The Holidays Are For Enjoying, Not Worrying
Whether you’re vegan, vegan-curious, or on that yummy see-food plan, this is the meditation you need to get through the year-end gracefully.
The modern holiday season is full of contradictions. We’re supposed to celebrate and reflect on the past year, but we usually spend the season stressed out. We’re inundated with messages of peace and goodwill toward one another, but we get into brawls over discounted electronics on Black Friday.
We’re encouraged to spend time with family and friends, but many of those gatherings are high-pressure and leave us sad, angry, or more disconnected than we were before. Of all the conflicting messages we receive around this time of year, one of the most prevalent ones, particularly for women, is about what we should and should not put into our bodies.
The holidays are prime time for magazines, blogs, and cooking shows to showcase their fattiest, saltiest, sweetest, and most indulgent offerings, and why shouldn’t they? If we’re celebrating, we should bust out the best for our taste buds.
The problem arises when just as you’re about to head to the kitchen to whip up a pecan pie, you’re hit with a commercial, article, or print ad telling you to pump the breaks. Skimp on the cheese this season. Replace your cookies with dried fruits (if any sweets). Avoid the buffet table at all costs to stay on track with your weight loss goals.
The underlying message is that if you’re not happy with your body, you haven’t earned the privilege to be…happy?
The truth is that we should all be healthier. The U.S., in particular, struggles with high rates of heart disease, high blood pressure, and other conditions that are linked to weight, stress level, lack of exercise, and other unhealthy factors.
We should all make choices to mitigate our meat consumption (for the environment as well), learn how to love vegetables, and get up and move for at least a couple of hours at a time, daily. It doesn’t matter what you weigh now or how close you come to “traditional” beauty norms. We should all be working to be healthier than we are now.
Period. End of story.
With that said, your current weight, or your ideal weight, or whatever number is stuck in your brain doesn’t have to dictate what you eat during Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, New Years or any number of occasions during the holiday season, because it’s a season.
The events we celebrate are set apart to represent the best of what we can offer each other, and that includes food and drink. We didn’t design rum cake to be eaten every day (unfortunately) and it’s unfair for us to tell ourselves, or worse, tell others, that physical attributes determine who gets to enjoy food on special occasions and who should be disciplined at all times.
Food is not about punishment and reward. Food is about nourishment and appreciation for the resources we have. That entails making thoughtful decisions about what we eat, ensuring that we don’t gorge ourselves to the point of illness or waste, or deprive ourselves to the point of starvation and depression.
This holiday season, if you worry that your health efforts will come undone with a bite of cracker toffee (Have you tasted that goodness?), examine the pride you have in yourself and your body right now, exactly as it is. There’s a good chance that if you’re ashamed of the way you look, your reservations about treating yourself are tied to that shame.
Friends, shame never moved anyone forward from anything, at least not in a lasting and positive way. Self-love, self-worth, and ownership of our bodies propel us to make better decisions with more confidence. That includes the decisions to become stronger, less stressed, and more energetic, as well as the decisions to treat ourselves to port wine, caramel chocolates and gooey cream cheese pumpkin cake.
The bottom line is that you, (and sometimes your trusted doctor) determine what nourishes your body, what brings you joy, and what pushes you over the edge to the point that you feel sick, whether you’re working out or eating candy.
If you’re feeling great going into this season and think that puff pastry will make you feel gross in ways that aren’t worth it, power to you! Chow down on your keto snacks and party on. But if you’ve been craving pigs in a blanket all year and the only thing holding you back is the little voice that says, “You haven’t earned that” tell the mental voice (or even the real person voice) what time their stuff needs to be out of your apartment.
Negative people, including you, will bring you down whether you’re eating cake or carrot sticks. Positive people, including you, will help you enjoy baked brie in all of its melty glory, then wake up the next day and take a long walk, eat a nourishing breakfast, and admire the things you love about yourself and the life you’ve built.
This season, dwell on what matters. Peace with yourself and with others, hope for the future, and love, in all of its beautiful complexity. (And cheese straws. Have you tried cheese straws?)
She blogs about food and traveling at The Heart and the Hunger, cooks almost entirely without recipes, and lives with her husband, a lanky dog, and a surly cat in Austin, Texas. Connect with her online @GreenleafBookGr and @wellspiritpress, or on her personal Instagram, @heart_and_hunger.
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