Holiday eating: Are you on the naughty or nice list?
By Pure Matters
Dieting rules for the food blitz from Halloween through New Year's permeate the media. If your psyche is porous enough, like mine was during the 18 years I struggled with dieting, they can also clog your soul. Tips and strategies around portion control and healthier options work to a point, but the dark side of these tips, just like most dieting plans, is the intensity of their restrictions.
Naughty or Nice Eating
No eating plan considers the psychological implications of labeling food "good" or "bad." Eating "good" or "bad" becomes "I'm good" or "I'm bad." Restricting food can parallel the process of restricting your life when you're struggling with the insecurities of your body. Giving family and friends the annual status update at holiday gatherings mimics a yearly performance review -- Aunt Laura, more concerned about your fertility than you, asks, "Why aren't you dating, dear?" You grab coffee with an old friend and discover her life is actually as perfect as it's marketed on Facebook. Emotional tsunamis arise and rather than riding the wave or crying in the bathroom, your feelings turn inward instead of outward and become projected onto peanut butter blossoms.
Is There a Perfect Holiday Diet?
The quest for a perfect holiday diet plan is a quest for perfectionism. And perfectionism is elusive and constraining. Beneath the desire for weight-loss and vibrant health there is a true craving for freedom: You want to feel free to eat a dessert without judgment from yourself and others. You want to overeat at one party and the next day, be free of the guilt so you can easily get back on track. You crave freedom from your exhaustion and worry about fitting it all in with the perfect bow on top.
Diet plans cannot give you what they don't have. They don't have a way to mend your relationship with your mother. They can't give you 36 hours in a day. They can't make you feel beautiful. Binges and off-track moments are your body's way of demanding more freedom on your plate and in your life. There's wisdom in the reasons why we overeat. Excessive wine on the weekends isn't a problem; it's a solution for relaxing after a stressful week. Eating at night isn't the problem; it's the solution to a tightly wound day.
An Exercise In The Freedom of Surrendering
Going "off-track" reflects a need for a release from restriction. It's the body asserting its will about a desire for a lighter, freer life. Once the craving for freedom is satisfied, a relaxed way of eating follows naturally; it's always best to bet on the wisdom of your body versus a charismatic diet guru.
This holiday season use a journal as a "Holiday Control Inventory." In this inventory, list the items in your life that you are trying to control. Include everything from how you look in your jeans from last winter to the emotional baggage of how food makes you feel. Identify the easiest thing to work through and surrender to it.
One example for me is striking a balance between visiting parents and in-laws who both live out of town. Since I don't live in the same town as either, there is a considerable amount of travel in a condensed period to see everyone. To accommodate the stressors of making everyone happy and staying sane during the holidays, I pad my travel schedule so that I'm not exhausted for weeklong stretches at a time. This reduces stress and my family as well as my husband's family understands -- making this solution a no-brainer.
It's important to note that surrendering doesn't mean weakness or being passive. It's the opposite. It's leaning into the problems you have -- the process itself transforming you into a stronger, more confident person. Your source of vulnerability becomes a source of courage and knowing. Control arrives through wisdom. The lightness you were genuinely after in the first place with your diet and nutritional success unfolds. What's healthier than that?
I wish you a holiday season of non-descript dieting rules with distinctive results.