Over the past year, I’ve been on a journey to lead a healthier lifestyle. My relationship with my body, food and exercise has dramatically changed for the better as I’ve learned what nourishes my body and how much my physical health impacts the health of my mind and spirit.
This will be the first holiday season I experience as a part of this new approach to living. In the past, I’ve embraced every single beige carbohydrate from November through the end of the year. I have a serious sweet tooth and cannot leave cookies alone. Any combination of cheese and bread sounds good to me.
Yet, this year, all of the foods I’ve loved in the past aren’t part of my current way of eating. I’m entering the Christmas season with a bit of uncertainty as to how it will all work. Will it feel like Christmas without plates full of buttery cookies and the cheesy casseroles we typically eat on Christmas? Or, will I make exceptions for those days and indulge, at the risk of immediate and significant physical discomfort? Will my family members accommodate my new restrictions, or will they be ignored?
I’ve thought for months about how I can approach the holidays in a way that honors my body and the journey I’ve been on. One of the biggest changes to my relationship with food has been that I no longer ask the question, “What do I want?” Instead, I ask, “What do I need?” Then, once I’ve answered that question, I ask, “What do I want that would satisfy that need?” I think about foods that make me feel great, and I consider recipes that are delicious and nutrient-rich.
The other big shift has been away from a diet-culture mindset. I’ve been overweight for the better part of my adult life, so I’ve often eaten in a way that was restrictive to my food and followed a list of rules. Now, however, I recognize that I can make any food choice at any time. It’s all “on the table,” so to speak.
If there’s a food that doesn’t make me feel good available to me, I can choose to eat it and I may enjoy it as I do so, but later will likely experience some digestive discomfort.
Or, I can choose to pass and eat something that makes me feel great as I eat it and after. The first choice is gratifying in the moment, but I often regret the indulgence later, but the second is empowering.
Christmas is about so much more than the foods we associate with it; the foods are not the memories. While it’s absolutely OK to enjoy a treat occasionally, we can enjoy a rich, full holiday without overindulging.
More isn’t always more, and a little bit of balance at the holiday table can help us to enjoy it even more. With our rich foods, enjoy some fresh vegetables. Take a brisk afternoon walk as a family. When enjoying a treat, take your time and savor its sweetness.
As I anticipate the holidays, I’ve been researching and dreaming up new recipes that are full of delicious fresh ingredients. The truth is, it’ll be an adjustment this year. I’ll miss some of those traditional foods, I expect. But, everything was new once.
When I think about my young daughters, I love the thought of them associating these delicious, healthy recipes they can enjoy all of their lives with their sweet holiday memories.