Feel Nourished Instead of Stuffed
If the holidays usually leave you feeling overly full and over-indulgent, start the season with a deeper intention.
It’s that time of year again; social calendars are full, eating out happens more often than not, and everywhere you turn there are treats to taste and decadent delights to indulge in. If the holidays usually leave you feeling overly full and over-indulgent, start the season with a deeper intention.
There is a certain amount of stress that happens when the holidays roll around every year. It could be that signs of Christmas pop up before we’ve even had a chance to digest Halloween, but nevertheless, it’s there, staring us in the face. We’re encouraged to shop too much, eat too much, and do too much. We can make a different choice though, and change our approach to the season.
Andrea Lieberstein, an expert in the field of mindful eating and author of Well Nourished, wants to help you find a healthier relationship with food. She explains that the core of this healing comes from acknowledging and nourishing all aspects of ourselves. She describes them as our “eight bodies”, and they include not just our physical, emotional and psychological bodies, but also our spiritual, social, intellectual and creative bodies, as well as our feeling of being connected to the world as a whole. Some of us use food to ‘fill in’ the areas that we are neglecting, and according to Lieberstein, “The first step is shining the light of your awareness on how your life is now. What areas in your life are most undernourished?” she asks.
Lieberstein offers tools for how to attend to each of these aspects of ourselves. She begins with the physical body, emphasizing the importance of quality nutrition, movement, sleep and relaxation. One of her tools in this area is to become aware of “eating triggers.” Having awareness of what triggers you to eat mindlessly allows you to “tune in to your hunger, fullness, thoughts, and feelings and see what you really need.” Once you recognize where your triggers are, Lieberstein suggests creating a list of activities and practices that will truly nourish you, so that you have something else to do besides mindlessly eating.
According to Lieberstein, attending to your psychological body, specifically your thoughts and feelings, can be a powerful way to bring awareness to how you nourish yourself. When you are used to using food to fill unpleasant (or even pleasant) experiences, you can end up in a spiral of self-blame. Instead, Lieberstein offers a number of practices for tapping into the deeper wisdom of your mind, heart and gut. One practice is to “challenge your thought”. Essentially, it’s about becoming aware of your thoughts, and thoroughly examining them for their accuracy. You then consider whether there is another “more positive and energizing way to think about this situation. What is that kind, compassionate thought?” Using this tool, you write down these alternate points of view to give yourself more perspective. If you ever find yourself stuck with this exercise, or need to shift quickly, Lieberstein suggests you “shake off the resistance”; jumping, shaking, dancing, and shouting out your new truth.
Another important part of our experience, especially during this season, is our social body, which includes our relationships and our community. Feeling lonely is often a trigger for overeating. Needs vary widely in this aspect of ourselves, so it’s important to know what level of social engagement nourishes you as an individual. Lieberstein writes, “It’s the subjective experience of our social connections that’s the most important. If you tend to be more solitary but are deeply resourced from inside, with only a few close relationships, you may feel satisfied and nourished enough in this area of your life.” She suggests “spreading your wings” and cultivating relationships with others who you connect with on an intellectual level, or a creative one. You may have friends you play sports or exercise with. Having a variety of friendships can help you feel deeply nourished.
Letting go of the impulse to fill yourself up with food, when what you really need is to be filled up on another level, can be a profoundly transformative experience. Lieberstein reminds, “With your bowl full of both inner and outer nourishment, the focus can finally be off food as your main source of pleasure or comfort”