You Are (So Much More Than) What You Eat

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Ours was lovely. We spent it at my sister’s home, where she hosted 16 of us. There was a variety of delicious and satisfying food, conversation, and holiday hijinks. Nothing particularly dramatic happened, but I was continually reminded of how difficult it can be to remain mindful during the holidays, especially when it comes to eating. Between the cross-conversations, the various thoughts and feelings that arise over the course of a meal or a day or a weekend, ancient emotional history, and family baggage, one can feel like a sparrow clinging to a branch during a tsunami.

Because of the plentitude and omnipresence of food during holidays like Thanksgiving, it is indescribably easy to reach for something to plop in your mouth regardless of hunger any time a stressor raises its head. I get overwhelmed with too much noise, social stimulation, and strong emotions, and unless I reconnect with my heart, I tend to medicate that stress with whatever is closest. So, several times during the main Thanksgiving meal, I found myself checking out from what was going on around me and checking in with myself, withdrawing from the conversations and festivities for seconds at a time in a way that helped me return with real presence.

Situations like these during Thanksgiving often evoke one of two extreme behaviors:

  1. White-knuckle control, control, control, or
  2. “Screw it, I’ll start my diet on January 1st

And with these two extreme approaches come two general views of one’s self:

  1. I’M. HANGING. ON. BY. A. THREAD. or
  2. “I suck I suck I suck I suck I suck”

One thing to remember during this time of stress and celebration is that you are so much more than what (or how) you eat. White-knuckle control or the ability to stick to a restrictive diet when surrounded by “temptation” does not make you a better person any more than the screw-it mentality makes you a bad one. Think of these behaviors as passing clouds while who you are at the core is the clear blue sky. Call it your inner child, the person inside you who cries at animal rescue videos, the one who gives a few dollars to the homeless mother and child sitting inside the subway station, the one who waits a few extra seconds to hold the door for an elderly neighbor. Whenever you can, take just 5 seconds to connect with the tender heart of that person. That’s who you really are.

The second thing to remember is that neither the white-knuckle approach nor the screw it approach during a single meal, or day, or week determines how you behave in the future. At any point, you can connect with your heart, connect with your body, and listen to what they have to say.