Healthy Hedonism for the Holidays

How do you bring mindful/intuitive eating to the table when you have ACTUAL medical restrictions? Celiac. Diabetes. Crohn’s. IBD. etc. etc. etc.

The holiday season is rife with triggers, health trolling, and searching for the perfect Pinterest recipe. Do you NEED to look for a healthy green bean casserole recipe to replace the one that’s been handed down to you made with French’s Crispy Fried Onions? Or what about the pumpkin pie? Should you look for a gluten, dairy, and refined sugar free version?

This popped up recently in my private Facebook community for women who want to step into a less “rules” way of being with food and body:

I have several medical issues that dictate non negotiable food restrictions. As a result, my eating looks like restrictive dieting. I don’t do it to control my weight, although weight gain will certainly NOT help with my issues. I do it to save my life. And I have little choice in the matter. 

So I always feel like I don’t belong in mindful eating groups EVEN THOUGH my eating is very mindful. Many of the posts are from people eating things that are off the table (pun intended) for me. I stay in the groups but I am completely triggered by them. Let’s face it. The things I have to limit are the things that dieters have to limit. 

My answer?

That’s actually a beautiful example of Healthy Hedonism. I’m wary of elevating mindful and intuitive eating as we’ve come to know them because it tends to become another thing people try to do perfectly, or they may lord their great skill at eating anything and everything over others.

It’s nuanced, but there is a slight difference. A mindful/intuitive eater who hasn’t been introduced to Healthy Hedonism may believe that no foods are off the table, which is absolutely true. A Healthy Hedonist ALSO knows no foods are OFF the table; however, she knows we each have a unique bio-blueprint that dictates which foods work for us and which foods don’t. So a Healthy Hedonist may CHOOSE not to eat certain foods that are on that metaphorical (or actual real) table.

A very easy to understand example of this in the wild is food allergies. Let’s say Lacy has a peanut allergy, and canNOT have peanuts. Lacy can’t even really be in the vicinity of peanuts. Lacy does not want to FEEL and EpiPen in her thigh.

There is very little judgment (or health trolling) towards Lacy’s peanut aversion.

A Healthy Hedonist knows what foods make her feel amazing, and she knows true pleasure comes out of choices that make her FEEL amazing. In the previous example, Lacy does NOT feel amazing when subjected to peanuts.

True health (and Healthy Hedonism, in turn) is about what we value—when we make choices that value “thin,” we are sacrificing both our mental and our physical health.

Food is tricky, though. And not ALL reactions to food are as extreme as Lacy’s peanut allergy. Our bodies are constantly changing, and we are continually met with opportunities for INFORMATION OVERLOAD.

We can order blood tests straight to our homes to test our hormones, deficiencies, intolerances, and genetic predispositions to various genetic mutations. YAY!

We are armed with so much information that we can ROYALLY screw with our bodies if we want to.

I’m all about finding the place where the two circles overlap and recruiting real help to assist us in finding our unique biology/mental & physical health. As a huge fan of Venn diagrams, I made you a visual representation. So, what I’m saying in words? It looks a little something like this:

Healthy Hedonism Venn.gif

So when it comes to those holiday triggers, which ARE substantial, how CAN you stay rooted in what you KNOW makes you feel good? When you can’t have the pie because that much sugar will make your insulin/blood sugar go haywire. When you can’t have the green bean casserole because the crispy onions aren’t gluten free. When you have chosen not to imbibe in any alcohol cause it’s screwing with your estrogen, so you steer clear of your mom’s amazing homemade spiked cider.

Remember: yes, in our culture, food is seen as connection. But YOU do not owe anyone anything other than exactly how you choose to show up. When you hear the voices in your head, the ones of culture and your doctor and your own monkey mind saying things like: “I really wish I could have the danged cider!” or “I just want A BITE OF PIE BUT I KNOW IT WILL TURN INTO SO MUCH MORE” or any other variation on these themes…

Ask yourself:

  1. Is that true?

  2. Why is that the thought?

  3. How can I change the thought to better serve the value I place on my emotional and physical health?

The thought: I really wish I could have the danged cider!

  1. Is that true? Yes or no.

  2. Why is that either a yes or a no? Yes, I really want it. I miss that flavor and it reminds me of better years where I DIDN’T have these restrictions. And everyone else is drinking it and they look so happy. I just want to feel normal.

  3. How can I change the thought to better serve the value I place on my emotional and physical health? Okay. The truth is no one else is happy BECAUSE they’re drinking the cider. I actually don’t know how they’re feeling on the inside. Maybe they’re happy, maybe they’re not. But the CIDER is not where my happiness lies. It’s in connection with the people here. It’s in this cup of holiday tea I brewed with cloves and cinnamon and spice and everything nice as much as it’s in that cider. I value feeling good, and that cider would actually…. not make me feel good. etc. etc. etc.

It’s a practice, my friend. But it is the GREATEST gift you can give yourself this holiday season.


Brittany KrigerComment