norman rockwell thanksgivingAbout eight years ago, I claimed Thanksgiving. Every woman needs a holiday that she can call her own and since cooking brisket wasn’t my thing, this seemed to be a good fit.  Although I could barely boil water at the time, I figured that most Thanksgiving staples could be bought pre-made and I could recruit my dad to carve the turkey. “No-brainer,” I thought.  Then I gave it a go.  Quickly I learned that the magic of Thanksgiving was not based on the moistness of the turkey or the sweetness of the pumpkin pie.  No, the magic comes from a delicate blend of all of the flavors that make up the day. Yes, I had claimed Thanksgiving, but in order to keep it I needed a better recipe.

1. The first and most important ingredient is the people. I started off my Thanksgiving improvement process by telling my kids that Thanksgiving would forever be a “non-negotiable” holiday for them.  Although at the time the oldest was in middle school, I made the kids promise that no matter where they lived, whom they married, or whatever else was going on in their lives, they would come HOME for this holiday. They dutifully promised.  I then invited lots of family members, a few close friends, and a few random stragglers who helped to spice things up. I was on my way.

2. The second ingredient was a healthy dose of healthiness.  OK, I know that it may not be on everyone’s short list of Thanksgiving ingredients, but I am a Healthy Living Coach and I try to walk the walk.  I took delight in surreptitiously substituting healthy alternatives to traditional Thanksgiving fare without going too crazy. The food had to look, smell, and taste like Thanksgiving but with healthier ingredients and unrecognizable portion control management.  I substituted the all-you-can-eat platters of sweet potato marshmallow casserole with individual oven baked small sweet potatoes filled with their very own marshmallows and pecans. I added a raw kale salad and, instead of mashed potatoes and gravy, I served roasted cauliflower sprinkled with Parmesan cheese. Truthfully I was shocked that nobody noticed when the stuffing left town or when the cheese platter was replaced by fresh veggies and hummus. Don’t worry, I still served decadent pies and ice cream but limited it to two different kinds of pie rather than eight (which I did the first year!)

3. For the final ingredient, I served “Thanks.”  Holidays have become so commercialized that it is very easy to lose sight of their true meaning.  Thanksgiving is about gratitude for what we have.  With this in mind, I asked every member of our Thanksgiving gathering, regardless of age, to share what he or she was thankful for.  For some, this came very easy.  For others, being in the spotlight was very uncomfortable.  However, not only did it remind us of Thanksgiving’s intent, it connected us in a shared experience.

Although I started this gratitude circle tradition years ago, I had no idea what significance this small act would have for me years later. This was years before I wrote in a daily gratitude journal and years before I started helping my clients and on-line followers incorporate gratitude into their daily lives. Who knew that EVERY DAY would become Thanksgiving for me?  So, even though I think I have this Thanksgiving recipe figured out, I know I have to keep improving it every year to keep the holiday mine. Maybe this year I will remind my kids about the promise they made me, or learn how to carve a turkey, or sneak in some chia seeds somewhere. Or not. I’ll just keep being grateful for the fact that although I thought I claimed Thanksgiving, the truth is that Thanksgiving claimed me.

Lisa Lewtan is a Healthy Living Coach and her website is


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