Christmas is supposed to be one of the most joyful and relaxing times of the year…
Even with running around between family houses, making sure you’ve got your presents wrapped and pavlova decorated on time – there’s still a lot of excitement that exceeds those small stressors
But for some people, including myself, Christmas brings on a lot of anxiety around eating and food choices
I used the HATE Christman lunch because I felt had no control with what I was consuming and there were always expectations of me to eat everything given to me
I thought if I didn’t then I was a bad daughter, friend or family member and I would offend the person who made it
For a few years when I was starting my journey into training, I went really strict with every meal, including Christmas
No desert, no chocolate, no stuffing in my meat, no potato bake.
Everything was low salt, low sugar, whole foods. Extremely boring
And I was miserable.
Side note: a few years after eating like this I started having postural hypotension (basically getting a big blood pressure drop when I stood up where I got very dizzy and had blurred vision for a few seconds) more and more regularly. Went to a heart specialist for it and everything. Turns out I needed to have MORE salt.
I had a nutrition coach for a year or so (who was amazing for helping my relationship with food) who told me “It’s one day of the year, the calories you eat on this day won’t make you ‘gain fat’ from one meal”
I couldn’t wrap my head around not counting everything I was eating that day or being mindful of portion sizes but being given that small freedom sent me into the opposite direction where I felt a lot of urgency around need to eat everything that day because the following day I was going to be back on track
You can bet I went back and track everything I ate that day to make sure I wasn’t over my budget
Then I started Strongman where I was in a weight class sport and I was trying to stay under a certain body weight over Christmas and the holidays where I had to be mindful once again of what I was eating as I had a fair bit of weight to lose
Again, I was in a cycle of meals consuming my everything thought and worry about my weight on the scale
The following year I jumped up a weight class and this made a huge difference in how I was approaching food as I was now eating to put on muscle and sustain my body for the training I was doing
My mindset was about FUELING my body rather than restricting it and letting myself enjoy all types of food (even salt!) so I began to feel less stress around going to events where I didn’t know what I’d be eating
But it’s not until this year that I’ve noticed while I still have goals around my performance and body composition, I actually feel a lot more freedom around my choices because I allow myself to eat food I enjoy throughout the year but I also now actually understand the science and from my past experiences that one meal will not ‘undo the hard work you’ve done’ or gain fat
I still experience some anxiety around how much I eat as I am aware that a sense of urgency can creep up on me at these events but I have to remind myself that food will always be there and the experiences on those days are what makes the food more special
I’m still working on my complex relationship with food, and that’s ok.
And it’s ok if you are too.
But the important thing is that we are trying.
That’s all you can do. Be grateful to yourself for that.
Every Christmas from here will be a little bit better than the last.