Thoughts on Overeating on Thanksgiving

Dreading Thanksgiving tomorrow? I can relate. Maybe family dynamics are difficult and bring pain. Maybe you have no family to celebrate with tomorrow (I am so so sorry if this is your circumstance). Maybe you’re afraid of how to navigate conversations around food and body. Maybe you’re terrified about all of the food that’s going to be available. Or maybe you’re already dreading the shame and guilt you foresee yourself experiencing. For me, Thanksgiving (and any food gathering) brought on so much anxiety, shame, and guilt.

I remember one Thanksgiving in particular that we spent with my sister’s in-laws. The morning of, I bathed the day in prayer, asking the Lord to give me discipline around the food that was going to be there. I asked him to help me focus on the people and conversations instead of the food available. I begged him to help me put food in the “proper” place and to eat until comfortably full instead of stuffed. And don’t get me wrong, these are not wrong prayers; in fact, I think they are wonderful in the right context. But I fundamentally misunderstood something—my overeating in these occasions was not due to a lack of love for the Lord or lack of discipline. My overeating in these occasions was simply due to the fact I WAS HUNGRY. I would feel so much spiritual shame and guilt about eating high caloric foods, desserts, and overall too much. What I didn't realize was that my body was hungry and wanted food and therefore drove me to eat too much on occasions like these. Food was an idol, but not because I loved it more than God. Food was an idol because I restricted it and made the size of my body the most important thing in my life.

 
Thoughts on overeating on thanksgiving
 

So I want to encourage you about tomorrow. If you have been manipulating your food intake, reducing portion sizes, exercises solely for caloric burn, OR if you’re a normal eater, you may end up overeating tomorrow. And that’s OKAY. In fact, if you’ve been underfeeding, it might actually be a good thing (getting out of calorie deficit is absolutely essential for eating disorder recovery). Realize that it’s not some moral flaw. It might be because you’ve been undereating. Or restricting. Or simply because you love a certain food or were enjoying time with family. Give yourself permission to eat tomorrow, and to possibly eat until you’re uncomfortable. And then move on and continue to feed your body regularly and enough. It might just impact your experience next time.

In defense of sugar

I kid you not, as I'm beginning to type out this blog, I'm eating a chocolate chip cookie...and it's delicious.

 
In defense of sugar
 

There is a lot of controversy in the health and fitness world over what diet is healthiest, what foods should be avoided, what should be consumed, the optimal ratios of foods, etc. But what most people can seem to agree on is their take on sugar. I mean, there seems to be an all-out war on it. I hear people talking about it ALL the time: "that has way too much sugar," "that yogurt is practically like eating ice cream," "sugar is the cause of all of our health problems, and we should cut it out", and on and on. 

And while I don't encourage people to eat donuts for breakfast, Little Debbies for lunch, skittles for a snack, and cake and a coke for dinner, I do think we need to give sugar a break. You guys, ANYTHING in excess is harmful. You can drown by drinking too much water. Vitamin A in high doses can cause tumors. Too much calcium causes painful bone deposits in the joints. So I would agree that too much sugar is not a good thing. But sugar in itself is not the problem--it's about the totality of the diet. 

It's interesting to me that major proponents of cutting out simple sugars or refined sugars often turn to alternative sweeteners such as honey, maple syrup, organic sugar, dates, etc. because they are "healthier" (don't get me started on people who say we should cut out fruit because of the sugar content...). But can we break those things down for a second? All carbohydrates--I'm talking ALL of them--regardless of whether they come from table sugar, maple syrup, white pasta, or beloved sweet potatoes (side note: did you guys know sweet potatoes are rated the #1 most nutritious vegetable?) are eventually broken down into the same three molecules--fructose, glucose, and galactose. The foods we eat are a complicated combination of those three molecules with varying linkages. Some have linkages that are easily digestible and some have linkages that our body can't actually digest (fiber). BUT, they are all going to be broken down into fructose, glucose, and galactose.

In defense  of sugar...carbohydrate breakdown

I get that this is an oversimplification and that a lot of other factors come into play. And I'm not saying that we should just forgo our veggies and whole grains and instead eat all refined carbs and simple sugars, but what I am saying is that we need to let go of the fear of refined sugar. It's broken down into useable energy, just as our sweet potato is. And energy isn't a bad thing. And if our sweet potato is broken down into glucose and fructose, then why do we fear table sugar that is broken down into glucose and fructose? The fear and morality we form around eating sugar is going to do far more harm that the sugar itself. Restricting sugar and then overeating/bingeing on it is far less healthy physically and emotionally than having moderate amounts on a regular basis. Fearing any food is going to wreak havoc physically on your body (um, hello cortisol!), your ability to foster relationships, and your ability to truly nourish yourself.

So I encourage you to challenge those beliefs you have around sugar. It's broken down into the exact same molecules as other types of carbs, and your body knows how to handle those other carbs. Again, I'm not promoting eating sugar all day everyday--your body is not going to feel good, and I promote eating in a way that makes you feel energized and good. But let's stop the fear-mongering that is going on around sugar and just eat our food, enjoy it, and move on. 

2018: Not new you, but your best you

First of all, HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! It blows my mind that 2017 is already over. I’m incredibly excited about what lies ahead this year while still basking in the joy of the holidays these past few weeks. While thinking about this new year’s time, I started to think about all of the pressure that has been mounting for how we are suppose to change and become a version 2.0 in 2018 (woof, that’s way too much pressure for me). It seems as though our culture identifies growth or becoming a “better” person only with becoming thinner, fitter, and healthier. Yeeshh, what a narrow view—and one that often ends  in disappointment.

 
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So this year, I would like to propose a different goal for 2018—not becoming a more aesthetically pleasing person or a food-pious person, but instead to become the you you want to be (or used to be).   

Growing up, I was such a ham. I LOVED putting on plays and productions for family and friends. I thrived on attention. I was also super creative and enjoyed scrapbooking, making things out of clay, cutting hair (I had a life size Barbie doll head—kinda creepy when you think about it), building miniature towns from foam, and drawing. I was compassionate, and felt emotions strongly (I cried for WEEKS after seeing our high school’s production of flower’s for Algernon).

Somewhere along the way, those characteristics started to fade. My goofiness disappeared and was replaced with perfectionism and worry. My creativity was clouded by thinking more logically and analytically. My emotions were muted. In college I recognized how different I was, but figured it was normal to change as we mature and have life experiences. 

However, as I go through this intuitive eating journey, I’m becoming more of who I used to be. My carefree nature is coming back, and I’m enjoying life a lot more. Things that used to rock my world, just aren’t a big deal anymore. I’ve been freed up to enjoy life without taking it too seriously. I’ve also noticed that I’m WAY more emotional. I cry during every episode of This Is Us (but then again, who doesn’t? You’d have to be heartless...). When people cry, I cry with them. I find that I now experience a whole range of emotions much stronger.

 
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And all of these characteristics came as I loosened my control of food and my body. Letting go of the restraint allowed me to have less anxiety and just enjoy life without having to control every little area. As I stopped restricting, my brain stopped thinking about food all the time, which freed me up to actually feel things. I no longer numb or avoid my feelings using food/restriction. And it’s WONDERFUL!! I missed the person I was as a kid and am so glad to be back. 

Intuitive eating and eating disorder recovery is about more than just food. It impacts every area of your life—freeing you up to live the life you want and be the person you want to be.

With the new year, there is all kinds of talk about becoming a better version of yourself. But what if the “better” version of yourself is actually the old version of yourself before you became bogged down with weight and food concerns? What if the better, more compassionate, more present, more available person is the one that is less concerned with looks and health? What would it look like for you to pursue that rather than what we’re sold all the time?

I’d love to hear how you plan to do this!