While for many Christmas is a fabulous time full of happy family memories and bundles of presents, for many others Christmas can be an incredibly pressured time. This might be due to poor family relationships, lack of money, homelessness or loneliness. For those who struggle with eating issues this time of year can be filled with challenging situations, pressures and guilty feelings.
Typically the story goes that we over-indulge at Christmas, we then all buy our gym passes, sign up to classes or buy lots of expensive fitness equipment and by the end of January have already packed in our hopes of a six pack this year.
As a Pilates instructor I meet many people who are in a destructive cycle. Often this is because they know that they should be doing x, y and z but they don’t get round to it (classic one is their physiotherapy exercises…..), or they do too much of this, that and the other (often eating, drinking, not exercising etc, etc…). Ultimately the choice to put off doing something good for us or to put off stopping doing something we know is harming us is often a distraction technique. A way of avoiding potential failure or a self-fulfilling prophecy (I know I will fail so I won’t start). Often we may fear the consequences of positive change or we simply lack the motivation too. Whatever the reasons are, it is time to start letting go of the guilt. When you stop focussing on self-loathing, self-criticism and fear of failure you might just find that you are free to do what feels good.
At Christmas many of us will eat far too much, drink far too much and exercise very little. If this is you, then go for it! Enjoy yourself. Eat what you feel like eating and drink what you feel like drinking. You do not need to hit the gym in January to work it off. You do not need to do anything to counteract fun. Working out because you ate something you feel guilty about does not achieve anything but self-hatred. If you want to let loose this Christmas do it because you love yourself and you deserve some fun. Perhaps you find that letting go of control means you may not stop? Focus on enjoying every moment and making each decision an opportunity for self love. Enjoy the chocolates one at a time, savour every mouthful. You might find that you eat less or you might find you eat just as many but that you choose to do so actively rather than letting go to the fate of overindulgence.
If you don’t want to eat yourself silly at Christmas then do it because you feel better for eating a bit less. But don’t hold back because you are scared of the consequences of indulgence. If you want to get fit in January, do it because you love yourself and you deserve to feel good. Do it because getting fit feels good and not because you want to change your body. Do it sensibly and in a way that will develop into a routine which you can maintain (hitting the gym 5 nights a week is simply not something you can maintain…). Avoid the January magazine aisles, unfollow unhelpful social media accounts and focus on self love over changing yourself. Let your decision making come from this place of self compassion.
Don’t let Christmas fun leave you feeling burdened with guilt or shame. It is a time for gratitude so turn that gratitude on yourself. Whatever your situation, whatever challenges you face, you no doubt have a body and that is something to express gratitude for. Love yourself as much as you express love to others at Christmas. Be thankful to this body of yours for getting your through another year. This body kept breathing, it’s heart kept beating, your circadian rhythms kept ticking (okay, not scientifically accurate…). This body has done a lot for you as has your mind. This Christmas sod all the stupidity about eating yourself silly and then working out until you drop. It’s another day and choose to do what feels good. While I brace myself for another January of frankly offensive diet and fitness messages, I know I will be continuing to treat my body well because I love this body of mine, and if that involves a mince pie or two, or three, or the whole damn box, then that is what I will do and I will ENJOY IT!
Happy Christmas everyone and a truly hope you have a happy and fulfilling new year.