For a lot of people in the US, the last few weeks of the year are a time to celebrate secular and religious holidays. The upcoming weeks may be filled with food, stress, joy, and even some sadness. As we get busy celebrating the holidays, it can become easy to neglect our health while trying to do so much more. Yet keeping our health in tip top shape is probably what we need the most during these times. We need to ensure we are getting enough rest, moving our bodies, acknowledging our emotions, and eating foods that help us feel good. Nourishing our bodies makes us stronger so we can face whatever comes our way. It is not always easy to do, but making our health a priority is important. And while we all have that little voice in the back of our head guiding us, sometimes we need a gentle reminder to take care of our health and nourish our bodies – even when times are challenging.
Need a little guidance? Follow this three-step process to nourish your body (and spirit) at the dinner table:
Step 1: Figure out where this hunger coming from. Is it a physical hunger, as in stomach-growling-I-will-eat-the-sole-of this-shoe-hunger? Or is it an emotional hunger you need to fill. Asking yourself this very simple, yet complicated question is the first step to solving your food dilemma. A physical hunger is easy to squash – you eat and it is gone. However, that emotional hunger is often times multilayered, especially this time of year. Are you sad because you are not celebrating the way you anticipated? Are you stressed over what to cook or eat? Is someone special missing from the dinner table? These emotions can cause us to reach for foods we find comforting to soothe those unsetting emotions. So, before you dig in, channel your intuitive eating and find where the hunger is coming from to determine what or if to eat.
Step 2: Chose Accordingly. What are you going to choose to suppress the hunger — whether physical or emotional? Are you going to go all out at the dessert table? Start your meal with a salad? Plop a heaping spoonful of stuffing onto the plate? Maybe skipping food all together and go for a walk? Each choice we make can fill the void, whether it be an empty stomach or a vacant emotional connection. Choosing if food will help the situation and which food will make it better can be challenging especially when the body has an emotional need. Obviously, if it is physical hunger any food will do, but when it comes to satisfying feelings it may be a little trickier. Comfort foods are comforting. The connection to them gives them the ability to soothe whatever feeling came up. See if there is a way to fill that emotional emptiness that doesn’t involve food, like talking to a friend or reading a book before trying that apple pie that is eyeing you. Making the choice to fill up in another manner may be just as satisfying.
Step 3: Relish and Let the Guilt Dissolve. You made your choice. Whatever the reason is behind the food on your plate, enjoy it. Feast on it. There is no need to feel guilty or shameful for the choices you made. They served a purpose. Remember that shame in it of itself can cause health issues, so swimming in the shame you have mentally created can be detrimental to your overall health. That is no way to nourish your body. Let the guilt trip and shamefulness disappear. You had the third serving of mashed potatoes. You took the course of action that was necessary. Feel confident in your choice and remember that tomorrow is another day. What benefit do you get from dwelling on what should have been? As Elsa says (sings?) – let it go.