It is well documented that the holidays are a stressful time of year—even when we’re not approaching the apex of a global pandemic. And as a realistic wellness company, we have a lot of thoughts about that.
To be specific we are pro-donut, non-diet, anti-racist community wellness company called TRILUNA. Talking about mental health is one of our favorite topics so the holidays are a particularly active time of year for us.
If the word wellness freaked you out and you’re currently prepping yourself for a lecture about not eating too much pie or making sure you don’t gain the “holiday 15” let’s do something first: STOP. Stop prepping. Stop preparing to get defensive about your holiday habits. You can release the knot of guilt at the back of your throat.
We’re not that kind of wellness. We believe that there is true nourishment in food enjoyed with friends and family regardless of what it is. We’re more concerned about your mental health than your steps. And we couldn’t care less about your weight. We care about you.
So grab one of those fancy new hot chocolate bombs everyone is feverishly pinning to their Pinterest boards or a spiced hot toddy and settle in. Let’s get real about avoiding holiday BS and get you prepped and ready to deal with the stress that will inevitably pop up big and crusty like your aunt’s famous chicken pot pie.
First things first, let’s talk about the most common holiday stressor and what you can do about it: FOOD GUILT.
For the most part the holidays are chock-full of delicious food, homemade with love and intended to nourish both body and spirit. And yet we spend most of our holiday admonishing ourselves for “being bad” with our food choices which puts us into a cycle of guilt that is ultimately as bad for our physical health as it is for our mental health. If a piece of pumpkin pie throws you into a spiral of regret, then it might be time to have a gentle discussion about the potentially disordered eating habits that may require some further investigation.
In fact, food can be a coping mechanism for dealing with stress as can be meditation, long walks, or removing yourself from unhealthy conversations. In one of my favorite articles, “Go Ahead. Eat Your Holiday Feelings” from 2019, anti-diet author and dietician Christy Harrison says, “Eating emotionally, which conventional wisdom says is dysfunctional and even pathological, is actually just a normal part of being human. We don’t turn to food in response to negative feelings because we’re broken or out of control, or because food is addictive. We do it because it’s one of many ways in which we (even the most balanced eaters) cope, and in the grand scheme of things, it’s a pretty harmless one.
We should embrace eating in response to our feelings — pleasure, excitement, sadness and, yes, that special brand of family-inspired stress — at Thanksgiving, and all year long.”
Food has no intrinsic moral value. Your pumpkin pie has not committed a crime, not robbed a bank, or made a racist comment at the dinner table. It has no moral value and as a result you cannot gain morality points or lose them as a result of eating that food. You cannot be bad for eating pumpkin pie. Gaining weight is not a moral failure.
If you take one piece of wellness advice this year, one thing you can carry into the holiday season and the new year we hope it is this: grace. The act of extending grace to yourself is a practice. It looks like eating the second piece of pie and muttering to yourself, “I’m so bad…” remembering then that you are, in fact, not so bad. And taking a few deep breaths to remove yourself from the energy of that thought.
What if this holiday we ate what we wanted to eat. We didn’t eat what we didn’t want to eat. And we did so without conferring a morality on to ourselves as a result either way.
This is a long journey and it will require a lot of unlearning. If you’re curious about learning more about what a life without dieting might look like we recommend picking up “Body Respect” by Lucy Aphramore and Lindo Bacon (formerly Linda). It’s a wonderful jumping off point and you’ll unlearn so much of what you thought you knew about the relationship between health and weight (for example: Did you know that the BMI is actually just BS?).
If you’re realizing that you may need some extra help while on this journey we recommend reaching out to an anti-diet dietician in your area, here in Nashville we love Nashville Nutrition Partners. And if you just want to learn more in a more organized way we highly recommend Christy Harrison’s workshop, “Intuitive Eating Fundamentals.” And, of course, if you’re looking for a non-diet holiday gift our “Downdog to Donuts” Gift Box might be just the ticket.
The last thing we will leave you with is “The Intuitive Eaters Bill of rights” by Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD.
● You have the right to savor your meal, without cajoling or judgment, and without discussion of calories eaten or the amount of exercise needed to burn off said calories.
● You have the right to enjoy second servings without apology.
● You have the right to honor your fullness, even if that means saying “No thank you” to dessert or a second helping of food.
● It is not your responsibility to make someone happy by overeating, even if it took hours to prepare a specialty holiday dish.
● You have the right to say “No thank you” without explanation when offered more food.
● You have the right to stick to your original answer of “No,” even if you are asked multiple times. Just calmly and politely repeat “No, thank you, really.”
● You have the right to eat pumpkin pie for breakfast.
We wish you a happy, food-guilt-free, and full-of-self-grace holiday season.