Trigger Warning: I get a little personal and long-winded in this one. This winter has been a bit of a dark time for my soul, and this blog post was an outlet for me. If you'd like to skip straight to the delicious recipe at the bottom, now's your chance! ~~~
"Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results..."
The holidays are over, and "Dieting Season" has officially begun. It's a vicious cycle so many find themselves caught in (sometimes over the course of an entire lifetime), my former self included. For me, it used to look a little like this:
1. Gorge myself on foods I know aren't good for me (unhealthy, extreme, reckless behavior).
2. Calm after the storm. Realization of what I've done. Self-loathing and pity.
3. Punish oneself. Set things straight. Make amends. (For me, working out, starting another diet, etc.)
4. Feel great. Things are starting to look up. This time I'll stick to it. This time'll be different.
5. Fleeting happiness, optimism, and zest for life.
6. Boredom. Self-sabotage. Spur of the moment decision based on immediate gratification/addiction (opposite of mindfulness).
7. Unhealthy, extreme, reckless behavior.
8. Repeat forever.
It wasn't until I started my therapeautic/healing journey a few years ago, and really started wrapping my head around my own issues with anxiety, impulsiveness, attachment issues, unmet needs, and addiction, that I was able to start working on self-control, and freeing myself from the myriad self-imposed chains in my life. I realized that I was a prisoner of many of my own behaviors, including my diet. I was literally living carb/sugar craving to craving, need to need; making spur of the moment food decisions based on needs and addictions I couldn't quite wrap my head around and an even greater need for immediate gratification. Sacrificing what my heart wanted the most for what my monkey brain wanted in the moment. I could go on and on, but I think you get the point. Anyway, something changed in me permanently a few years ago when I started to heal, started meditating, and discovered mindfulness, and (for me, at least) it's a breath of fresh air from the way I used to live. For the first time in my life, I function *consistently and productively* at a pleasant pace instead of extremes, no longer a prisoner of my emotions and behaviors. This has been totally reflected in the way I now feed myself.
While the masses are currently beating themselves up and feeling guilty about all the "bad" things they've eaten (binging), and busying themselves figuring out how to purge via trendy diets and exercise, I'd like to encourage people to consider looking at the whole holiday over-indulgence/after-holiday get-back-in-shape thing from a different angle - one that'll incite a better, healthier trajectory and put an end to these semi-abusive neverending cycles devoid of any long-lasting results. Nevermind the fact that adopting a healthy whole foods diet as the general way of eating, day to day, eliminates or at least cuts down on cravings, and allows us to actually enjoy the occasional experience of eating foods outside of our normal diet ("cheats") without guilt or feeling a need to purge afterword; that's definitely the goal but one that can't be attained so easily. If it was that easy, people would just do it.
So how can you get to that point? Well, I think it's different for everyone because everyone's at a different starting point in their health journey. You might do what I did and embark on a spiritually transformative journey to get to the core of your true Self. Don't have the need or time for all that stuff? Try this: Change the lens through which you look at yourself and your behavior. Much like the body positivity movement encourages us to look at ourselves in the here-and-now, and change the way we feel about ourselves and our bodies, putting us on a healthier path from the inside out, I want to encourage people to put a positive spin on how we see the foods we eat around the holidays, and what we do for our bodies afterward.
Instead of thinking of the foods we eat from October 31 - January 2 as bad decisions, try putting a positive spin on holiday foods by seeing the stories behind them. I noticed during the holidays how so many of the foods we eat are of course, tradition, but also old family recipes. Dishes and desserts passed down from family member to family member, and now has a story behind it and a special person to be remembered forever. Each time I chose a dessert, thinking about this fact helped keep the experience what it should be: positive and awesome, with zero guilt attached. My mother-in-laws father's fudge. My sister-in-law and father-in-laws annual battle over who makes better horns (cookies). My grandfather's mother's traditional boiled ham dinner. Each dish an important memory that'll live on for years to come.
After the holidays are over, reflect on all the amazing things you were blessed to eat, all the foods rich in memory and love, and then treat yourself to an annual "detox" diet. Not from a place of punishment, but from a place of self-love. Focus on the present and future. Feed yourself the most nutrient-rich foods for a month straight, to start the new year off right. Be strength-based instead of deficit-based.
Changing the focus on our behaviors from negative to positive allows us to start loving ourselves from the inside out, and slowly, gradually, we become more mindful of our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and we find ourselves in a better position to be in control of what we feed ourselves. Totally in control of saying no to the things we know do not nourish us - and saying no won't be that difficult either.
The January Full Moon is called the "Wolf Moon", making it an appropriate time to reflect on the bonds we have with our family - our "Wolf Pack" - and the
recipes that have been passed down and were shared during the holidays. It's also important to eat healthy with family day to day - we keep each other accountable, and if one of us gets sick from poor diet, it affects the whole pack - so make sure to include family in any "diet" you decide to do! For this moon meal, I chose a simple and classic "Whole 30"-worthy recipe (the trendy diet right now - and rightly so. It rocks!). It makes enough meatballs for your whole wolf pack, so invite everyone over and make a night of it! According to The Farmer's Almanac, "in Native American and early Colonial times, the Full Moon for January...appeared when wolves howled in hunger outside the villages." "Howling in Hunger" also very much reflects the way a detox diet after the holidays can feel. When the body is ridding itself of sugar and grains (and dairy), the physical and emotional affects are REAL. Read more about how to deal with sugar withdrawal here. I used bison in my meatball mixture (an ode to one of the creatures wolves eat - or at least used to long ago - in the wild). The starchy tubers will provide you energy, the meatballs will give you protein and keep you full, and adding a leafy green side salad adds even more nutrients to this simple and delicious meal. If you're sensitive to nightshades, leave the tomato sauce right out. I hope you enjoy! Thanks for reading!
Meatballs over Sweet Potatoes Recipe
For the meatballs:
3 pounds total of meat of your choice. I used 1 pound each of ground turkey, bison, and lean beef. Put in a bowl and mix together using your hands.
Add: 1/2 tsp. garlic powder or fresh chopped garlic, 3 tsp. parsley, 2 tsp. basil, 1 tsp. sage, and 1/2 tsp. each sea salt and pepper. Mix in well.
Scoop about 2.5 tbsp each and roll into balls (don't pack too tightly). Place on a baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes.
If using a store-bought tomato sauce, make sure to buy organic and with no added sugar.
For my side salad (pictured at the top of article), I used a leafy green mix, 1/2 a fresh shredded beet, 1/2 an avocado, a tsp each hemp and pepita seeds, and topped with olive oil and apple cider vinegar.