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FEATURE - November 2018
Bring Your Sensible Body to the Celebration
By Ann Todhunter Brode
With so many distractions, temptations, and expectations, it’s hard to stay centered & present for the holidays. It’s way too easy to over commit, over indulge and be consumed by consumption. More often than not, this ends up, year after year, in exhaustion and disappointment. You know how it goes. From the gathering & feasting of Thanksgiving to the holiday parties & traditions of December, a little indulgence leads to more and more. Before you know, your body and mind are side-tracked on a runaway train to the New Year. Why not try something new this year?
Instead of losing your mind in the midst of all the seductions of the season, be mindful of your body. Invite this body- mindfulness to come along with you and listen to your comfort level. From your body’s point of view, being sensible means taking a break when you’re tired, setting limits graciously, and committing to conscious moderation. Being sensible also means showing up with all your senses to partake of the delights- convivial gatherings, a festive market place, traditional music/ decoration, and seasonal entertainment.
Like anything you ingest, your body has to digest the holiday fare. No matter how delightful it is- crowding your calendar, taking on too many obligations, having unreasonable expectations, keeping late hours, buying beyond your budget or even socializing too much- can put you over the edge. Then, you feel out of sorts, anxious, tense, spaced out, and just plain tired. Remember, too much of anything can result in sensory overload. Let’s take the obvious example of food.
Yes, abundant offerings of delicious holiday foods are part of the celebration but quality and quantity are what counts. Being aware of what and how much you ingest means you can enjoy the pleasure without suffering the exhaustion, bloating, and headache of a food hangover. In other words, you can have your cake and eat it too if you have just one piece. As you approach the season ahead, keeping your sensible body in mind will help you make good choices, enjoy them thoroughly, and back away when satiated. As Julia Childs used to say: “Everything in moderation…. Even excess!”
Here are some ways to invite your sensible body to the celebration:
• Savor the flavor. When you’re in feasting mode, be present in the moment and thoroughly enjoy the presentation and gustatory delight of each offering.
• Take a deep breath. Ninety percent of the taste is sourced in the smell. Aroma is also linked to memory and emotion. Let the smells of roasted nuts, cinnamon and pastry be a reminder of the sweetness in life.
• Slow down. Linger a bit. Take time to chew every morsel, letting the experience of richness pass over your taste buds, over and over. Beyond getting the most from each delicious bite, chewing thoroughly is the first step of digestion and experts suggest we eat less when we chew more.
• Less is more. Palate fatigue happens with foods as well as wine. It’s the first couple of bites that really taste good and overdoing it doesn’t give more pleasure. It just makes your body feel dull, bloated and unhappy.
• Pay attention. When your belly says it’s had enough, don’t ignore it. Remember, if you tip the balance to over-indulgence, it won’t really be fun anymore and you’ll pay the price later.
• Watch the sugar. If you have an eggnog before dinner and plan to have a brandy afterwards, pass on the pecan pie. Notice how even a moderate indulgence leaves you looking for another sweet bit the next day. Instead of caving, back it off with a carrot or apple.
• Take time to digest. The rule of thumb is to allow two or three hours before bedtime for digestion.
Every bullet point above not only applies to eating but to anything you do for the holidays. Remember to savor the beauty, slow down to breathe it all in, consume moderately, listen to your body, and digest the experience. Let your sensible body indulge all the joys of the season- the traditional treats, the warm glow of candlelight, the sounds of holiday music, and the good feeling of joyful laughter- as well as the food. You may find that just like your sense of taste is satiated after a few bites of cake, your sense of pleasure may be fulfilled with small doses of shopping, partying, and entertainment.
To be honest, being body-mindful through the holidays is a challenging assignment. Old behaviors, triggered emotions, holiday distractions, and peer pressure may undermine your resolve every once in a while. If so, you could find yourself back on the runaway train to over-indulgence. When this happens, you can count on your sensible body to give you some feedback. At some point, you’ll come to your senses again and ask “do I feel centered, refreshed, and present” or “am I uncomfortable, restless, and depleted?” Listen in and make the connection. It’s a simple quid pro quo. Like any physical malady, if you’re not feeling good, you’re out of balance. Try grandma’s remedy: rest, fast, peace and quiet. Perhaps, this is the time to schedule in a nice bath or walk in nature to recharge your energy and recoup your resolve.
So, this year, bring your sensible body to the celebration and have a truly Happy Holiday!
Ann Todhunter Brode has been an Aston Patterning practitioner and body-oriented therapist in Santa Barbara for over forty years. A recognized master in her field, she is dedicated to helping people understand and feel comfortable in their bodies. In addition to her clinical practice, Brode shares her personal and professional experience through down-to-earth, compassionate articles on the challenges & rewards of living consciously in the body. More information about her recently completed book, A Guide to Body Wisdom- What Your Mind Needs to Know About Your Body can be found at https://www.llewellyn.com