Thanksgiving is here, with all its attendant joys!

There’s been an interesting online discussion on holiday eating over at A number of the members there who have successfully lost weight during the year and are changing their hearts and thinking as well as their weights and sizes have been deciding ahead of time how to celebrate. (If you’d like to join us, go to my website, for the link.)

Two of my favorite postings have me giggling every time I think about them: One member has decided that she’ll take her own dinner plate to the feast. It’s a little bit smaller than regular and she has learned how to mentally divide into healthy portions and combinations ( carbs, lean protein, veggies without a lot of sauces and extras). Then she’ll have one of the toddlers sit on her lap to both share her meal and keep her busy . Isn’t that just great?

Another member is having her football player son join her in the kitchen, where he will guard the goodies from mindless nibbling, and she will give him a cooking lesson!

In any event, finding healthy recipes and guidelines for eating is not the biggest challenge. (Simply Google “healthy Thanksgiving recipes, or “healthy holiday eating tips” and you’re on your way.) As always, the biggest challenge is doing what we know . The age old “The spirit is willing…” (and might I add knowledgeable ?) “but the flesh is weak” takes on new meaning as holiday feasts present family traditions and social expectations, many of them involving an overload of calories.

Thanksgiving Olga Lyubkina. Image from 

And what’s wrong with that? For many of us, one day of feasting with an immediate return to our habits (teamed up with some extra exercise and water for a couple of days) works. For others, that one day merely opens wide the gates that lead to non-stop eating until the “12 th of Never”

Like children, we need a kind hand and loving guidance to help us cross the busy street of holiday eating without getting hit. Perhaps we can find that guidance in a scripture, followed by a bit of history and perspective.

Today’s Scripture: “And it came to pass that the wind did never cease to blow towards the promised land; and they were driven forth before the wind. And they did thank and praise the Lord all the day long; and when the night came, they did not cease to praise the Lord.” (Ether 6:8)

The first Thanksgiving feast would probably be considered a healthy meal. White, mashed potatoes and gravy as we know them were not yet available to the colonists. Though they had pumpkins, they did not have the ingredients for the crusts or the right ovens for baking the pies that we consider traditional – let alone whipped cream or ice cream!

Jell-O and cream cheese salads were generations away. Instead, their feast centered around produce from the garden – including parsnips, collards, carrots, parsley, turnips, spinach, cabbages, sage, thyme, marjoram and onions. Dried cultivated beans and dried wild blueberries may have been available, as well as native cranberries, pumpkins, grapes and nuts.

The Pilgrims ate roasted wild fowl and venison, and reports have been found that lobster was often available. They no doubt had to work hard physically to both acquire and prepare this meal, providing opportunities to be physically active. To me, this sounds like many healthy eating plans we know and eating advice we hear constantly from medical experts.

A most important insight from the first Thanksgiving is not a food, but a comment from Pilgrim Eward Winsow:

And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.

In other words, in addition to the food there was gratitude for simply being full, conscious mindfulness, happy memories and hospitality. Hmmm. A state of mind, rather than a plate of food.

Well, put on your pilgrim hat and collar! We can do the same.

Not too long ago in our Relief Society, the topic was gratitude. Though there is much of worth and interest to say, our delightful teacher asked a question that sparked a new dimension: “What brought you here to where you are this afternoon?” she asked.

After a few moments, there was a volley of wonderful, traditional comments: “My great-great grand-parents who joined the Church in Scotland and were pioneers,” “Our forefathers who sacrificed their all so that we have freedom,” and “Joseph Smith” were some of the early answers.

Then it got a bit more creative: “Our local church leaders who had the foresight and skills to buy this property for the building,” “The builders and manufacturers of the building materials,” “The members and leaders who keep it safe and clean.” Eventually, like a spool of thread unraveling, it evolved to “Henry Ford and the invention of the automobile,” “Modern day commerce that provides gas and other means of transportation.” You get the picture.

It was amazing! By delving a bit, there was much more to consider than any of us had originally conceived, simply by being open to the principle of gratitude. Going to church will never be the same!

One of my favorite stories about gratitude is that of the Jaredites in the book of Ether. With obedience and faith they risked their very lives by stepping on those barges for an ocean voyage to the Promised Land.

And it came to pass that when they had prepared all manner of food, that thereby they might subsist upon the water, and also food for their flocks and herds, that when they had done all these things that they got aboard of their vessels or barges, and set forth into the sea, commending themselves unto the Lord their God (Either 6:4).

The operating word here is “commend.” To commend in this context means to transfer, pass, hand, reach, pass on, turn over, give entrust, intrust, trust, confide, commit.

No turning back, no “I’m tired and want to go home.” There were no cell phones, emails, online confirmations or phone calls to assure them that all would be ready and waiting for them at the time of arrival.

I marvel every time at how the Jaredites sustained themselves for nearly a full year (344 days!) on the sealed barges: “They did sing praises unto the Lord; yea the brother of Jared did thank and praise the Lord all the day long; and when the night came, they did not cease to praise the Lord.”

In other words, they sustained themselves with the basics, then through giving thanks, singing and praising the Lord, to whom they had entrusted/commended their very lives. I am sure that when they arrived and harvested their first crops, they too celebrated with a feast. No doubt it would be a feast similar to the Pilgrims, with things that could grow or catch on their own.

With our own feasts, could we not consider them journeys, albeit a short one, and follow the Jaredites’ example? Even if it’s just for a day, it’s an important transition to healthy holidays and arriving in our own promised lands. Could we carefully make our plans, then commend ourselves unto the Lord with gratitude?

Thank goodness for modern day pilgrims, pioneers and voyagers who have proved that we can make these changes. Robyn Keesling, another member at has lost and keeps off over 65 pounds. Here’s how she handles the holidays:

I know that for me I need to have a healthy and yet yummy alternative prepared or I feel deprived and become resentful – which leads to overeating. So, I will probably work on making some low fat/low sugar desserts to have on hand for me (and anyone else who would like to make a healthy choice). I have done reduced-fat pumpkin pie in the past, reduced-fat fudge, low-fat low-sugar cheesecake, pies with homemade crusts (crushed high fiber cereals w/ fruit juice instead of standard piecrusts) and less sugar in the filling. I pretty much try to adapt the entire meal to healthier alternatives if I can.

My family has gotten pretty used to it. However, guests can be another story so I do have junk on hand as well. As long as I have a treat for myself, I can usually maintain some semblance of eating sanity. Some years I have given myself a “free” day on the actually holiday and allowed myself to eat whatever I want in whatever quantities I want – which seems so wonderful at the time but I sometimes regret.

Is a Thanksgiving feast a plate of food or a state of mind? I think it’s a bit of both, which I intend to enjoy and hope you will too!

Here are some basics to get us going:

  • Be conscious of what you’re putting on your plate. Choose dishes with red sauce or olive oil versus cream sauce.
  • Don’t go to a party hungry.  Eat a little snack before you go to a party so you don’t fill up on fattening appetizers.
  • Drink more water.  When you drink other beverages, you are less likely to be aware of what and how much you are eating.  Moreover, the water will keep you hydrated so you don’t mistake hunger for thirst.
  • Choose veggies over chips.  Veggies with dip taste great and will give you the vitamins your body needs. In addition, you won’t pack on unwanted pounds.
  • Have a plateful of food.  After you’ve eaten your plateful, stand up, drink a glass of water and make sure that you’re still hungry before you eat any more, rather than eating because it tastes good.
  • Have a “sampling” of dessert.  Have small samplings versus whole slices of the desserts you wish to try.  This way you enjoy the taste without over-indulging.

Happy Journeying! Happy Thanksgiving!

Today’s Journal Prompts/Discussion Starters

  1. What brought you to where you are today? With gratitude, analyze your personal situation and find the Lord’s hand.
  2. Make a list of blessings your body provides for you. Commit to taking good care of it through the holidays, as you would a prized vehicle or other treasured possession.

Today’s Recipe: Favorite Pumpkin Fluff
(I love this stuff, and so does everyone who eats it! No need for a crust!

1 container (16 oz.) fat free Cool Whip, thawed
1 can (15 oz) pumpkin
1 package (5.1 oz) vanilla pudding mix
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice


  1. Place pumpkin, cool whip, vanilla pudding powder, and pumpkin pie spice in large bowl.
  2. Mix together with spoon until well blended.
  3. Place in re-sealable container and place in refrigerator. Makes about 10 – 16 servings.

16 servings, 37.0 calories, .1 g Fat, 2.6 g Carbs, .9 g Dietary Fiber