Embracing The Holidays

With Thanksgiving a week away and the holidays in full swing, this is also prime time for diet talk, juice cleanses, low carb diets, and fasting to dominate social media feeds, television and radio commercials, and our general discussion amongst friends and family.

This time of year and it’s diet-obsessed energy always kicks my messaging into high gear, because I know what it’s like. I know what it’s like to be terrified of the food that will be before me that day, and the day before, and the day after. I know what it’s like to feel weak, like a failure because my willpower failed me once again. If you are feeling anxious about being around family and friends this holiday season, if you’re feeling anxious about this body you inhabit, and the food you may or may not be consuming- I see you and I hear you.

I also know that you deserve so much more than the experiences described above. You deserve to feel empowered in your body and around food. You deserve to be able to be around food- any type of food- and be relaxed. And you deserve to set healthy boundaries.

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Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

I’ve listed a few simple tips below that may be helpful to keep in mind over the next couple of months.

1. Identify & Acknowledge Triggers

If we don’t identify and acknowledge what is triggering our feelings of depression, anxiety, or perhaps body shaming during this time of year (or any time of year!), we won’t be able to heal it.

This is a difficult journey because we have to come face to face with the deeper reasoning behind these feelings. However, once we get to this place, the healing can begin. You may know right away what may trigger emotions this time of year. If you do- excellent! If you aren’t aware of underlying emotions or triggers, journaling is a great way to identify and acknowledge. Simply put pen to paper and write about feelings or thoughts that have been arising for you lately. Don’t stop to analyze what you’re writing, just keep writing for 3-5 minutes. You could also ask trusted friends or family and they may be able to provide you with some insight.

Identifying and acknowledging is an amazing first step. Once we identify and acknowledge, we can start to pay attention to our feelings and emotions as they arise. At first we may only recognize them after the fact. This is fine- still acknowledge and sit with that feeling. Identify it- give it a name. Then perhaps you will be able to identify these feelings in the midst of the trigger, and maybe you’ll then be able to notice when they may occur before the trigger happens. Also keep in mind, you may never reach this point and that is ok! The power lies in identifying and acknowledging, not preventing the feeling from occurring.

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2. Set Boundaries

As the incredible Brene Brown says “Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves even when we risk disappointing others.” Wow, how powerful is that?!

If you find yourself at a place where you’ve had or attempted to have healthy discussions about your feelings and the environment remains toxic, it may be time to set some boundaries.

Setting boundaries is choice we make to no longer expose ourselves to an environment that is harmful or toxic. They exist to give us permission to establish or maintain our mental health.

The concept of boundaries often comes up around the holidays because much of the anxiety that is felt this time of year is related to being around family members that we may only be exposed to during this season.  Further, many of us are taught to suck it up, to tolerate it in the moment, only to walk away feeling shame, pain, resentment for the remainder of the year until it happens all over again. Yes, there may be some anger or pain in response to boundaries being set, but this time the energy of this response will be different- because you will be different. When healthy boundaries are set, you will be treated differently because you have established your value.

Even if this means no longer participating in the family’s traditional holiday celebrations, you have freed yourself of a toxic environment and can move forward in your new boundary-setting journey!

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Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

3. Eat Food

Yes, most of us are surrounded by and consume more food than we normally do on holidays like Thanksgiving. Sometimes we also have parties to attend with friends, events at work in which food is catered or provided by your fellow co-workers. Simply being around food and consuming food does not mean anything about you as a person. Not eating some food does not inherently make you better than others, and eating large quantities of food does not inherently make you less than anyone else.

Diet culture kicks into high gear around the holidays. I’m always amazed with the advertising of the average number of calories that are consumed on Thanksgiving. Just think about that- what is the purpose of this discussion? Does it change what you chose to consume that day, or does it only serve to make you feel worthless while doing so? On a day that is meant to stir feelings of gratitude for all that we have in this life, many of us expend that precious time and energy berating ourselves for what we’re putting in our bodies on one day. I also discuss how dangerous it is to label foods as “good” and “bad” here, and this is very apparent around the holidays.

Maybe this year instead of focusing on the food, take some deep breaths and look around. Look at the faces of your loved ones around the space. Feel your body and send gratitude towards it for keeping you here one more year. List some things you are grateful for, in that moment. And then eat.

 

The light in me honors the light in you.

Earning Food: Mindful/Intuitive Eating

How often do we feel guilt even before we’ve started to eat certain foods? For some of us these foods are carbs, or chocolate, ice cream, even fruit- the list is never ending.

I am reflecting on the concept of “earned food” as I savor a piece of dark chocolate with blueberries. Years ago, before I learned mindful eating/intuitive eating practices, I would have devoured this chocolate, perhaps reached for more without pause, and then berated myself mere moments later- demeaning myself for my lack of willpower and loss of control.

This is what we’re taught to believe: that eating “forbidden” foods is a sign of weakness. The diet and fitness industry has made millions of dollars on the concept of good carbs and bad carbs, good starch and bad starch, good fruit and bad fruit. I call bullshit.

When we are out of tune with out body, we are reactive in nature. Have an uncomfortable feeling? Reach for the brownies. Got rejected? Unload a bag of potato chips. It doesn’t have to be this way. By introducing practices such as meditation into our lives, we begin to gain the ability to become an observer of our thoughts, feelings, and emotions, as opposed to being a slave to them. When we gain the ability to view our thoughts as simply additional information, we can then view them in a more holistic way. Sometimes they may still mean you reach for the brownie, and that’s great! The difference is this time you’re fully aware of why you’re craving that particular food, and you can eat it more mindfully, with gratitude for what it’s providing to your body in that moment. Then when you are satiated, you can be done eating and move on. It truly can be that simple.

Food is not something to be earned, it is an energy source to be consumed and utilized to allow us to live our lives to our fullest potential. How incredible is that?! The next time you have an overwhelming craving, perhaps take a moment to breathe into it. Ask yourself where the craving is originating and if that’s truly what you need. Perhaps you need a nap, a bath, or a hug instead. Listen. And then proceed as your body is directing. Continue to practice this as you can and see how your relationship with your mind, body, and food evolves.

 

I would love to hear your experiences with mindful/intuitive eating!

Words To Share

The following poem by Marianne Williamson has spoken to me currently. Just last night I printed this poem and framed it to place in my office. I need to be surrounded by these words right now.

It also reminds me of this post about the fear of success. I hope you find what you need in these words as well:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness
That most frightens us.
We ask ourselves
Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small
Does not serve the world.
There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking
So that other people won’t feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine,
As children do.
We were born to make manifest
The glory of God that is within us.
It’s not just in some of us;
It’s in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine,
We unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we’re liberated from our own fear,
Our presence automatically liberates others.

 

The light in me honors the light in you.