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Americans often infuse their holidays with ironic twists: Halloween, a former pagan celebration of fertility, becomes a festival of fear; Easter, traditionally a Christian celebration of spiritual rebirth, is altered to hiding eggs, a pagan fertility symbol. But surely the strangest irony is how we celebrate Thanksgiving.


Rather than a somber day of gratitude, Thanksgiving has become a day of self-indulgence. We eat until we are sick, then recline on our couches and watch football players in simulated battles, or partake in spending sprees, all in the name of gratitude. Would it be hyperbole to compare us to those hedonistic Romans who, fighting boredom, staged lavish dinner parties and then reclined on their couches to watch violent entertainment performed by their slaves while groaning from gluttonous over-consumption? Caligula even one-upped Thanksgiving football games by having gladiators stand on top of the dinner table and splash diners with blood and gore.  The comparison might be rather excessive, but, there are disturbing commonalities between the two events.


We are, I believe, sincerely grateful for the abundance we enjoy. But it is difficult to truly embrace our good fortune because most of us do not know true deprivation. Unlike our grandparents or great-grandparents, we did not have to shiver in Depression breadlines and hoard food-ration stamps. Yet, we have heard their tales of scarcity and this may have influenced our current tendencies for over-indulgence.


We find portion distortions in supermarkets, where the number of larger sizes has increased 10-fold between 1970 and 2000. We find portion distortions in restaurants, where the jumbo-sized portions are consistently 250% larger than the regular portion.  We even find portion distortions in our homes, where the sizes of our bowls and glasses have steadily increased and where the surface area of the average dinner plate has increased 36% since 1960. And if our bowls, glasses and plates do not destroy us, our recipes will. In the 2006 edition of The Joy of Cooking the serving size of some entrees has increased by as much as 62% from some recipes in 1920 edition.


Super-sizing of portions suggests that it is not only appropriate but smart to eat more food. Extra-large portions are labeled as “value packs” or “bigger and better” or “50 percent more free!” Who wouldn’t want to take advantage of such bargains? Is it any wonder that America is experiencing an obesity epidemic?


How will eating with a smaller plate help?


The problem is that people have difficulty estimating the number of calories in larger portions of food on larger plates. A past theory was that obese people were worse at calculating the calories in their meals compared to normal-weight people. However, recent studies in The Annals of Internal Medicine have instead shown that this apparent bias is caused by the size of the meals, not the size of the people. People of all sizes—even registered nurses and dietitians—are equally inaccurate at estimating the calories from large portions.


In America, over-consumption is compounded by a tendency to look towards outside clues to determine when we have had enough food. In an informal study done by Wansink, 150 Parisians were asked when they knew they were done with dinner. The number one answer was “when I am no longer hungry.” The second most popular answer was “when the food no longer tastes good.” Those are internal cues. The same question was asked of 150 Americans, and the most popular answer was “when my plate is empty,” followed by “when the TV show I am watching is over.” Those are external cues.   We eat with our eyes and sometimes with our emotions. As Louis C.K. said, “the meal isn’t over when I am full. It’s over when I hate myself.”


So why is such a minor thing like the size of your plate such a huge problem? First, there are the health implications of overeating. Chronic or lifestyle diseases such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer accounted for 60 percent of deaths worldwide.  As of 2012, about half of American adults have one or more chronic health conditions. Most of these can be controlled or prevented through diet.


Nevertheless, more than one-third of Americans are now considered obese. A new study confirms that overeating alone is the cause of the obesity epidemic, not decreasing physical activity or any other factor. And, while Americans are eating themselves to death, 840 million people are starving worldwide.


Then, there is the waste that is synonymous with plenitude. Food waste is considered the third highest contributor to global warming. Overeating, just like over-indulgence in anything, numbs pleasure and nullifies the spiritual nourishment that is so essential to our joy in life. There is also the moral imperative to temper gluttony and reconnect with the interdependence of all beings on this earth.


By using a smaller plate, you will consume 22 percent less calories and never even notice. Use food as a spiritual connection to all that is because it is the sky, the water, the soil, and life on earth gracing your plate. Treat it with reverence and be thankful.


Journaling: Small Seeds of Change


The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones. ~Confucius


Sometimes it is hard to feel gratitude for certain situations in our life that are creating discomfort and discontent.  It could very well be that these situations are the seeds of future blessings but it is difficult to bear them in the present.


One way to do so is to use them as a catalyst for change. Can you see anything that you can do to alleviate the situation or make it work towards your betterment? Is there a change you can make in your life that will allow you to accept or cope with the situation more effectively?  What kind of long-term change do you need to make?


One of the best ways to create long-term change in our lives is by making the transition as smooth and sustainable as possible. There are three things that cause behavior: ability, motivation, and a trigger. Most of us have the ability to make whatever change we want. Most of us also have the motivation but it is hard to sustain its intensity for the period of time it takes to make large, sweeping changes. And all of us have triggers which are already existing behaviors.


The key is to make our changes tiny enough to sustain our motivation and tie them into a trigger that allows us to use our existing abilities to make the change. Take for example, flossing your teeth. We all know how to do it, but what you need to do is train yourself to do it automatically.


So, what if you told yourself after eating (the trigger) you will floss one tooth (the tiny change). That doesn’t sound so difficult. Each time you remember, congratulate yourself effusively. Feel gratitude for the positive changes you are making in your life.


The positive reinforcement and the zeal behind it is important. Do this for one week and then maybe bump it up to two. Get the idea?


Now think of some tiny changes that you can make that will move you towards your ultimate goal. Write them down in this format:


After ___________ I will ______________ and then I will reward myself with _______________________. Plant a tiny seed in the right spot and it will grow without coaxing.



Love Meditation


If the only prayer you said was thank you, that would be enough.  ~Meister Eckhart


Sit upright in a quiet comfortable spot and completely relax your body. Close your eyes and be still. Notice any sensations in your body that need your attention. Relax your face; relax your shoulder and relax your body.


Breathe normally through your nose and begin to focus on the sensation of your breath as it enters and leaves your body. Let your breathing be close and easy. Take three long cleansing breaths.


Draw your attention to your heart. Take another deep breath and then imagine a beautiful golden light blooming from it.


As you breathe in and out feel this warmth deeply inside your chest. Focus on this warmth and focus on the feelings of love, compassion and gratitude that start to swell from the lovely light


Sense the inter-connectedness of all beings.


Now bring your attention to what you feel grateful for in your life. Perhaps you feel grateful for being alive or healthy or for the organs of your body which sustain you.


Perhaps you feel grateful for your senses or perhaps you are grateful for the abundance and beauty of nature which feeds your body, heart and soul.


Bring your attention to people who truly nourish you in your life and how they bless you with their presence. Be sure that your body is still perfectly relaxed and your breath is easy.


Breath through your heart center and imagine one person in particular that you deeply cherish. Feel the love moving in and out of your heart center with each breath and experience your most gentle nature, the softest most peaceful side of you. Breathe in soothing love and give it to that person every time you exhale.


Now expand that to all the people that you know and love. Imagine their faces soften with peace and joy as you flood them with your love. Now bring to your mind back to other things that you are grateful for. Silently begin to repeat the words “Thank You.” And be aware of the feelings that brings in your body. Carry these feelings of peace, love and gratitude with you throughout your day.



Gratitude Scavenger Walk


Gratitude and inner peace walk hand in hand.  ~Unknown


This day we are not only going to feel gratitude for the obvious blessings in life but also the small ones that are generally invisible to us as we hurry through our day: the exquisite beauty of the sun shining through an amber spider and casting its dew-soaked web into a dazzling tapestry of rainbow sparkles; the feeling of the sun warming our face on a chilly day; the sweet smell of earth and wet brown leaves.  Find a beautiful place in nature to walk and use the list below to find examples of beauty and abundance wherever you walk.


Find something that…

  • Makes you happy
  • Smells amazing
  • Has brilliant colors
  • Defines a miracle to you
  • Makes you feel strong
  • Makes you feel spiritually alive
  • Humbles you
  • Inspires you
  • Is dying
  • Is just beginning
  • Reminds you of being a child
  • That you take for granted
  • That may not be here ten years from now
  • Contributes to your enlightenment
  • Has incredible details
  • Other beings rely on for life



Torri’s book is available for purchase here.