Today is Thanksgiving, and I am thankful for so many things: Love, health, family, home, safety, freedom, peace. I am fortunate because I will join loved ones for a good meal. I am blessed, and I am grateful.
Let’s be honest, though – the holidays are also high-stress. Stretched finances, overtaxed schedules, family members who make us wonder if there wasn’t some mixup at the hospital, and finding the right gift all take their toll. No wonder our habit of overeating gets cranked up a notch while our belts are loosened the same way!
Author, spiritual teacher and friend Lynn Woodland points out an alternative way of approaching the holiday table(s): Make your eating a spiritual activity. Not only will you slow down your eating (enabling your brain to trigger the “I’m full!” signal at a time when you can stop eating before misery kicks in), you’ll enjoy your food more.
Give thanks (you can do this silently if you wish) before diving in. Notice the beauty of your food as well as the taste. When I cook, I pay attention to colors and textures as well as flavors. Be grateful for the bounty of our Creator and the creativity of chefs! I’m grateful for the hands that harvested, the hands that cooked (and, of course, the hands that clean). I’m grateful for the nourishment. When was the last time you really sat and chewed and noticed how good that food is, and how good it is for your body? And if it isn’t all that good, why are you even eating it?
Eat mindfully, and mindfulness will start to spread throughout your holidays. Here’s something new to experience: Allow yourself to eat whatever you want – but ask yourself first if you really want it. If you must follow a special diet for health reasons, you’ll need to modify this. However, you can still look at that “forbidden” food in a new way: Does it serve me? Does it strengthen my body, enhance my health and well-being? You may be surprised to find that the fat-and-sugar laden former “treat” starts to lose its appeal. If you still want it (and it’s safe to eat it for health reasons), go ahead and enjoy it! Enjoy every single bite. Slowly. Imagine yourself a judge on Chopped and chew slowly, exploring all the nuances of flavors and textures. If you’re full before you finish the serving, you can always ask for a to-go box!
I’ve found this to be a very beneficial practice for body and spirit. With our recent change to a mostly-vegan lifestyle, I find myself seeking out different foods, and exploring them this way. Beans are a staple of our diet, and I often experiment with “new” beans. My husband says “a bean’s a bean!” but is beginning to discern subtle differences between them – and that’s just with the humble members of the legume family.
Food is sustenance and comfort. It is an excuse to celebrate, an event to bring people together. It is an expression of joy, sorrow, or support. We’re so used to that rush of deliciousness with the first few bites that we tend to plow through the rest of the dish without even giving our taste buds time to register their bliss. I’ve joked about pecan pie – the first bite is heaven, the second bite is great, and the third bite – well, it’s so rich, I’ve had enough! But really, what’s wrong with that? Take a smaller serving. If you fear the cook will be offended (a common occurrence in south Louisiana – “what, you don’t like it?”), fear not. Your slow and thorough enjoyment will be obvious, and you may start commenting on flavor nuances that you’ve never noticed before!
Take your time today and throughout the holidays. Savor time with loved ones as you savor each bite, and give thanks. When we focus on how truly special everything in life is, we slow down our rush to find more. We realize that maybe we really don’t need more of anything. We have plenty, and we are blessed.