Last weekend, I tied the knot, and although I was expecting it to be a super fun day, I wasn’t prepared for just how incredible it would be, and not just because I got to stand across from my person in a super pretty dress and describe in detail my love for them, or because I got to dance like a maniac until I turned into a pumpkin.Mostly because, in this celebration, people from every corner of our lives showed up and poured love into us. Our community CELEBRATED our love for one another in a big way and while I’ve had lots of celebrations, nothing up until this point was quite as potent on that level. By the way, I am now Beth Clayton (Woohoo!!!) and you will see that as I start to transition slowly to my new name in my business (a big decision for me!) and yes, I included pictures for your viewing pleasure.
Our wedding day got me thinking about celebrations. I TOTALLY ate and drank what I wanted. This carried into my mini-moon in Quebec City with croissants, pastries, wine and cheese. We went to a super fancy restaurant and got the prix-fixe. We had never done that before, but since my husband vowed to always be my fellow adventurer, he insisted. It was called “The Discovery Experience” at The Saint-Amour and was based around authentic cuisine from Old Quebec City. There were seven courses of cheeses, foie gras, creamy soups, escargot, venison with cranberry relish, buttery scallops, lime cake, macaroons, all paired with glass upon glass of wine. And it was amazing. I never thought about weight, my body or anything like that and funnily enough, my clothes became looser over that three-day trip.
There was a time (not so crazy long ago) when celebrations actually brought me a lot of anxiety and tension. Celebrations usually included decadent food. Because I never really trusted myself with food and because I was often using it to deal with things it couldn’t deal with, celebrations were a breeding ground for disempowerment and stress.
I wouldn’t allow myself to indulge regularly and tried to deprive my body of pleasure on a daily basis, so when I couldn’t escape indulgence, I would try to crash down with it. Instead of having two slices of cheddar, I needed to eat the whole tray of cheese (pretty damn quickly). I couldn’t have three glasses of wine at a party, I had to have a bottle and a half. At Christmas parties, I would park myself in front of the spiced mixed nuts and eat until I felt sick because deep down, I didn’t really believe I was allowed to experience pleasure, so if I indulged, I had to punish myself in some way with it. I always left celebrations feeling defeated, out of control and disempowered.
According to a book I recently read, both French women and American women were interviewed on their associations with birthday cake. The French women associated birthday cake with laughter, fun, family, community and celebration. Surprise, suprise, American women associated it with stress and anxiety. French culture celebrates pleasure (especially with food), but they also recognize the line when pleasure doesn’t really feel pleasurable any more. Pleasure from food is one of the great pleasures in life, and a life sans-pleasure doesn’t sound very fun or the type of life most people would want to live. It’s part of the sensate experience of being a human being and having a body.
So, how do we build a relationship with pleasure that allows us to ENJOY celebration fully and still stay in line with a respectful relationship with our bodies and our health visions?
1) Investigate your relationship with foods that feel disempowering.
There is nothing wrong with indulgence during a celebration, or any other time for that matter. The cookie is not a problem! Our relationship with the cookie can be a problem. What might you be using it to do that it cannot actually do for more than 2 or 3 minutes? What pleasure might you be seeking in reality? When we get clear on our disempowering relationship with the food, we can start to build a new relationship with it, one that has a MUCH MORE positive association and creates a different experience with pleasure in our lives, one where it feels as good afterwards as while we eat it.
Start with recording what foods routinely make you feel like crap (both physically or emotionally) afterwards. What are the USUAL SUSPECTS that you tend to default to? When you do make the choice, notice your emotional state. Are you stressed out? Happy? Desperate for connection? Lonely? Bored? Record the circumstances around the choice and the emotional state so you can start to become aware of your patterns.
**This may be something you feel really resistant to, it may feel like too much work, but this is a SUPER important part of the process of understanding your habits and your blocks.
2) Allow yourself pleasure!
So often, when trying to lose weight, people will try to be super good all at once, and just cross their fingers that this time they will be more successful than they have in the past. But eventually, when life comes in, and motivation wanes, people get sick of being super good, say “screw it” and throw the baby out with the bath water. They may have success at first but inevitably the weight comes back on, as is typical in binge and deprivation cycles.
Instead, allow yourself a significant food pleasure a couple of times a week or a little one every day, but PLAN AHEAD for it. It could be a glass and a half of wine at night, an ounce and a half of dark chocolate or a whole-fat cappuccino mid-afternoon or it could be an artisan pizza on a Friday night. By the way, healthy food is often damn pleasurable!
Moreover, plan for pleasure that is NON-FOOD related (bringing fresh flowers home, buying yourself a fresh copy of your favorite magazine, yoga, meditating, a hot bath, a massage, a manicure, connecting with your friend after work for a walk in the park, going to a show). The pleasure you are MOST seeking has nothing to do with food, and everything to do with experience. You have A LOT of sensations. Taste is only one of them. Feeling good is your body is also pleasurable.
Ask yourself, besides food, “What am I really hungry for?” in this moment. Is it connection? Comfort? Stimulation? There are so many ways to get those things without food, but since food is easiest and doesn’t reject us, we may gravitate toward it first.
If you are celebrating, in what ways can you celebrate without food or booze? This way, at least you have a choice.
3) Let yourself celebrate with food if you want!! BUT start to pay attention to the line when pleasure turns into pain, and if it is worth the price to you. Whenever you indulge, become very aware of the experience you are having and enjoy it slowly, savoring and being present with what you are eating or drinking. That way, you can be present with when it doesn’t feel good anymore. You may wind up leaving half of it on the plate.
Take these steps to start to shift your relationship with pleasure.
If you change your relationship with pleasure, celebrating without guilt may just become your new experience. Trust me, it is MUCH better that way.
I want to hear from you! Comment below to share your insights or what NON-FOOD ways you can celebrate:)
Rock On and Be Well,