'Tis the Season: Navigating the Holidays and Food

"It's the most wonderful time of the year...."

It's no secret that the holiday season is upon us. The snow is falling, my fingers are frozen from the cold weather, and Christmas songs are playing on the radio! This is one of my favourite times of the year! This time of the year allows us to spend time with those we love and count our blessings.

Another important part about this season is the food. Yup, there's no shortage of Christmas sugar cookies, turkey, mashed potatoes, Yule logs, fruit cake, eggnog, stuffing, and more. Sounds delicious, right? It sure does to me! Food is an important part of our lives. It provides us with nourishment, energy, and pleasure. It also allows us to be social and enjoy shopping for it, preparing and serving, or eating it with others. But as great (and yummy) food is, it's equally important to consider our own attitudes about food during this season.

For someone with an eating disorder, this time of the year can be extremely stressful. The emphasis on food can be daunting and scary. When I was sick, I dreaded this time because I would have to listen to guests talking about how much weight they would put on during Christmas. I would sit in fear as I stared at the mountains of food displays at parties. I cringed as I heard about people's diet plans for the new year. I squirmed as I saw advertisements about eating vegetables for dessert (instead of traditional cookies or cake) after Christmas dinner. I hated how food was always the focus of everything. It terrified me and made me more self-conscious. And the ED thoughts got louder and stronger as I cried myself to sleep.

Now that I'm recovered (thank you, God!) I can enjoy the holiday season - food included. But my attitudes have changed. And so have those of family member and friends. We've learned that food is to be enjoyed and cherished, but not in a gluttonous way. What does this mean? It means that we
have a delicious Christmas dinner, but we don't skip lunch to do so. We have dessert after our meal. We don't talk about weight, calories, or diets. We pray before our meals, realizing that others around the world may not be as fortunate as we are. We have heart-felt and interesting discussions at meals, topics ranging anywhere from the unpredictable weather to our favourite books. We set the table with Christmas table cloths and flowers. We also make heart-warning, delicious meals. But we don't 'over do it'. Each person can serve him or herself, without reviewing or giving any comments about someone else's plate. There is a variety of food on the table, but not so much that it becomes
overwhelming. Everyone in the family knows now not to label food as 'good' or 'bad', and so we all eat a bit of everything without stuffing ourselves sick. We also plan a relaxing and fun-filled Christmas Day that isn't simply about the food. We play games, watch movies, sing songs, talk, count our blessings, go to church, etc.

Even if you don't know someone who is suffering from an ED, it's a good idea to adopt these tips and strategies during the holiday season (and always!). Learning to practice and model healthy eating behaviours is critical. Avoiding labeling food as good or bad, eating everything in moderation, and avoiding 'fat and diet' talk is essential. When you do this, you will feel better about yourself. And you'll become more mindful of how lucky we are to actually have food on our plates. You'll also realize how much more enjoyable food and social gatherings are when there isn't emphasis on the food. Don't get me wrong - food is important and is a part of our everyday lives! But learning how to approach food in a healthy way is crucial.

This holiday season, let's try to avoid talking about weight and diets. Let's avoid commenting on how much we ate and how much others are. Let's stop making elaborate meals 'for show' but not allowing ourselves to enjoy a sugar cookie after dinner. Let's take the time to enjoy our meals and engage in meaningful conversations. Let's cook and eat all foods in moderation. Let's enjoy a holiday season that's full of Christmas cheer, warm wishes, friendly company, exciting stories, religious traditions, surprising gifts, and thankful hearts. And of course, "...later we'll have some pumpkin pie and do some caroling!". (Okay, so I don't quite like pumpkin pie. But I'll definitely take chocolate pie. May I should write my own Christmas song! What about: "We wish you a Merry Christmas, we wish you a Merry Christmas, we wish you a Merry Christmas, and a happy new year! Now bring us some chocolate cookies, now bring us some chocolate cookies, now bring us some chocolate cookies, and leave them right here!")
No? Oh well. I tried. This is why I'm a book author, not a song-writer! But hey, what can I say? Even the smartest cookies know that writing takes some MACadamia. Okay. Now I'm running out of food jokes, so i guess I'll just have to wing it! (Get it? WING it? HAHAHAHA. Okay. Seriously. That was the last one. I'm way too hyper now. Must've been all that chocolate. Lettuce move on to the end of this post!).

From my heart to yours, please enjoy this holiday season and all the fun, delicious, exciting, and traditional things it has to offer!


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