Have you ever attended a holiday office party while on a diet? In these situations it seems there are only a couple of options: Stick rigidly to your diet or take the day off and “indulge.”
If you choose to restrict yourself, you’re left hovering over the vegetable tray while looking longingly at the “real” food. You mentally calculate how many calories or grams of fat, protein, or carbohydrates, to decide if you’re allowed to have any. You feel left out of the fun, resentful that you’re not able to eat like everyone else.
If you decide to give in and have whatever you want without worrying about it, you feel relieved that you don’t have to refuse food, be singled out by what you’re eating, and feel like you fit in. You keep filling your plate again and again until you realize how full you are and notice that you feel lethargic.
Neither of these options are particularly appealing to me. Taking a more mindful approach, though, offers an entirely different experience.
When I’m not worried about what I “should” be eating, I am able to take the time to look at everything available and decide what appeals to me. When I find something, I’m content with taking a small portion to start, particularly if a lot of the other foods are appetizing too. That way, I can discover what I really like and decide if I want to go back for seconds, depending on how hungry I still feel.
But before I consider going back for more, I remind myself of the real reason for the party: an opportunity for my colleagues and me a way to connect in a more relaxed manner than our normal hectic workdays when we may not have time for more than a brief exchange of pleasantries in the kitchen or by the printer. I take time to mingle, socialize, share stories, laugh, and relax.
Then, if I’m not hungry anymore, I may not even want seconds. But if something looks good enough for me to sample, I may decide on another bite. Either way, I enjoy myself much more by focusing not only on the food but on the people and spirit of the season. That makes it a truly festive occasion.