How to De-Stress Holiday Eating
I woke up in the middle of the night wondering what I wanted to share (too many ideas!), went back to sleep, and had a dream that answered my question.
I was in an old-style theatre and the actor, Tim Roth (Pulp Fiction, Lie to Me, etc.) walked into the room. I was the first person to spot him and went right over to greet him. But I realized I didn’t have my program for him to sign. Like a Tasmanian devil I went around trying to not only find a program, but MY program. Up and down stairs, down aisles, huffing and puffing, fuming, stressed out and tense. Where’s my program? I need my program!
I looked over at Tim and saw that he was surrounded by other people now. They were laughing and obviously enjoying themselves. Meanwhile, I’m stressed out and running around like a chicken with my head cut off instead of enjoying his company. I wanted the perfect autograph. In my dream, I never did get to connect with him, I missed out on the whole experience, which would likely have been amazing.
This can happen with food too. We’re so stressed that we miss out on the whole experience. We’re not connected to our bodies or other people, it’s almost like we’re somewhere else. We miss out on the enjoyment of the food and the experience that’s all around us.
Have you done this?
I remember many times when I finished a meal so quickly and didn’t feel satisfied. I wanted more, because my brain couldn’t register any satisfaction. It couldn’t because I wasn’t present in the moment, I was stressed. Most people know it takes about 20 mins for the brain to register fullness, but what about pleasure?
When we slow down, feel our butts in the chair, the air on our skin, the light around us, the people we’re surrounded by, we become present in the moment. Before we even start to eat, we have a much better chance of enjoying our food and easily stopping before we’re uncomfortable. Being present in the moment, aware of the sensations in our bodies, even if they’re uncomfortable, helps us shift into a less stressed, more connected physiology.
Why is this important?
When we do this, we’re more in charge of our eating. When stressed, our bodies can’t register simple pleasures, including the pleasure of food. In this state, it takes a lot more stimulus to register pleasure. Hello entire box of cookies! This is a survival mechanism that keeps us safe. If we’re in danger, we certainly don’t want to stop to enjoy the chocolate, we need to fight or flee. We need all our energies available to survive. In this state of stressed physiology, when we can’t register satiety, we want more and tend to overeat. Sometimes, the satisfaction and pleasure doesn’t ever arrive, but the discomfort and regret do.
My Great Grandmother was an incredible cook, and back then, real foods were the norm–not the exception. My Mom used to talk about the amazing meals she prepared. At family gatherings, the kids would lay down on the bed and moan and suffer the pain of stuffing themselves…once again.
Because I want you to enjoy holiday eating, feel satisfied and not suffer the consequences of eating more than your body wants, or the particular foods your body doesn’t want, here are some ideas. This can prevent cravings, dissolve stress, and in general, help you live a happy life.
Practice these tips to get present:
1–LOOK: Look around and notice your surroundings, look close and far and notice what’s there.
2–FEEL: Feel your body, your butt on the chair or your feet on the floor. Notice any body sensations, pressure, openness, tingling, etc.
3–EMBRACE: If there is any discomfort, stay with it, don’t push it away but notice it’s borders and give it space. If there is joy, feel that too, don’t squelch it. As you continue to notice and breathe, any uncomfortable sensations will likely shift to neutral given a few moments of your attention.
4–GIVE PERMISSION: Give yourself permission to experience pleasure. Your physiology is looking for pleasure, so experience all the ways you can feel pleasure even before you eat. The beauty of flowers, the feel of linens on the table, the smile of the person sitting across from you, the vibrant colors of food. Enjoy the simple things!
5–SLOW DOWN: Slow EVERYTHING down. Your brain wants everything NOW, it want’s you to move fast, eat fast, but this is the survival part of your brain. When we’re not truly in physical danger (being chased), but feeling stressed, our survival instincts can lead us astray with food.
6–TASTE: When you eat, notice the colors, the aromas and chew your food slowly. Taste all the flavors and sense the textures. This is how your brain gets the message that you’re eating. It starts preparing your body for digestion. When we eat too fast and don’t chew, we miss out on SO much.
7–CONNECT: Anytime during your practice, and when you’re comfortable doing so, interact with the people you’re with or the place your find yourself. Connect with those you feel drawn to and make eye contact, or at least notice your surroundings. Be present.
Note: When I work with women around their food cravings, they often remember special and profound moments where a particular food was shared with meaningful people in their lives. Later in life, they crave that particular food and don’t understand the irresistibly strong pull. They’ve simply been craving the feeling of connection in that special moment.
8–SENSE: Notice when you’re done, when your body has had enough, then move on to the next activity.
When you practice these tips, you will learn to let go of unwanted habits, to enjoy food and develop a happier relationship with food and your body. For it to work, though, you need to practice. It gets easier. It becomes habit and before you know it, you look forward to meals and the enjoyment and nourishment they provide. Worry and fear of overindulging become distant memories and you’re left being and feeling in charge of what you eat. I know it sounds easy. It is and it isn’t, because it takes practice and putting yourself first to carve out space for yourself is not easy for those who crave.
When you can make this practice a part of your life, you’ll find you start to trust your body. A whole new world opens up. You discover, you feel more safe in the world and at home in your body.
I’d love to know how this goes if you practice this. If you have any questions, EMAIL me and ask, I’m here to help.
Happy Thanksgiving if you’re in the United States! I’m grateful to you for being part of my community.
Yours in Health,