Often, Thanksgiving is anticipated as a chance to overeat. But is there really joy in that? I believe not. What I know, rather, from my work as a brain and cognitive scientist, specializing in the psychology of eating, and from helping thousands of people become happy, thin and free -- is that the act of expressing gratitude goes a long way toward helping to curb overeating.
This lesson can be applied far beyond Thanksgiving, to meals in general year round. When incorporated into the scaffolding of your life, giving thanks before EVERY meal has immeasurable health and weight control benefits, for the following reasons:
Halfpoint Getty Images/iStockphoto
1. Gratitude reinforces the routine of eating meals on a regular schedule
Eating regular meals at consistent times 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.
2. It takes the burden off willpower
Research shows we may have as little as 15 minutes of willpower at our disposal before it runs dry. However, research also shows that expressing gratitude 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.
3. 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, preventing the impulse to fill perceived voids with food.
4. Gratitude supports mindfulness
Gratitude is a practice that’s closely connected with, and supportive of, mindfulness. Thus, it helps sharpen awareness of your actions, leading to better choices about food and better eating habits.
5. It promotes an overall healthy attitude
As Dr. Martin Seligman, professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and author of Flourish explains, “People who are grateful tend to be happier, healthier and more fulfilled.”
There are so many things to be deeply thankful for in any given day. Expressing this is a meaningful habit that will help you become a healthier, happier, slimmer you!
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. Susan Peirce Thompson