move on from the old ones.
At the end of the day, it all comes down to mindset. If you think what you eat determines your happiness, then it will because that’s what you believe. But if you change that thinking to perhaps something like, “I am allowed to enjoy the foods that I love without guilt, and still listen to my body,” there is a good chance a healthier relationship with food can be restored.
Either way, I hope this article has been helpful as we enter the Thanksgiving season. With finals coming up, I can definitely understand the jitteriness and stress that might be starting to unravel at this time. But take a deep breath, and let it go: You got this. And if it feels as though nobody else believes in you, know that a certain blogger does.
Thank you all so much for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one.
Peace, love, and peanut butter,
Beatrice Glaviano ’26 is a nutrition sciences major at the University of New Haven.