Over the holidays, I, like most other people, was surrounded by cookies!!
As a kid, that was one of my favorite parts of the holidays (except for getting presents, of course)! I’d sample a little of everything and enjoy every bite.
As an adult, it became one of my most feared parts of the holiday. I’d either eat everything in site and then berate myself for eating “bad” or I’d force myself not to eat any of it because I couldn’t trust that a little would be enough.
First, I’d binge on everything I saw because “Why not? I already screwed up today, why not just start over, tomorrow?” Then of course, I’d feel like shit afterwards. And I’d wake up the next morning feeling sick to my stomach and thinking I was out of control.
How did I fix that? I started to control everything!
I can remember literally bringing my own food to parties or even eating before parties so that I wouldn’t eat anything there. I was stuck in a never-ending battle of what I wanted to eat and what goal I wanted for my body. Damn! That took sooooooooo much mental energy! I am incredibly thankful for the huge changes in mindset that I’ve made over the years.
I no longer equate food with emotion. I no longer have negative feelings about myself after eating something sweet or “unhealthy”. I trust myself to know my body and what it needs.
Every Christmas, I actually ask my husband to try a new dessert recipe. This year: chocolate dipped coconut macaroons. Hello, delicious!! (He’s the baker in the family. If I bake, run!). My old self wouldn’t have been able to handle that.
Ten years ago, I would’ve literally either binged or abstained from eating any snacks. Now? Not a chance. I ate a macaroon, a brownie, and drank some wine and a glass of coquito (a traditional Puerto Rican “eggnog” type of drink with coconut, rum, and cinnamon). I enjoyed it all. And I felt absolutely no guilt. That didn’t happen overnight. It took quite a bit of time to shift my thinking. And I’d be lying if I said it was easy, because it’s not.
So how do you go about letting go of that dieter’s mindset?
For me, it all began with being focused on how I feel after I eat.
For example, I know now that when I eat lots of sugar, my body doesn’t react well. I get some swelling in my fingers. I feel tired. And I feel bloated. So…. I eat a lot less sugar!! Not because I am on a diet, but because it’s what helps me feel good. The mental shift was subtle.
And that’s the thing, I’m not going to give up all things sugary because the fact is that I enjoy them. Instead I adjust my behavior. I take preemptive measures (like drinking lots of water, getting in heavy weight workouts, and eating less starch during the day before I have my sweets).
Now, I mindfully think about how I feel while I eat.
I focus on flavor and richness while I chew. I enjoy my food. I stop eating when I feel satisfied, not when I’m “stuffed”. I no longer want the stomach ache that comes with over eating. And I love how a small portion of something can bring me the same satisfaction I used to believe had to come in excessive amounts.
So, this year on Christmas Eve, I made sure to get a good workout in early in the day. Working out brings me a great deal of energy. And I knew it would be a long day. Also, I made sure to drink lots of water because I knew I’d be drinking other things (like wine, my fave).
My family was getting together for dinner, so I kept my breakfast and lunch pretty light: veggie omelet with turkey sausage for breakfast and a protein shake for lunch (because I literally didn’t feel like chewing, lol). When it came time for dinner, I made sure to get a decent sized portion of protein and veggies, and I even added a small serving of lasagna. I had wine with my dinner and later had the coquito with my dessert. And I had a great time!
I couldn’t love my life the way that I do if I hadn’t made peace with my body, my mindset, my goals, and of course, food.
The main thing was that I had to stop the diet mentality.
Dieting puts you in a vicious cycle of losing weight, feeling great, gaining it back, feeling worse than when you started, and then starting a new diet. At some point, you have to break that cycle.
I’m grateful that I’ve found my way out: mindful eating. A way that allows me to enjoy life: food, friends, social interactions, and myself. It really doesn’t have to be all or nothing. It just has to be about you.