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It’s been 5 days since Thanksgiving and I am still full to the brim, aren’t you? Doesn’t all of the eating we do over the holidays make you feel so. . . shameful? I don’t know what it is about holidays that enables us to continue eating long after we’re satisfied or even full, but contrary to the pervasive idea that eating a lot of food is bad, I think this act of feasting is an important practice that we need to embrace. Every culture around the world, for generations and generations, has taken part in this act of feasting, and yet in American culture, following a feast, rather than giving thanks or feeling grateful for a moment of indulgence, many of us are racked with guilt and shame. Doesn’t this seem to miss the point of a feast in the first place?
Most of my life, even at a young age, I entered into the holiday season telling myself I was not going to overindulge. I was fearful of even the smallest weight gain or the shameful feeling of my pants being a little tight in the waist. But then our family celebrations began and I always ended up telling myself things like, “oh, it’s a special occasion” or “I only get to eat this once a year” or “everything in moderation, right?” I let myself indulge but as if I was cheating or breaking the rules. And then afterwards, when I was full and half asleep, the guilt of my “bad” behavior began to sink in. I left these gatherings not feeling grateful but rather ready to punish myself with a strict diet and intense workouts, a New Year’s resolution in the works no doubt. There were a lot of personal issues that were at play here, but even so, I am quite confident I am not alone in this experience.
However, this year was different. I have a new sense of self confidence and love for my body that I didn’t have in previous years (post to come soon). Having some distance and space from my family and loved ones has given me a new sense of gratitude for the little time we spend together. Also, living on a slim budget has meant, in our family, indulgences come less frequently. This was the first time I celebrated a holiday and ate all the food I love without beating myself up about it afterwards. Most families get together and share what they have been grateful for in the past year at a Thanksgiving feast. This year, I was thankful for the feast itself.
A friend and mentor of mine once told me, “you have not received a gift until you have consumed it”. When we gather together to feast, it is a sacred practice of giving and being given. It is a gift. If you ate too much turkey or pumpkin pie, good for you, because that’s the point. If you put on a few extra pounds, embrace the pudge and be thankful for it. When you go back to regular life, when the feast is over, you will lose the weight. Your jeans will fit better in a few days. Doing a juice cleanse or starting a strict diet outside of your normal health routine for the purpose of undoing the feasting you did over the weekend, is rejecting the gift that you were given. People do not come undone after one weekend of feasting. What is important to remember is that when a feast ends, it is over. Feasting becomes a danger to us when the feasting continues into the everyday. When we do this, we are also not recognizing the feast as a gift but rather taking something we believed was already ours in the first place.
This holiday season, I challenge you [and myself] to open yourself up to receive. To tell yourself that you are worth a gift. That feasting is not only ok, but a celebration of yourself, others and the world. That all of the healthy habits you’ve formed will not get lost in a holiday celebration. That you will not shame yourself or abuse your body when you do indulge. That when your body is filled by a feast you will allow yourself to be simultaneously filled with gratitude and joy. And when the feast is over, you will show love to yourself by letting the feast be over.
Speaking of gratitude, other than the pumpkin pie I had last weekend, I am grateful for you. For sticking with me and reading through these thoughts I’ve poured into the universe. For sharing a post or liking a photo on Instagram. This blog has been fun and it wouldn’t be much of anything without you.