Do you ever have weeks where almost every day, some special eating event takes place, and you worry about all the food available and lament not being able to stick to your routine? That’s what I’ve run into this week between Christmas and New Year’s.
Even before it started, I almost looked forward to it being over. This was how my schedule looked:
Christmas Day, dinner with my dad’s side of the family, where my aunt prepares a staggering number of desserts despite only having six people in attendance
Boxing Day, a visit with a few friends, where this time it was the main courses that came in abundance
Saturday after Christmas, a potluck dinner with my mom’s side of the family, and with thirty or so people attending, we had a wide variety of dishes
Sunday, potluck lunch with friends from church
New Year’s Day, another potluck lunch, this time celebrating a belated Christmas with my brother’s family
On Christmas Eve, I became increasingly stressed thinking about all this, until I asked myself why. Why did the prospect of all that food bring slight feelings of panic? That’s when I realized I had slipped back into diet mentality.
It’s so easy to do this time of year. Articles abound about how to manage being around all the food without gaining weight, or tricks to cut back on calories, and more. The focus always seems to be on preventing weight gain, so you can start the New Year feeling virtuous and ahead of all those other people who splurged.
Except, as with most diet mentality, that makes it very difficult to enjoy the moment. For various reasons, the holidays this year presented enough stress that I didn’t need to add anything artificial, like worrying about calories and weight.
That’s when I started to shift my focus. I reminded myself that my goal was to eat mindfully, not perfectly (whatever that might be anyway), and to feel good after eating so I could enjoy the company and gifts and music.
Almost magically, my anxiety eased, and on Christmas Day I went to my aunt’s house without concern for how much food would be around. I ate only what I needed, which meant I could pass out gifts and visit during the afternoon without feeling like I wanted to take a nap, or having a queasy stomach. I took the same approach on Friday and Saturday evening, and I will this afternoon and on New Year’s Day.
In the end, the main difference between these days and others is that I’m not in control of all my food. In a way, that’s a blessing in disguise, because it helps me remember and highlight how much more I appreciate the approach of mindful eating, when I can have my Christmas cookies and chocolates and pie, as well as vegetables and oranges and meats, and instead of being afraid of the abundance, I can celebrate and enjoy it.