Intention setting is a powerful tool that can apply to many aspects of life, including the holidays. First up:  Thanksgiving. Although this can be an exciting, celebratory time, there may be food rituals surrounding this holiday that can be difficult and even triggering for those that have a fraught relationship with their body and diet. If this is true of you, you’re not alone in this feeling; there are surely many others quietly struggling as they anticipate the heaps of platters and dishes of food before them. At this time, the eating disorder voice in many heads may become louder as we might be asking ourselves:

           What food will there be at dinner?

           How do I know how much to eat?

           Will people be looking at my plate?

           Do I look different than I did last year?

Reframe the Holiday

This is where intention setting comes in. Rather than focusing solely on the food aspect of Thanksgiving, we can create a different narrative by choosing an intention before the holiday that is meaningful and relevant to each of us. We can aim to forecast the negative way we may feel, and recenter this holiday in a positive light. The aim here is not to create insurmountable goals, but rather to create mindfulness around an upcoming occasion.

Wondering: “how exactly do I write an intention?”  Well, here are some tips!

  1. Visualize the upcoming mealtime and how you want to be present

  2. Target a specific area, behavior, or belief that you would like to change

  3. Aim to create an achievable and realistic intention

  4. Transform a negative sentence into a positive

  5. Write the intention in the present tense

 Here are some ideas for intentions:


…Be present with my family at the dinner table.

…Engage in conversation with my extended family whom I don’t get to see often.

…Feel grateful for being here right now surrounded by love.

Write the Intention

Once you have decided on intentions to commit to, take out a pen and your favorite notebook, sit in a quiet, calming space, light a candle, and begin writing out one or two intentions. In doing so, reflect on times in the past when you may have felt overwhelmed or challenged around mealtime and redirect this energy towards what you want this holiday to be about. Then—in short, concise sentences—write down what you are working toward. If you feel comfortable, feel free to share your intention with someone you trust; a family member, close friend, or therapist. Furthermore, by sharing your intention with someone, the likelihood of your objective becoming a reality will increase.

Regularly Check-In

Finally, throughout the holiday weekend, check in with yourself as to how you are honoring your intention as you move through the day. This is an imperfect process, so give yourself compassion and kindness, regardless of the outcome!

If there is diet or problematic food or body talk at any of the get-togethers you attend (as there often is,) take a deep breath and return to the thoughts of your intention. Remember that all foods fit, and there is space for both green beans and pumpkin pie on your plate.

With a clear intention as your guide, you are well on your way to having a peaceful and comfortable Thanksgiving!

Author: Emma Gangbar (she/her), M.S./ RDN Candidate in Nutrition Education at Teachers College, Columbia University; Intern at Integrating Nutrition, Inc.