“The Holidays” : A Cultural Mindset, A Personal Digest

Halloween just ended, and it felt like I was in a different dimension. Okay, so Halloween is not until Wednesday, but the last two weekends have been Halloween parties, which means pot lucks, candy, and an overwhelming assortment of food. Normally, when we use the term, “The Holidays”, in America, it means Thanksgiving in Christmas, but I would call Halloween one of the worst culprits. 

Thanksgiving and Christmas are traditions of gathering and family, and, in our society, often times food is considered a way to celebrate with each other. These food items do not usually include the healthiest of recipes (although depends on your family/friends). Halloween, on the other hand, promotes gorging candy by children. Obviously that is a dramatic over-exaggeration, but I can remember trick or treating as a kid, getting bags and bags of candy, and eating it for weeks and weeks. It’s up to parents to monitor and moderate this candy intake, but sometimes that does not happen, so what happens when our culture promotes the overwhelming consumption of foods that lack good nutrition? Halloween is the 2nd highest money-making holiday in the U.S. Some of that is attributed to costumes and decoration, but a lot of that profit comes from candy sales. With the rising obesity rates, the holidays become a breeding ground for unhealthy food choices. We are in control of our own actions, how much we eat, what we consume, but when we associate positive social interaction with feasting, it can create a cultural mindset of eating when we are doing social things in a culture where eating is the answer to depression. This is not everybody, of course, but I know this has been my experience growing up, as well as in college. 

I am in no way against Halloween, it’s actually my favorite holiday, but as the last week unfolded, I found myself eating the unhealthiest I have eaten in about a year. It felt terrible, but I couldn’t stop. Candy corn, pumpkin bread, graveyard dirt, cookie dough pops, mac and cheese, you name it. You may recall me writing and talking about social eating at one point, which was one of the hardest things for me to get through over the last year, and is still a struggle. When tons of friends come to your place, throw delicious treats your way, you want to eat them….all. With that said, I ate way more than I should have, and way too much of the things I should not have. It feels like a major setback, and I know that the reality is that it isn’t – one weeks worth of bad decisions cannot undo a years worth of work, but mentally it pushes you into a negative place. 

The food was great, and honestly, it sucks, I felt like I couldn’t stop, I just felt hungrier and hungrier – probably because I was eating so much sugar, feeding into my pleasure overload and making myself hungrier. I ate too fast, too much, too bad. The comparisons have been made in the past about food addiction being harder to kick than other, seemingly deadly and difficult addictions. I’m not scientist, and I have never been addicted to other substances, and I am not sure that I have ever truly had food addiction, but the process of binging can bring an overwhelming feeling unto you. It feels almost primal, that fighting it seems useless. I have been having it more lately than I have in the past (aside from when I started this whole thing), which has me wondering what is going on. Maybe it is stress – I have undertaken a lot in the last couple of weeks, and maybe my body is going to the place of how I always dealt with stress in the past, easing it away with delicious food.

Although it seems embarrassing or even a showing of some kind of mental imbalance, I think it is important to convey this for several reasons. One, I need to hold myself accountable for the actions I take. What I put into my body is my choice, despite the overwhelming urge to consume. I should have made a plan and stuck to it, but I did not. Another reason is, if you are reading this and starting on your way, halfway there, or 5 years in – there will be difficult times. Times when you feel like you’ve regressed into that old lifestyle. Especially after having lived a certain way for so long, it is difficult. This is the first set of “holidays” I have lived as a thinner person. Most of my progress happened after the holidays last year. Growing up, we overate to no end with all of the holidays, and the days after those days. The most important part of feeling like you feel off is to not feel like you have fallen off. I know that sounds easy to to say, and honestly, that IS how I feel right now, but, in the back of my mind, I know that I have come a long way, and it’s good that I have that to hold onto. The incredible progress over the last year gives me the ability to say, “I don’t want to erase all of that hard work”.

November is going to be the biggest growth month. Even though I got a lot of “firsts” in October, I feel like it did not go completely how I wanted it to. That is fine, I did a lot, and honestly, my level of fitness was mostly the same, which off-balances (to a degree) the poor dietary choices that I made. I started the day off with CrossFit, a good way to start any week, this blog, which always helps me get my thoughts out there and be honest with myself, throwing away some of the terrible foods leftover from my Halloween party, which was both difficult and freeing. I don’t have to be perfect, I just have to do the best I can. I think sometimes my friends and family do not always know how deep the struggle is sometimes. I am very motivated, and people tell me how great I am doing, and, of course, everyone talks about how “hard it is”, but it is a very deep and core type of journey; emotional, mental, and physical. I feel good about where I am today, and where I will be 1 month today – that blog will talk about how absolutely amazing I did, even at Thanksgiving. 

If you are just starting out, and this week 2 or 3, and you feel like you’ve already gained that 3 or 4 pounds back that you lost, you have to look directly at the reason you are doing this. You are doing this for your, your health, to look better, to be fitter, to achieve your goals. Okay, so you ate 2 pieces of cake last night, and now you feel upset about it, so are you doing to eat another piece of cake to subside your sadness and defeat, or will you work harder to burn it off, and strengthen your mind and your willpower to do better next time. We cannot change the past, we can only make the choices we are faced with today. Don’t get discouraged, these things happen. Heck, I have been doing this for over a year and a half, and it’s still a continued effort to recalibrate and reconfigure the spaces between food, health, fitness, and how to make that all work with my past both creeping on me and motivating me to move forward. 

Keep on keepin’ on 🙂 

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