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Conscious Indulgence

Every year around this time, I’m requested to write an article or short blurb on how to navigate eating during the holidays. Common requests are how to make desserts healthier or lower calorie, how to prevent weight gain during the holidays and so on. While I’m happy to address all of the above, and while I think there are certainly nuggets of wisdom in addressing them, I want to consider eating during the holidays through a different lens. Isn’t that what we Integral Chicks do, anyway?

I just finished reading Portia De Rossi’s Unbearable Lightness. I had started reading it over a year ago, but had to put it down because it became unbearable to read. She was painfully self-oppressive and hateful, and each page progressively sucked the daylight out of me. Upon reflection, I think I wasn’t in the space to read anything heavier than my Oxygen magazine. Last weekend I plucked her book off my shelf and blew through it, savoring the rawness and detail with which she shared her incredible battle with anorexia and bulimia.

While I could go in so many directions to touch upon eating over the holidays, I’d like to play with one of De Rossi’s quotes highlighting her insight on bulimia.

“If it were going to be available to me anytime, why eat like it was the last time I’d ever taste it?”

While many of you may have never experienced an urgency or impulsive current of energy around food while at a holiday eating event (seriously- eating event is the vibe of a lot of holiday gatherings, yes?), this blog will hopefully speak to some of you. And, I’m going to request that you share your experiences in response to this blog if you are part of that some!

De Rossi’s simple quote could easily get lost in the midst of her many others addressing her recovery. This one in particular, I think, has a lot of weight. It touches on the experiences of scarcity and restriction. These, when coupled with stressors of holidays (however that may manifest for someone) can lead to interesting eating patterns. The smorgasbord of desserts and savory foods is a novelty, and can be a drive to eat as much as possible in response to the subtle internal elbowing that this is, in Portia’s words “the last time [you’ll] ever taste it.” Higher consciousness is not always plugged in here, and over-eating and often under-enjoying food commences.

For other people that view these foods as bad or unhealthy, restriction usually keeps certain foods off the plate. Now, enter the cheese platters, pies and cookies, and that which never crosses the lips becomes irresistible. As in the case of the scarcity experience, restriction in the face of abundance often leads to over-consuming and under-enjoying, an undercurrent of guilt fully breaching when eating is over.

Alcohol is almost always in the mix during the holidays, to boot. Let’s throw that into the mix and we now have restriction, under the influence, in the presence of abundance. Is this familiar at all? Is there a different “cocktail” of experiences that show up for you during the holidays?

This blog, perhaps more than anything else, is an inquiry. Before we enter the holidays, it might be an interesting little experiment to ask the following questions. Am I aware of any ways I currently restrict my eating? What is my reasoning if I do? Do I ever find myself over-eating a food that I normally consider off limits for one reason or another? Does my relationship to food or how I eat tend to shape shift at all during the holidays?

From my experience with clients, it seems that a lot of over-consuming and under-enjoying is a wedding between patterns of restriction or perceived scarcity and the attempt to soothe and feed our hearts through our mouths. As mentioned earlier, the holidays can be difficult for many folks for various reasons, and heart hunger can easily take the reigns. The dance between heart hunger, restrictive eating patterns and/or a sense of scarcity is worth your curiosity. Does this dance ever inhabit you?

My wish for you this holiday season is to have your heart fully fed and satiated by those you commune with. My wish is that your tummies are fabulously satisfied by the foods that speak to you, and that you respect yourself and your body by listening for the cues that its needs have been met. The majority of us are incredibly blessed to know that there will be another opportunity to eat a meal later on, and that eating just what our bodies need now is perfectly OK.

Like I said, I’m hoping this blog will be a discussion piece. I’m forever a student, savoring the precious experiences you share, allowing them to deepen my appreciation for the complexity and awesomeness of our relationships with food.

Happiest Thanksgiving. Grateful for you.

What’s Hot for Em Right Now…


Currently Reading: Rob McNamara’s forthcoming wicked book

Practice Focus: Pluggin’ back into Ever-Present Awareness.

Currently Watching: The Today Show

Currently Listening To: Frou Frou: Details

Shadow Element or Emotion Discovered While Writing This: The urgency/need to nail it.
Link of the Week: Unraveled Word

Em E. Biever is a Boston-based dietitian, sharing her passion and expertise in sports nutrition, oncology nutrition, and weight management through her private practice, Integralfuel, and her work at the Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center.

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