23 Dec Christmas Manifesto
I have a 10 part Manifesto on my website, here, that I love, and that I take great pride in. Most of us have strong feelings about food, learned habits and beliefs in relation to eating, and dietary stresses that we can’t easily shake off; the Manifesto reflects my professional encounters with food, food politics, and behaviours, and what Wild Healthy stands for.
Food can be a complicated terrain, and never more so than when big events like Christmas come round. In the last few weeks, I’ve held regular consultations with my clients and talked through things like ‘how to survive Christmas’. It’s an extreme starting point; the battle that can’t be lost; the fight that must continue; the resignation that old ‘weaknesses’ will raise their head.
So while I’ve written articles in the past about how to swap out sparkling water for gin and tonic without anyone knowing; about resisting temptation; about leaving off dressings, or removing bread baskets, this isn’t one of those posts. All those things have a place in the incremental, week to week efforts to maintain weightloss, or pursue health. But not here, and not over these next few days.
With Christmas, the focus can’t be on food, but on mindset. I can’t justify telling someone to bring their own food to a party, or turn down a homemade mince pie that their niece made. “Try just having one glass of prosecco, and water from then on”. Nah, man. I can’t say that. That clinical, dietetic approach makes me so mad, where a calorie is just a calorie, or the focus is solely on the food intake and not the reason behind the food intake. Where the pursuit of health and wellness is so rigid as to suck the joy out of every social interaction that involves food and drink. We could all write the damn rule book on optimum nutrition. Nutrition takes a backseat at this time of year, and your mindset is what is most important over the next couple of days.
Se here are the three tenets of the manifesto that apply to
Surviving Thriving at Christmas
5. Subscribe Not to Extremism, Faddism, Elitism or Disorderedism when it comes to thy food. Reach for your best, but to do not get blind-sided by a philosophy that pulls the joy and nurture out of the act of eating.
8. Share Thy Food, and thy stories, for dining together is a soulful act, and community is the glue that binds us together.
10. Neither Gluttony Nor Asceticism Shalt Be Thy Mantra. Thou shalt not over-indulge, but neither shalt thou resort to deprivation. Moderation is thine own best friend.
I want to return to these points in more detail as I go through my Making A Manifesto Blog Series, because this is a huge area of discussion. But for Christmas, here’s the deal.
If you have supportive people in your life who are like, ‘aw, yer one, with her lunchbox of hummus’, but its really only a dig and they’re otherwise on board, then bring your lunchbox of hummus.
If you find that your regular diet or pattern of eating is alienating you from your friends/family members, it might be worth a reassessment, or a compromise.
If you have refused food that was made for you, by people who care about you, that could be a problem.
If you eat the food that you would never usually eat, because it’s in opposition to your concept of healthy eating, and then you beat yourself up for a full day because you were weak and you’re a terrible person, that’s a problem.
If you have a condition that will deteriorate if you eat a certain food – gluten, eggs, nuts, shellfish, and their host of allergic and inflammatory responses, or a strong religious or political reason for not eating a certain food – stick to your plan, and hold onto the feeling of health and wellness that you’ve become accustomed to.
Otherwise, loosening your grip, and going with the flow, might serve you better than holding out.
Or it might not.
The point here is that you can’t blindly hold your corner without assessing its impact on your wider circle. Nor can you say ‘to hell with it’ and undo all the positive steps you’ve made throughout the last few months. Christmas is a time when we enter back into community, where the herd is more the focus than the individual. But if you can’t throw caution to the wind, without crippling yourself with guilt, then a moment of reflection is needed.
Your relationship to food needs constant assessment. Think of it like rock-climbing. The belay needs slack in order for you climb upwards. It needs tightened incase you fall backwards. Both are necessary for movement up and down, and to ensure you don’t perish. Your relationship to food is the same. We need boundaries to contain our health, but we need slack for constant readjustment, or we’ll just cling to a rock face forever, shouting ‘this is me, I’m grand here’.
Temptation will be there. You can fight it and be miserable. You can fight it and be strengthened and proud. You can give in and be miserable. You can give in and be relaxed about getting on track for the next meal or the next day. The common thread is your perception over what you’ve done. It’s not a simple switch for many, but again, the attempt has to at least be made, to see if you’re capable of being strict and content or relaxed and content. I’m not providing you with answers, or 5 tips to achieve blah blah blah. I’m outlining an important conversation that you need to have with yourself. Whatever action you take, you have to be content with it. I always say to my clients, there is a sweet spot between too much discipline and too much leeway, where kindness and relaxation and ‘best-effort’ reside. If you are doing your best, in the situation you find yourself in, then that is the best. Your best is always the best. “Yes, Please” and “No, Thanks” hold equal power when they are uttered with the right mindset. Make the decision, utter the phrase that corresponds to the decision, and be content with the decision.
Wishing you all a happy, relaxed, content, joyful, soulful, badass Christmas.