What Happens When You Stop Following Food Rules

This just seems like another day. A day with plans to spend time with family, squeeze in a bit of work and play outside in the newly fallen snow. I couldn’t help but to notice that it wasn’t just any other day, although it felt that way. It was the day after Thanksgiving. And this year, I’m so grateful for the freedom I was able to experience preparing our feast, enjoying it and more importantly the time spent after it was all finished. Before this year, freedom was the last way I would describe my experience of Thanksgiving. It was more about struggle, worry, guilt and shame. Thankfully this year, I gave up a few old patterns and embraced new ones. This year, I didn’t break any rules. Not because I followed all of them, but because I did not have any to break. In the past and as recent as last year, I’ve made my family dizzy with which diet I was following. They had a hard time keeping track of whether I was following a vegan, vegetarian, Paleo, dairy free, sugar free, low carb, or gluten free diet. For me, I would plan well in advance and prepare special food that I would allow myself to eat. All the while, I would be noticing not what I could eat but what I couldn’t. Or, there were years that I would be following a particular diet up until Thanksgiving, and then allow myself one day to go off it. No matter what I did, I felt guilty and my mind was preoccupied with the should and shouldn’t. This year our dinner table was filled with an abundance of beautifully prepared foods that our whole family took the time to make. I didn’t see the food as either good or bad. I simply enjoyed it.

This year, I ate and lived moment to moment. I made from scratch chocolate chip scones and spinach, feta and red pepper quiche Thanksgiving morning. It felt so indulgent to have chocolate for breakfast. The kids and Mark loved them and so did I. There were many Thanksgiving mornings that I would only allow myself fruit or maybe a green juice or smoothie with the idea that I had to eat as light as possible to prepare for the huge amount of eating that would come next. For some meals, eating only fruit or green juices could be perfect, but I would make that choice based on what would serve me best in the moment. I ate the perfect amount that morning and trusted that in my next meal I would do the same.

This year, working out was something I simply made time for. But it wasn’t my main focus. In years past, I would plan for an extra long run or an extra challenging workout Thanksgiving morning. I knew I was going to be eating a lot of calories and I needed to pay my dues so I could deserve to eat the extra serving of mash potatoes and pumpkin pie. This year, I just knew I would feel better if I moved. I went down to the basement; I got some good sweat on and finished with a headstand. It took less than 30 minutes. I was completely unconcerned with how many calories I burned or how many calories I was planning on eating.

This year, I went to bed feeling great. My belly wasn’t stuffed with food. We ate a later dinner and funny enough, decided to wait until the next day to dive into the special chocolate cheesecake that Anna made. I remember past Thanksgivings where we would finish our dinner and immediately break out the pies. I did this without any regard to whether I was hungry for them or not. As our family was preparing our meal earlier in the day, we sat down for some cauliflower soup and a few fun appetizers. Afterward, we shared a slice of pumpkin pie. It was perfect to have a small dessert before our main meal.

Thanksgiving is an opportunity to share and acknowledge all of the things we are grateful for. This year, I’ve let myself out of prison. A prison that I designed myself around an obsession with food and body weight. My prison robbed me of enjoying my life fully. How could I really enjoy and be thankful for my family, friends, our health, our homes and all of the wonderful things I truly have in my life when I’m mentally and emotionally consumed with what, when and how much I’m going to eat and how long I’m going to work out? It was exhausting and I did it for a long time. This year, I let go of diets, food rules and the idea that I have to struggle with my weight. This year, I’ve deepened my practice of connecting to the wisdom of my body. I’ve held the key to letting myself out of this prison the whole time. Starting this year, Thanksgiving for me is now about freedom, gratitude, connection and celebration. I am so grateful.