You do NOT have to do ANYTHING to earn the right to eat pumpkin pie.

That’s right. The holidays are upon us, and it’s about time somebody said it. 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 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 on Thanksgiving too. But PLEASE, don’t make your workout choices 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 “glass of red wine” (insert eye roll) feel free to politely call them out if it bothers you.

These sorts of messages are so prevalent in our culture, that they often go unnoticed.

But once you become aware of them, it’s hard to un-see them. I got really fired up about this when we were on vacation. 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 going.

To that I say screw you, sign! This is the sort of message that fuels the disordered relationship with food and exercise that plagues so many of us. 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 loved ones to share a meal with then enjoy their company. If you have an abundance of food that allows you the potential to over-indulge, then savor it. EAT THE FOOD! Especially if you are fortunate enough to have a living grandmother who makes a meal from scratch and with love. Not shovel it in with guilty conscience, while telling yourself “diet starts tomorrow”. NO.  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: Let’s DO BETTER for our 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 like safety or anatomy. If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably spent a good portion of your paycheck on continuing education to learn more about that stuff anyway. There are plenty of other good reasons to hit the gym. Like being able to haul around bags of bargains on Black Friday. Or shovel your car out of the snow all by yourself.

Eating is a natural function and right of being human. You don’t have to earn that right, ever.

I knowwww. . .I’m the last person you’d expect to be giving you permission to eat pumpkin pie. In fact, most people assume that because I work in the fitness industry, that I’m somehow going to be judging their food choices. Or that they need to call themselves out for being “bad” before I do it. Maybe once before, but not anymore. 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. In fact, what we really need to do is stop labeling ourselves as morally right or wrong based on our food choices. Part of accepting that means acknowledging that most of society will try to tell us otherwise, and calling BS when we see it.

On Thanksgiving, and for the rest of the holidays, I challenge you to just eat the pie. You won’t go to hell, I promise.

If you are working out this holiday season, find a reason that has no correlation with whether or not you choose to eat dessert. Expect that you will eat some carbs and fat and sugar. 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. Then 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. 😉