Thanksgiving is basically here, and I’d like to take a moment to make a little public service announcement:

You do NOT have to do ANYTHING to earn the right to eat a huge delicious dinner.

That’s right. There is nothing morally wrong with you if you decide to have seconds of mashed potatoes with more than 1.5 tablespoons of gravy. You aren’t “being bad” because you decide to eat a piece or two of pie, or as I often do, many small slivers throughout the course of the day that over time pretty much add up to the equivalent of a whole pie. You don’t have to go to a special “turkey burn” workout class. I mean, go if you want to. I’ll probably do something active tomorrow, too. But PLEASE, don’t make your workout based on punishment for your holiday meal. And if the fitness instructor teaching your class tries to tell you that you are doing 20,000 burpees for a slice of pumpkin cheesecake or a “glass of red wine” (insert eye roll) feel free to call them out and/or walk right out if it bothers you.

I got really fired up about this when we were on vacation a couple of weeks ago. I made a decision that on our cruise, I was going to enjoy eating/drinking whatever I wanted. No guilt or shame allowed. I also chose to work out most of the days we were on the ship because I genuinely enjoy it. I have a lot of restless energy and love that hit of mood-boosting endorphins. But while I was running on the track that went around the ship, there was a sign that really got me fired up.

To that I say screw you! And BOOOO to Royal Caribbean for perpetuating this mentality. This is the sort of message that fuels the disordered relationship with food and exercise that plagues so many Americans under the disguise of “being healthy”. I will run on your track (which is more fun than the treadmill) if I want to, and use the sweet jams in my earbuds to drown out this noise about having to earn my dessert. I was gonna eat some cake by the ocean regardless.

Let’s remember what Thanksgiving is about. Being THANKFUL. If you have a family to share a meal with and an abundance of food that allows you the luxury of potential over-indulgence, then SAVOR IT. If you are fortunate enough to have a living grandmother who makes a meal from scratch and with love, then you should most definitely ENJOY IT. Not shovel it in with guilty conscience, while telling yourself “diet starts tomorrow” in your head. NO. These are first world problems. And if your family drives you crazy, then recall my words when your idiot second cousin asks if you are “Really gonna have another scoop of stuffing?” Yep, sure am. Everyone please, MIND YOUR OWN PLATES. Thanksgiving is a holiday about gratitude, NOT a roundtable discussion about food morality and body shaming.

A quick word to all my fellow fitness professionals out there: I plead of you, DO BETTER for your students and clients this holiday season. Food shaming perpetuates this vicious dieting cycle: restrict, rebel, repeat. It doesn’t make anyone healthier, happier, or stronger. Find something else to cue to in class like safety or anatomy. There are plenty of other good reasons to hit the gym. Like being able to haul bags of Black Friday bargains up and down Michigan Avenue or shovel your car out of the snow all by yourself (it’s coming!). Eating is a natural function and right of being human. You don’t have to earn that right, ever.

To all my friends who are looking at me with a raised eyebrow, I know…I am the one who does pistol squats on a bosu for fun and makes the salad for Thanksgiving dinner. The last person you’d expect to be giving you permission to eat pumpkin pie. I’ve been on quite a journey getting to this place, and I’m still working on it too, one day at a time. Trying to be “good” all the time is unreasonable. Part of accepting that means acknowledging that most of society will try to tell us otherwise, and calling BS when we see it. So tomorrow, and for the rest of the holidays, I challenge you to find a reason to move your body that has no correlation with whether or not you choose to have some pecan pie (supposedly “less healthy” than pumpkin). Expect that you will eat some carbs and fat and sugar, and that you don’t need to do anything special to “earn them”. Give yourself a permission slip to indulge in these treats with the friends and family who made them for you, and maybe, just maybe, over time you will feel like less of a savage (and deprived) beast around the dinner table. At least that’s what I’m hoping for. The only “turkey burn” you need is the one that happens when you leave the turkey in the over for too long. And if that happens, who cares? Everyone knows the side dishes taste better anyway. 😉