Christmas will soon be on its way, with the sweet and spicy essence of the christmas festivities lighting up our eyes, ears, hearts and, of course, our dinner plates. Yet, before you can even sing to the tune of jingle bells, I can bet that there will be a sleigh full of magazine articles and social media blogs talking about fitting into that little 'black dress' for christmas, or ensuring that your festive parties, meals and christmas dinner plates display the 'cleanest' and lowest Calorie of foods.
Instead of mince pies, many of us will be inundated with recipes for raw date and raisin christmas puddings, cranberry jewelled kale leaves sprinkled with christmas glitter, and organic carrot sticks wrapped in spinach blankets. Not that eating these types of foods won't be tasty and wholesome for our wellbeing, but what they pack in vitamins, they lose in an ability to fully nourish our cultural traditions and values. Obsessions with the need to eat 'clean', or lose weight before christmas, also brings a snowy avalanche of anxiety and guilt. Particular for individuals who have developed an unhealthy relationship with food that revolves around clean eating or an eating disorder, this might involve obsessive menu checking before a festive meal out, being overly cautious not to choose the 'wrong' foods at your workplace party, trying to avoid consuming as many Calories or processed foods as possible when preparing a family meal, or feeling ashamed for eating over your 'allowed' amount at a festive buffet. Thoughts about pleasing others and dietary rules become dominant, all the while the compassionate sprit of Christmas becomes lost.
Clean eating is still a bit of a buzz word at the moment, but apart from being a bit of a vague term in itself, the whole philosophy of clean eating (and most rule based dietary lifestyles) doesn't leave much room for us to develop long lasting positive relationships with food and our bodies. It also devalues how food is much much more than just fuel and nutrition. Food, especially at times such as christmas, is crucially about family, friends, memories, cultural connection, social gatherings, giving, belonging and connecting with a sense of place, familiarity and who we are as individuals. No matter how good your raw sprout salad and spralized carrots look on Instagram (especially to Rudolf), sometimes these 'clean eating' replacements can't replicate the joy in saying yes to a hearty christmas dinner filled with roast potatoes, or the freshly baked mince pies your mum buys as well as the fudgey chocolates that get passed around in your family's festive sweet tin. And, while you may feel full up from eating your weights worth in plant based christmas pudding bliss balls, you may still be left feeling as though a hole hasn't been filled in terms of your cultural needs to feel that strong sense of community and connection that christmas lovingly brings.
In a nutshell, Christmas is all about abundance and being compassionate enough to realise that we need to nurture and value our psychological, social and cultural needs - not clean eating trends, losing weight or trying to look good in your little black dress or tailored suit for an upcoming party. This doesn't mean that we need to say farewell to all nutrient-dense foods altogether, as fruits, nuts and vegetables are everywhere to accompany more indulgent offerings. However, what it does mean is that we can fully embrace the heartier spirit of christmas, while letting go of any unnecessary food rules and alternatively gaining satisfaction in the way that our most fondest christmas foods (including our chocolate advent calendars and selection boxes!) are able to light up our senses, hearts and the memories that we can cherish for many years and Christmases to come.