What does Christmas mean to you?
The holidays are among us and there is more cheer, laughter, and love than any other time of the year in most cases. Along with a surplus of joy there is also a surplus of food, and not just an abundance of carrot and celery sticks with extra brown rice and lean chicken breasts, but an array of savoury, sweet, fatty, and salty dishes…usually packed into one delicious meal!
While it’s important to embrace Christmas and all that comes with it, there are many things that try to distract us from the true meaning of Christmas. We seem to forget in the midst of consumerism in it’s truest form that Christmas isn’t about how many gifts you have under the tree, or about having the newest and shiniest gadget awaiting you in the morning, or even about how much food you can consume in one day while welcoming gluttony all because that’s how we’re told to behave.
The true meaning of Christmas that we seem to put on the back burner is love. It’s about giving and receiving love. Now I am like any other cold blooded North American woman, I like to shop, and when I say like I mean like.
No matter how much I like to shop though, I always love Christmas when I get to go out and specifically buy things for other people instead of myself. This doesn’t mean that I never buy gifts throughout the year for loved ones, but Christmas is naturally about giving, so my attention is not on me when I go to the mall, it’s on the people in my life.
I get way more joy from giving than I do when I buy something for myself, and because one of my love languages is Gifts, I also love receiving gifts because it assures me that my loved ones are thinking about me which makes me feel special and appreciated.
On a side note, if you don’t know what love languages are check out The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman. It will change the way you interact with your loved ones and help you to better understand yourself.
What does all of this have to do with food?
Many of my clients and the people I talk to are worried about how they will contain their appetites around the holidays. My answer to them is they have to change their mindset first because where the mind goes the man follows.
If you focus on what you should and shouldn’t eat, all you will focus on is food. If you become very restrictive with your diet then all your focus will be directed to the foods you’re missing out on. If you decide to throw all cares out the window and binge on turkey and sugar cookies for 4 days, chances are you’re not going to feel very good both physically and mentally.
But if you focus on the giving part, and the loving part of Christmas while giving yourself permission to enjoy without the need to over consume, chances are you’ll eat a few items that aren’t normally on your weekly menu, but it won't matter because your focus isn’t solely on food. Chances are you won't need to overindulge because you'll be satiated by much more than food.
When we take the focus off ourselves and our own neurosis, the insatiable becomes satiated. We strive so hard throughout the year to be perfect, to eat perfect, to exercise perfect, to be the perfect woman/man, that we inevitably become insatiable. The antidote is to switch our focus to what really matters, and that's not about food or new presents under the tree, it's about the people you care about in your life.
That being said, it is a fair challenge to eat properly and not go overboard when you have a cornacopia of tasty treats taunting you from every corner. It can be hard to say no, especially when you feel obliged or obligated because of family and it's easy to overindulge if you aren't equipped on both a physical and mental level.
Strategies that you can implement before, during, or after your meals:
- Enjoy the meal for what it is: Don’t try to be too restrictive but at the same time don’t throw all your sense of reason out of the window. Take a deep breath and relax into your setting.
- Cook healthy if you're in charge: If you're the one who's cooking the meal then you get the say of what you'll be serving. There are so many healthy holiday recipes out there that are classic treats made healthy. Try them out and see if your family can tell the difference.
- Take a small portion of each food that you really want: If you want seconds of your favourite dishes, then have a small portion of those dishes only. There's no point in wasting space or extra calories on foods you don't absolutely love.
- Eat slowly! I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again. When we eat slowly, we give our brain and our belly time to communicate throughout our meal. When we slow down, we are able to breath deeper which causes us to come into the rest and digest response (opposite of fight or flight).
- Pass on processed foods and stick to the real stuff: When I have an option between eating a Pot of Gold chocolate or one of my mom’s homemade shortbread cookies, I will always choose something that is homemade. There is an energy that goes into creating something with your own hands opposed to that which is manufactured and slapped onto a conveyor belt and mass produced for consumption. That energy is in the food you eat. Have you ever had a sensitivity to a certain food and went home and had your grandma cook one of your favourite dishes that contained that food but it didn’t seem to bother you? That is the energy, love, and intention put into your food.
- Be mindful of where you’re sitting: When dinner is done, move away from the kitchen. My family likes to put a spread of desserts on the table after dinner for everyone to help themselves. We usually all have tea and coffee in the living room along with our treats. Some of us (who I wont mention) like to congregate in the kitchen where we inevitably just pick away at whatever is on the table. If you don’t want to eat so much, don’t be directly in eyesight of food.
- Focus on what the holidays are really about: Eating Christmas food is always enjoyable, but focus on coming together as a family and the connections you have with the people you love. Focus on getting closer with the ones you have around you. Play games, watch movies, and take the focus off only eating.