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Holiday Over-Eating, Anyone?

“It’s only 1 day till Thanksgiving. I wonder how much I’m going to over-eat.”

Yeah, I said that in 1990. Over-eating was a given – that’s what I was taught Thanksgiving was all about – feasting! (Well . . . and watching football in a full-bellied, catatonic state. I lived in Ohio at the time.)

Eating was part of showing your gratitude (… yeah, somehow I accepted that as making sense.) But regardless, for myself, I always wondered how much “damage” I’d do. Weight has always been an issue for me, and food has my nemesis. And, in that regard, holidays were evil.

As a kid, I expected to stuff myself. As a young woman I shifted into angsting over wanting the food but not my fat. My next shift was decades later when as a meditating mindfulness enthusiast, I found the holidays to be the playing field where I could see how good my skills were.

I’ve been told of master meditation teachers in India who would make their students meditate in a train station – encouraging them to find samadhi in challenging situations. Well, nothing was more challenging – especially in the over-eating-but-watching-your-weight category – than the holidays with family. 😎 If the food didn’t make you want to gorge, surely something a family member said (or didn’t say) could drive you to an extra helping of pie or potatoes.

And if I made it through a family thanksgiving or holiday meal feeling good about myself and what I ate, that was a huge success! I’d give myself internal “high 5’s” – as if I’d made it down the rapids without capsizing.

In the past decade or so, I’ve noticed that another shift has been slowly taking place. There is now more ease, more fun, and . . . space. Space? Well, yeah – like an openness that creates room for compassion (for myself & others), for opening to new ideas (and letting go of old goals, lists, and judgments), and an honest desire to connect with others - and enjoy the connection – and the food – more than I had previously considered possible.

In the same way that the holidays had been the ultimate obstacle course to test my mindfulness skills, now they seem to be a unique opportunity to connect with loved ones in a quality way – to find out what the kids are doing, to meet new girlfriends/boyfriends, to hear of changing ambitions, jobs or world views. I now eat up the stories, the growth, the sharing, the laughter – and it’s as good as any piece of pie (and has a lot less calories.)

So yes, in writing this, I’ve been reflecting and realizing that my enjoyment and satisfaction from holiday gatherings is easily 10 times what it used to be – and my suffering is easily 1/10th.

Do I eat food I never normally would? Yes! Of course! And rather than angsting – it’s part of the fun! I let that big holiday meal be the only one of the day, make sure I’m hydrated – and then enjoy all that lovely food that I’d never come in contact with otherwise – often made by loved ones who want to know you liked it. (No pressure.)

So now, instead of wanting to shovel it into my body, I want to taste it – I want to detect the flavors, textures, amount of spice or sweet – and I only need 2-3 bites to do that. So I end up filling my plate with a quantity of about 130% of what I’d normally eat (if I were eating a full meal) – but it’s filled with lots of little tastings of everything – that I enjoy more than if I had a whole scoop of anything. I appreciate and savor and, yes, enjoy that great food. Oh, it’s so much fun! And not only do I get more enjoyment from the variety – if anyone made a dish and wants to know how I liked it – I’ve got an answer!

It’s an evolving relationship to food & eating (that the holidays just make more fun) that will, I’m sure, continue to evolve.

I’m going to share, over the next 5 weeks, simple strategies and shifts of perspective with the holiday eating process, and if anything resonates with you – or if any tip proves helpful – please let me know.

We’re all going through this holiday season together. No matter what holidays we celebrate, we are likely to be gathering with family & friends – and eating lots of food. My goal is that we enjoy every morsel of it.

**Check out our "Rewiring Eating Habit Patterns" workshop starting in early January 2019.

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