(Disclaimer: Every year we are inundated with stories about controlling our eating habits and how we need to refrain during the holidays. I believe that to be false, stressful, and quite frankly, am tired of reading it. Before the onslaught of recycled ideas telling us how to watch Christmas cartoons while walking on the treadmill eating truffles I submit this to you, dear reader, as an “ok” to enjoy the upcoming season. January will be here before you know it, and then we’ll all be training for the next marathon.)
In Greek mythology, Apollo was the god of reason, order and responsibility. On the other end of the spectrum, Dionysus was the god of ecstasy—the god of going overboard in a big way.
Today, Apollo is that jogger you see every morning finishing a 10 mile run–uphill–at just about the same time you’re getting out of bed. Dionysus is the kid in high school who goes under the bleachers to sneak a smoke while the rest of the class plays soccer. Apollo finishes his taxes two months early. Dionysus doesn’t feel like paying taxes. The yin and yang. And the goal is to find a balance, to know when to be responsible and when to, well, cut loose. The problem: our culture tends to fail at finding this balance.
With our food culture, we’re inclined to cut things right down the middle: those who eat healthily and those who don’t. And the two move toward opposite ends of the spectrum at a fast rate. You see this with vegan diets versus McDonald’s diets. No soda ever versus 64-oz. sodas each day. Our nation has never been good with balance. And while you might dread the holidays because it’s tough to stick to your diet, think of this time of year as a great way to embrace the Dionysian balance in your life.
Make a plan to cut loose later, now. Maybe you’re more like the jogger who runs 10 miles every morning. Maybe you do finish your taxes two months early. While that’s all well and good, this kind of lifestyle might make you feel guilty about, say, eating three cinnamon rolls with a couple glasses of whole milk on Christmas morning. Okay, Christmas morning feels like a long time from now. But why not start making a plan for your Dionysian behavior now? The point here is to bargain with yourself: if you eat healthy and do the exercise throughout most of the year, you should go a little overboard during the holidays–especially with all the great restaurant coupons and deals going on at that time of year. Plan it out. Look forward to your opportunity to indulge.
Visualize the moment. A balanced lifestyle creates motivation—whether that means you’re motivated to eat healthily because you’ve been eating with abandon for a couple of days, or if it means eating as much as you can on Thanksgiving because you’ve been so responsible in the past months. Visualize that Thanksgiving meal—turkey with cranberry sauce, adding a bit of gravy to the stuffing—and use this as motivation throughout the season. You’re being responsible now so you can cut loose later. Rather than stress about your eating habits during the holidays, make a plan for great eating before the stress happens. And if you stick to your plan, you won’t feel guilty about what you eat.
We’ve all seen the moment when a heaping plate of great food is refused by someone sticking to a diet. Maybe you’ve even been this person. Most of the time we can applaud that behavior; restraint is a valuable characteristic. But there’s a time for everything—a time to cry, to laugh; a time to love, to grieve—and there should be a time for restraint and a time for feasting. Make your holidays feasting days.
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