This New Year, I’m trying something different: I’m not going to beat myself up over eating too many sweets during the holidays. You shouldn’t either.
Usually on January 1 I think about all I indulged in over the last several weeks with remorse. Even when it was happening, I anticipated the remorse. I drank eggnog with gnawing unease, knowing I would regret it later. Each holiday treat was consumed with some guilt and anxiety that my pants wouldn’t fit by the end of whatever Christmas party I was attending. A cookie could steal my joy a little. The second cookie ran off with it completely.
Not all women are like this, I know. Some of you eat dessert and you’re all, “Whatever, it’s a cookie.” But if you’re like me, food has not been simple for you in a long time. You have a calorie calculator in your head and you keep a running tab on how many days you’ve exercised that week. You think twice about everything you put in your mouth. Food is emotional, it’s either comforting to indulge in followed by regret and guilt later, or it’s too terrifying to taste and you skip it altogether.
I remember my skinniest year. I had a ridiculous amount of control over what I ate. It’s what I thought about most of the day. I fell asleep at night hoping I hadn’t consumed too much and thinking about what I would eat the next day and how I would avoid all the unhealthy stuff.
When I look back on it, Christmas during that year o’ skinny was so sad. I was home in Texas at my parents’ house, which is always overloaded with edible gifts by the time I arrive. I assessed everything in sight and decided that each night I would allow myself one or two pieces of chocolate after dinner. It was a hungry Christmas. And although I looked “great” and hadn’t gained an ounce by January 1, I would rather my head and heart never be in a place like that again. It was dark. I lived under the deception of my own control.
Maybe you’ve experienced something similar, or you’re experiencing it now. Recent memories of the holiday dessert table haunt you. You are mad at yourself, you don’t like what you see in the mirror and above all, you feel shame. In attempt to rectify, you are now trying to set a really drastic resolution to make up for the damage you did. But you are already afraid you won’t follow through with it.
If this sounds familiar, you’re in bondage. You’re a slave to your appetite and body. It seems healthy from the outside, but the reality is it’s not normal or freeing to care so much about a few Christmas cookies. I know this because a counselor, close friends and smart books have told me so over the past few years.
Anxiety and guilt are strong emotions, so associating them with food gives something that was meant to fuel us, that was meant for us to delight in, much more power than was ever intended for it.
Many articles and blog posts about the “New Year-New You” are simply adding to this overwhelming feeling of body shame. I want this post to be different. I want you feel absolved of the guilt and regret you feel now after having eaten everything in front of you over the past couple of months. And if you’ve been constricting and restraining from the good stuff, I want to give you permission to indulge in the leftovers. It’s ok. Really, it is. You’re not going to die. You’re not going to gain 40 pounds overnight. ‘Twas a season of celebration, and it’s not too late to attend the party.