If you read this till the end, it will all make more sense.
Here at The Mindful Body we don’t like things that are fast and rushed.
So, gift yourself with 5 minutes of your time and enjoy the Christmas reading!
“What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas … perhaps … means a little bit more!.” —
Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas
A Christmas story
It’s Christmas, I’m 26, and as it happened for many years, I am sitting at the table with my family and friends for the Christmas lunch.
I can’t stop munching and picking from one side to the other of the table. While I eat, I observe the orderly and composed way in which the others sitting at the table are eating. The way they chat cheerfully between each course and bite. Instead, I do nothing but eat, I’m just too busy trying not to miss anything on the table.
The thought that surely others will notice me (and maybe comment). I feel ashamed that they might see what and how much I’m eating, while they are always much more sober than me in their choices at the Christmas table.
Deep inside, I really hope they don’t notice anything, while they’re busy talking, but I know it’s impossible for them not to notice. That’s ok. I still eat because “I just can’t help not to. It’s bigger than me!”.
The table is beautiful, colorful, set for a party. A feast for the eyes. But for me it’s only about eating as much as possible. Take advantage now that all this tasty stuff is available.
Because it is now or never.
Then comes that moment. The heaviness of the body, of the stomach stretched to the limit, which grows by the minute. I start to feel slightly uncomfortable, until I am sick and I need to find my way to the sofa as soon as possible. Anyone else continues to sit at the table chatting.
I begin to think about how many calories I may have ingested. Impossible to calculate. Too many.
And tomorrow? What should I do? Skip breakfast? Well, maybe it’s best to skip all meals so I can get myself right. And then from there, I can get back on track completely, because this year I am determined. Everything has to change.
This is a portrait of many of my Christmases as a teenager, young adult and adult.
Those years where I had managed to lose some weight were still similar, except for the fact that the anxiety about the calories eaten was multiplied by a thousand and the sense of guilt at the end of lunch infinitely greater. The resolution for the new year around the corner was even more challenging.
There is one thing that all those Christmases have in common: the ‘non-presence’ and the ‘non-participation’.
I was never really there to enjoy the moment and the company. Chats and laughter. Because I was always busy with food or with the thought of food. Or too full, with food or guilt.
The game changer
Then I discovered the gift of being present, of mindfulness. It was an attraction at first sight, but not love at first sight.
It took time, but I eventually learned to enjoy the ability to slow down and give myself time to do things, especially to eat.
Many things have changed since then.
Today.there is a lot more gray hair on my head and a few significant people greatly missed at that Christmas table.
But a beautiful thing happened. Since then I have always given myself the best gift I can put under my tree. The gift of slowing down and savoring the moment, regardless of the circumstances.
With mindfulness, I realized that I didn’t like feeling full beyond the limit at Christmas, and any other days of the year. It is not pleasant for me, and it does not allow me to fully experience the moment.
If anything, it takes something away from me. The serenity and the joy of just being there, as I want.
You just have to give it to yourself. You don’t have to want it, but to donate to yourself the gift of slowing down and truly savoring, food and all the rest.
It has allowed me to strip myself of the need to be and to feel a certain way; of having to be happy and content ‘because it’s Christmas’, of having to worry about buying, of always saying yes to every invitation, to every food offered by the guest even when there is just no space left in my stomach.
I gave myself the chance to find my own rhythm and pace, to stop worrying about making Christmas be and feel a certain way and always have a beautiful, shiny and sparkly look.
Nothing can beat the Christmases of my childhood, but certainly those of the last 3/4 years have been just the way I wanted them.
I know you expected the usual list with 5 or 6 points on what to do or not to do at the table for Christmas and instead you ended up reading a story.
Well, very good for you if you have come this far in reading, because I feel like now I owe you a couple of tips. Although they don’t sound like the ones you’ve probably read or heard around in the last few days on social media or a magazine.
Savor the experience, not just the food.
Observe with your eyes and all the other senses. Enjoy the food and the nicely set table even before you start eating.
Dwell on each detail. The colors, the scents, maybe the noises of the kitchen while you prepare or serve many good dishes.
They are food for the body but also food for the soul and there is no reason to label any food as good or a bad food on the basis of their nutritional value.
Every food (yes, you read that right, every!) can be part of our food experience, at Christmas and every other day of the year.
Promise yourself, starting this Christmas, to savor them without feeling guilty, dedicating them an extra moment, instead of going from one to the other in a compulsive and anxious way.
Slow down and let your body guide your choices.
Very important: You and you alone decide what you want and how much you want for yourself and your body.
You don’t need the nutrition plan or the app to check calories this Christmas. Again, slow down and notice, letting your body tell you whether you want it or not.
It may happen (indeed it is quite likely!) that despite your commitment to slow down and listen to yourself a little more, you will still eat more than usual or past your comfortable sense of fullness.
It’s ok. Absolutely normal.
Remember that it is easier to listen to your body when you get in the habit of doing it for a while. It takes practice and patience.
So here applies the same advice: give yourself time and be kind to yourself.
A few days at Christmas will not be enough. It will take longer.
The important thing is that you are starting. You are on the right path.
Let go of unsolicited comments about you or your body.
At Christmas we are subjected to many different sensory stimuli, especially at the table, where noise, many colors, music, chatter and many more elements on the table than usual.
For some of you, this scenario is also accompanied by fear of judgment or uncomfortable questions from a relative or friend who you might not have seen for a while. A question or comment that comes at an inopportune time or just as you are trying to bring more awareness to food and the moment.
It makes me think of the typical question I used to get:
“So, what about work?” in the periods when I happened to be unemployed.
“I saw you put on a few pounds. What happened?“.
This type of remarks coming from others can feel like staggers and ruin your efforts, let alone your self-esteem.
It is up to you. You can decide to let go of other people’s judgment.
As I write, I’m thinking that maybe this year it will be different. There will be fewer opportunities to receive free judgments of this type, because the restrictions related to Covid-19 will lead us to gather in smaller groups.
But if it does happen, know that you can return the comments back to the sender and kindly point out that the question is not welcome. Just say, for example, that there are so many other topics to talk about.
You don’t need to absorb the comment like a sponge and let it grow on you.
This year you are giving yourself the gift of slowing down (remember?) so you can make this Christmas more like you want it and less like others want it for you.
The first Christmas, perhaps, in the many years, in which you turn off the autopilot and let YOU guide yourself where you want to be.
Merry Christmas to you!