Five pieces of pie: Mindful holiday eating

Word on the street is that my brother ate five pieces of pie on Thanksgiving Day. This was not verified by me as my family was in Binghamton and I was back in Buffalo, but the news first came through Facebook that my younger brother had broken my record of Thanksgiving 2009 when I ate four pieces of pie.

Now, for the record, Mark thinks the record should only stand if consumed in one sitting. But the Moritz family rules clearly allow for later in the evening consumption since our holiday feats usually take place mid-afternoon. And this year, I will have to bow to my brother for Thanksgiving pie supremacy as I only managed two pieces of pie with Mark’s family.

Yes, it is the holiday season, other wise known as carb coma central with plenty of opportunity to eat too much, eat too much “bad” food and wash it all down with a bit too much alcohol.

Websites, magazines and blog posts abound for the athlete, recreational and otherwise, to help them keep “on track” during this time of year. How to stay on your running/fitness program. How to stay motivated when it’s cold outside. How to avoid dietary disasters at parties and other holiday gatherings.

Those articles offer insightful and helpful tidbits. They can give you motivation and survival tips.

But the holidays shouldn’t be just about survival.

They should be about gratitude and celebration.

And for me, holiday culinary treats and crazy winter workouts are part of the gratitude and celebration.

Granted this bit of personal wisdom took years to evolve after going through my own bouts with body image and weight management (which, frankly, is an ongoing process). And I still have to formulate my response for people who think I can eat anything I want with reckless abandon since I’m a runner and triathlete. However, if I did eat whatever I wanted, my head would be stuck in giant vat of Nutella, my body would start to resemble the shape of my beloved stack of pancakes and my bathrobe would start to get too tight.

I care about what I eat because I want to be healthy and be fueled to do all things I’m passionate about in life — from running to writing to finding new adventures on snow shoes. The practice of mindful eating is something I’ve tried to incorporate into my approach to food and believe it or not, it seems to help.

What works for me? Trying to eat at table instead of a couch. Saying the simple blessing of  “gratitude” over my food before I eat (or as I eat). Enjoying what I’m eating and who I’m with.

If I’m eating for celebration or reward or fun, I go with it, void of guilt or promises to eat restrictively or exercise compulsively the next day. I find the same enjoyment from a simple dinner alone of pasta to fuel me for the next day’s long run. Heck, sometimes on the long run I visualize the food I ate the day before breaking down to give me the energy to get up the next hill. Home fries have particular power in this regard.

I listen to my body to see what it craves, when it wants more to eat, or when it’s had enough. I’ve learned that it’s not the two cookies I may have as a reward for finishing a block of writing that will hurt me. It’s (a) eating the entire box and (b) perhaps more importantly how I feel about the cookies I ate.

Food issues aren’t simple. I know from experience. It’s taken me years to understand my relationship with food, to make peace with our past and create a joyful present.

And you know what? Even with polishing off the Halloween candy, having Girl Scout cookies and a host of other seasonal treats from time to time, I’m still running some of the best times I ever have without knowing my weight. Each morning, I’m thinking of my body as strong and powerful and athletic. I’m thinking of food as happy and joyful and not merely in caloric and macronutrient terms.

Sometimes, the most important thing isn’t what we’re eating, but what we’re telling ourselves about what we’re eating.

Just some food for thought.

%d bloggers like this: