Welcome to the first post of the 12 Days of Christmas project! (Oh – and a very merry Christmas to you too!) So, here’s the deal. Over the next 12 days, I’ll be blogging about how to “stay on track” over the festive period (you can get the full low-down on what I mean by staying on track and how it’s going to work here:
“But it’s only the 24th December and it’s not the 1st Day of Christmas until tomorrow!” I hear you shouting. That’s right, it is – and sometimes it’s good to open presents early so that you can make sure that they are all ready for use on Christmas Day. (I’m just making sure you have the metaphorical batteries, plugs and adaptors in place to have the full festive fun tomorrow :))
Okay, brace yourself. Here comes Top Tip Number 1 for your staying on track over the Christmas period :
Give yourself full permission to enjoy the festive food you’d really like to be having. Take full pleasure in eating and in the ritual of sharing food. Yes. You read that right. If you want to have turkey with all the trimmings, goose with all the glitter or pheasant with all the finery – go right ahead and have it. The thing is, most of us who have struggled with diets in the past know that this can be a pretty grim time of year if we feel that we have to stick to a set of diet rules (no matter what) and yet every inch of us wants to eat what everyone else is enjoying. Feelings of deprivation hang like an angry black cloud over festive gatherings – and it’s not just about the food, it’s also about missing out on all the associations linked with the food (l know that, for me, all my childhood Christmases are contained in a spoonful of my grandmother’s bread sauce :). Bread sauce IS Christmas.)
So. What if you didn’t have to feel deprived? What if you could go right on ahead and lap up the full pleasure of Christmas and “stay on track” by respecting your body’s natural signals? Do you want to know how to do that? Are you willing to experiment ? Are you in? Brilliant! Here’s what to do tomorrow (and relax. If you opened this “present” early, feel free to play and have fun with it straight away!)
1. Give yourself full permission to take pleasure in enjoying the food you would like to be eating. You might want to say it out loud while looking in a mirror, or write it down. Notice what feelings or thoughts come up, if any. Handle negative thoughts or feelings (such as guilt or “that’s me off the wagon”) by explaining to yourself :
1) Why it’s important for you to be able to enjoy eating festive food and to be able to feel that you are taking part an important ritual.
2) That you’ll be respecting your body’s signals in a way that has benefits for both your physical and emotional health.
2. Be present while you’re eating. Every time you eat, do the following :
0) Remind yourself that you have given yourself a full Pleasure Permit!
1) Ask yourself “Does this look good?” .What is it about the food that looks appealing?
2) Ask yourself “Does this smell good?” What is it about the aroma of the food that I find so appealing?
3) As you put the food into your mouth, ask yourself “Does this taste good?” Which flavours stand out? What does this food feel like in your mouth? What do you enjoy about the texture of this food?
4) As the food travels from your mouth and into your stomach, ask yourself “How am I experiencing this? Does this feel good?”
5) Chew slowly, savour every sensory aspect of the experience and rest between each mouthful, asking yourself “How satisfied am I already? Have I had enough?”
3. Eat only when you are experiencing FULL pleasure (you can eat whatever you want, as long as you are really enjoying it). If the food looks good, smells good, tastes good and feels good – that’s full pleasure and you can go ahead and eat until you are satisfied. If it’s not giving you full-on pleasure, put your knife and fork down and leave it.
4. Stop when you are SATISFIED rather than FULL. The feeling of being satisfied is usually a pleasurable one, easier to pay attention to when you are operating at SLOW speed! This is not about stopping at the point at which the seams are about to burst (which, for most of us, is not pleasurable at all), this is about continually tuning it to what your body is telling you. If it’s been a while since you’ve paid attention to your body’s signals, this step could be a little hit and miss to start with. However, the invitation is for you to pay exquisite attention to your body’s communications and see if you can work out the point at which you should put the knife and fork down (no matter what is left on your plate). Here’s a tip – feeling satisfied often comes well before the feeling of fullness :). I recommend you making a mental note of your evidence for feeling satisfied as the 12 Days of Christmas project progresses (you might want to ask yourself the questions “How do I know when I am satisfied?” “What’s going on in my body that lets me know I’m fully satisfied?”)
5. Be present to the fullness of the ritual – savour it all! Whether you are on your own or with friends and family, as you are eating, pay full attention to the other pleasurable aspects of the experience. Who/what is bringing fun to the table? Who/what is bringing peace? What is familiar about the festive ritual you are enjoying? What is new that is bringing you pleasure? What are the positive connections between you and others at the table? If you are on your own, what is pleasurable about connecting with yourself at this very moment? What pleasurable emotions are you feeling as you nourish yourself with the experience? Where do you feel them the most in your body? Ask yourself, what does the ritual of sharing food with myself and/or with others mean to me right now?
So that’s you – all set for the first day of Christmas! You’ll be learning a heap of stuff about your appetite and your body over the next 12 days : many people like to keep a journal of their experiences when undertaking a project like this and I’d really recommend this approach. (You might want to consider some of the following questions : What happened when you gave yourself full permission to eat what you wanted? Did any food you expected to be totally pleasurable actually turn out to be not so pleasurable at all? Did some foods taste good but not feel good? Do you know the difference between feeling satisfied and feeling full? What is the difference for you? Did some foods not actually taste how you “remembered” them tasting? What did you learn about your relationship with food, your body and the ritual of eating today?)
Please feel free to share your 1st Day of Christmas experiences by posting a comment. If you have any questions, leave them as a comment too and I’ll post an answer as soon as I can.
Your next “present” will arrive for unwrapping on the 26th December 🙂 In the meantime, focus on your own present and savour every pleasurable moment!
Right, that’s me – I’ve a turkey to roast and that bread sauce to make!
Gotta run 🙂
© Jane Talbot 2012