Truth: This Years Holiday Meals, Treats, and Sweets Made Me Healthier

As someone who had struggled with body image issues and disordered eating for the past five years, I had developed a bit of a love-hate relationship with the holidays.

Yes, family and friends and music and lights and love are all wonderful. But I couldn’t help but feel anxiety, frustration, and distraction when I thought about what else came with the holidays: huge meals, pans of fattening desserts, platters of sugary desserts, and high-calorie drinks.

Back during “the tough days”, I would pride myself for having the self-discipline and will-power to avoid temptation from munchies, sweets, and big plates of food. I would feel relief when I “made it through” the food-focused festivities. I would feel “strong” when I resisted the cookies my coworkers were sharing.

Is this really considered healthy? There I was, an early-twenty-something girl who was intelligent, personable and loved; I was also about ten pounds underweight, my mind was consumed by calories and sugar and fat; I avoided social events out of fear of “bad food”. I was distracted, anxious, and on-edge.

Again, I ask, does that make me healthy? Does the fact that I can “control myself” well enough to not indulge in a delicious Christmas meal or enjoy homemade sweets make me healthy?

Today, as I continue to progress in my recovery, I can absolutely tell you that, no, I was not “healthy” back then. My body wasn’t healthy, nor was my mind.

That’s why this year was so powerful and freeing. Now that the holidays are officially over, I am able to reflect on this season and analyze the state of my thoughts regarding food and body image. And let me tell you: I am very pleased.

This year was not unlike the others: there were big family meals, tempting cookies and bars at work, alcoholic beverages to enjoy, and plenty of seasonally-flavored sweets and snacks to savor.

But this year was also much different than the last four or five: my mindset was different; my friendship with my body was different; my relationship on food was different; my perspective on life was different.

How?
Self-awareness.
Gratitude.
Faith.
Time.

Resting in those four pearls has transformed me immensely. I feel a sense of peace with myself that I wasn’t sure I would ever experience again.

How This Year’s Holiday Meals, Treats, and Sweets Made Me Healthier

>>> I started the holiday season with this post: 8 Ways My Life Changed After Overcoming Negative Body Image & Disordered Eating and Exercise which (unknowingly at the time) led me into the holidays with a healthy mindset, full of gratitude and self-awareness about my journey.

>>> I let myself enjoy the delicious food. I ate big portions, handfuls of snacks, multiple cookies, taste-tested nearly everything. Letting myself do this was critical. It made me feel like I had control over my actions (which is important for those of us who have a past with disordered eating). I made the decision to enjoy the food, the food didn’t persuade or conquer me.

>>> I did THIS EXPERIMENT during the week before Christmas. I didn’t necessarily plan to do it during the holidays, but man oh man, am I glad I did! You can read more about the experiment and what I learned (hint: I gained and lost four pounds in a 24-hour period… whaaaat?)

>>> I continued to enjoy (and not limit) myself as the wave of post-Christmas treat-sharing hit (where every coworker brought in a gallon of treats that they no longer wanted in their house), then came New Years festivities, and finally the anniversary of my wedding.

Which brings me today.

Last night (January 2), my husband and I enjoyed a delicious anniversary dinner. Earlier that day, I had eaten plenty of the leftover treats sitting on our counter, which (before) would have made me feel a little on-edge about going out to dinner at a new place where I didn’t have control over who and what made my meal.

But that’s not me anymore.

Boy, did I eat. And it was awesome. They served complimentary rolls, corn bread, cottage cheese, and coleslaw. They made HUGE portions for the dinner and did not skimp on the side-dishes. I literally ate every crumb. It was awesome.

I didn’t feel guilty at all. Yet.

We stopped by a health foods store on the way home — they served free samples of a quinoa salad and carrot cake. Damn right I sampled! [Still no guilt]

Standing in the line at the counter, they had little dark chocolate treats. Hell yeah, I bought one! [Guilty? Not me.]

When we got home, I looked into our cookie container. My mom’s peanut-butterscotch-chocolate cookie smelled awesome — YEP. I ate that S.O.B. right up! [Zero guilt felt here.]

There were a few M&Ms left in a cute jar — sureeeee, why not, I popped a few of those suckers into my mouth too! [Guilt? What is that even?]

Ready for it? NO GUILT. I didn’t feel like I “lost control” of myself. I didn’t feel like I needed to workout hard the next day. I didn’t go to bed with anxiety or shame.

I felt healthy.
I felt calm and at peace.
I felt full and satisfied.

Before bed, I weighed myself out of curiosity in continuation with the experiment: 112.4 lbs.
This morning, I weighed myself again to assess the “damage” of the carbs and sugar: 110.9 lbs.

That’s a lower number than I was before or during the experiment, before I chose to not limit myself on the foods I would enjoy, and before I just let myself live.

I’m very vocal about my beliefs in the inaccuracy of the scale — so it’s not about the number. It’s about this:

I didn’t gain 10 pounds by eating big meals and lots of sweets over the three weeks of holiday fun.
My body looks the same as it does when my diet was “good” and “clean”.
The “unclean” foods didn’t make me fatigued or moody, and my workouts didn’t suffer.
These realizations — these experiences — these big meals — these sweets and treats — have absolutely made me healthier.

True health begins in the mind. The body cannot be healthy if the mind is corrupt.

And this kind of wellness, this emotional and self-love wellness, is lifelong. At any given moment, my body can fail me. But the health I’ve gained through self-awareness, gratitude, faith, and time — will keep me happy, strong, and inspired for my lifetime.