It’s the last weekend before Christmas, and I’m doing okay. I’m exercising, and I’m happy with what I’m eating. I’m not going to say I’m ‘being good’, because I believe phrases like that are a huge part of the problem. Food is food, it should not be given moral value. Expressions such as being good, being naughty, deserving a treat, when applied to food, all serve to complicate and confuse the act of eating, so that it becomes something other than nourishing and fuelling our bodies. The same goes for giving food as a reward, particularly during childhood. Eat your greens (lovely delicious vegetables) and you can have pudding, do well in your spelling test and you can have some sweets; statements like this reinforce the idea that certain foods are special. Certain foods are for the deserving. Certain foods have a value beyond how well they nourish your body. And, strangely, these foods are often the least nutritionally valuable.
And this time of year, there is an awful lot of tasty, rich, delicious food around. Food that is highly palatable, full of calories, fat, salt and/or sugar. And, above all, food that is special. I’ve worked hard this year establishing new attitudes and routines around food. I don’t want to let these routines go, but I also won’t want to miss out on Christmas. I realise that I’ve been conditioned over the years to think that some sort of letting go and indulging is necessary to the enjoyment of Christmas. There is also the social expectation that we should join in with overeating – as if everyone else’s enjoyment depends on what we eat.
And so, I question myself: can I enjoy Christmas if I decide to stick to my eating plan? Will I even be able to stick to my plan? Am I strong enough? I worry; am I just afraid of letting go? If I don’t stay strong over Christmas, will I descend back into an uncontrollable cycle of overeating and weight gain?
What I need to remember is, of course, that food is just food. I’ve found over the past year that I can eat whatever I want and lose weight – because I have learnt to want different things. I will trust myself to want the right things over Christmas. And if I want to eat a bit more on Christmas day, that’s fine too.
In the past, Christmas day has started with shortbread, chocolate, and a glass of something alcoholic. The eating carried on all day, so that by the time Christmas dinner was ready, I couldn’t face it. By bedtime, I would feel sick, irritable, and wiped out. If you ask me, that doesn’t sound like fun. This year, I’m making different choices. Christmas day will begin with a parkrun. I plan to make intelligent food choices that make me feel nourished physically, mentally and emotionally. I plan to enjoy my day.
I don’t want to be a misery over Christmas. I want to enjoy a special meal with my family. But I also intend to be in control of my own choices. I’m not eating to please anyone else. I’m also absolutely not going to feel guilty if I decide to eat a little more than I usually do.
Whatever you decide to eat over Christmas, it’s your choice. Enjoy, and remember, it’s just food. You’re not being naughty, you’re not being good. You’re just eating, that’s all.
Merry Christmas and a have happy, healthy, New Year.