This Thanksgiving, Eat Whatever You Goddamn Want

Each year, as the holidays approach, Black Friday inches closer to the Wednesday before the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, and we are inundated with advice on how to diet the day of. This is apparently the one and only idea that literally all the health publications have in November. Gone are the tips for getting Lea Michele’s abs without ever going to the gym or Shakira’s abs by definitely going to the gym five to seven days a week. The beach bodies we needed so desperately to obtain are now covered in sweaters, but the fight is far from over. The seasons have simply shifted for a crop of new and different insecurities to be granted to us by the Internet in exchange for our sweet, sweet clicks.

There is a wide spectrum of suggestions for how to diet on Thanksgiving, ranging from vaguely irrational advice to the stuff of nightmares. In the first category we have the likes of “Have A Healthy Thanksgiving” and “7 Smart Ways To Reduce Thanksgiving Calories.” “[Keep] your wits about you,” warns a dietician quoted in the first article, as if the mere scent of pecans will trigger a latent rabidness, compelling you to shove your grandma to the ground, so you can have her piece of pie. “You need our help,” these articles seem to warn. “You are weak, you are helpless, you are probably so fat and that’s why the guys you meet on Tinder never want a second date.”

Then, there’s stuff like “Lose Weight During Thanksgiving,” which, OK? I guess? Is it really possible to lose substantial weight on any single day regardless of what the day is? I mean, especially when it’s the day that is literally about eating (and stealing Native Americans’ land), that’s just generally not the most intuitive idea. Also, the intro of this article suggests you follow its guidelines “instead of fighting the desire to overeat like your 12-year-old self.” That’s weirdly specific, right? It’s like the author assumes a natural reaction of horror over your disturbing lack of dietary neuroses as a child. “Remember when you thought carbs were acceptable?,” “Lose Weight During Thanksgiving” asks its readers. “Remember when you ate BREAD?”

But none of that can even try to mess with the likes of this next crop of pieces. Consider “Fool Your Brain Into Fewer Thanksgiving Calories,” in which presumably a form of drug-induced self-hypnosis is used to trick you into thinking green beans are miniature pumpkin cheesecakes; “Where Thanksgiving Calories Hide,” in which calories are actually the Little People from Haruki Murakami’s “IQ84;” or “What are you really eating on Thanksgiving?,” which is just  the opening line of a dystopian novel about all food being repurposed human flesh.

The experts in these articles honestly hate you and your lack of control. “Normally, people scoop up mounds of stuff on their plate, and that’s where it gets to be a problem,” the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics spokeswoman tells CNN in the first post. “But if you can handle small portion sizes, then that’s fine.” I really love that it’s still only “fine.” If you do what she says won’t be good, you’ll be fine. You’ll live to see another day without dying of obesity-related medical issues, she supposes. Can’t you just picture the Academy lady scrunching her nose in disgust while reciting that line? “If you are not going to skip dinner entirely, then fine, use the tip of your nail to get a taste of the gravy, then spit it right out.”

And yet, somehow, the “how to deal the next day” content manages to be even worse. This week, Elite Daily released a video detailing workouts to match up with each Thanksgiving food. In case you weren’t already considering exercise bulimia as an option for coping with the approach of the holidays, please educate yourself with this clip. It opens with a young woman taking a scoop mashed potatoes while on the stationary bike. Later, she eats a single brussel sprout, in exchange for which she will have to do one hour of yoga. I feel like she got so, so screwed. She probably read the one article about tricking yourself by eating vegetables first and another one about having small portions, and then she eats one single brussel sprout, and then Elite Daily is all, “Are you SERIOUS, you insatiable pig?”

Go on, try and just smell turkey without imagining yourself pedaling away as part of the “Snowpiercer” boy engine. The gym the next day will be a hellscape of shame, filled with people trying to make sense of the ever-growing mass of diet and exercise advice distributed across social media. They have no idea which article to trust, but they remember for sure that 80 minutes of push-ups are required to address the fact that they ate stuffing at some point. (Is it even possible to do 80 minutes of push-ups, if you are not, like, in the army? Probably no, but that’s what the Elite Daily thing seriously suggests.)

All these publications are telling people fun and exciting tips for developing a 24-hour eating disorder, because they’re thirsty for traffic and, hey, psychological distress seems to get good traction on Facebook! Basically, the media is Ursula and we are all chunky little mermaids, singing away our self-esteem, developing insurmountable insecurities, while also totally forgetting that we are supposed to spend time with our families on Thanksgiving. Yeah, Thanksgiving is actually not about calculating your BMI in between bites of sweet potato. It’s about spending time with your family.

It’s OK, I forgot too! Maybe we can all take a second to remember? Maybe for the one holiday centered around a family feast, we can just feast in peace with our families? You are more than welcome to rejoin the endless cycle of being incentivized to perpetually gain and lose weight by advertisers and the media and capitalism every other day of the year. But on Thanksgiving, for the love of calories and your Aunt Sally, who flew in from Omaha and hasn’t seen you since you were this tall, close the tab, pick up your fork and eat whatever you goddamn want.

Lauren Duca (@laurenduca) is uncomfortable talking about herself in the third person but has heard that it can be effective for things like this. She is a writer, journalist, and previous winner of a middle-school poetry contest. Her specialty is pop culture commentary, analysis, and reporting, but she would also make for an outstanding manager of a small-town Starbucks.