One of my body image students dreaded fall because it was that time of year that got her closer to the “food holidays.” We know them well – first Halloween candy, then the Thanksgiving food fest, then the Christmas/Hanukkah parties and New Year’s eve celebratory dinners. All four holidays encourage people to eat and sleep less.
I understand that fear of the holidays and overeating because I used to feel it too. I always dreaded the fall and the pounds and hangovers it would bring. Thankfully, I don’t anymore.
When I figured out that eating wasn’t about self-discipline but instead about love, I became able to celebrate the food holidays without guilt. Thanksgiving used to be the hardest – I could eat a whole pumpkin pie in one sitting. But then I started realizing how that behavior made my body feel. It dawned on me that I was doing the opposite of being thankful for my health. When I started looking at food as sacred medicine for my body, I understood that every day, including holidays, were a chance to love my body. This now means eating what makes me feel good. I don’t overeat but still indulge in a taste of dessert without guilt.
Another huge part of falling in love with fall is observing the amazing changes in the world around you. I live in northern California, where we have what is known as Indian summer. We may not have leaves as dramatic as New Hampshire’s and Maine’s foliage, but they are still beautiful. By turning my focus out instead of in, I see birds migrating and trees changing, and I smell the crisp approach of apple season and the first frost. Instead of focusing on what is to come, I live in the present and appreciate what a beautiful, transformative time of year fall is.
Struggles with fall aren’t limited to food. Many don’t like the colder temperatures, and the shorter days can lead to Seasonal Affective Disorder. In the past few years, I’ve cultivated some practices and rituals that celebrate falling in love with fall. These ideas can be adopted by anyone looking to bring joy into the changing season. I encourage you to adopt them, especially if anxiety and depression creep in for you around this time.
Harvest good thoughts – life is an energy exchange. We can walk around mad and grumpy and pissed off about what is not right, or we can feel the abundance of the earth and all that is here for us. Just as growers are bringing in their biggest bounties, with perseverance and patience you too can harvest a healthy, positive way to look at life.
Build an energy shield around you. Focus on the beauty of life’s color and plant color in your life by connecting with a fall color (red, orange, yellow, brown) every day. I turn that color into what I refer to as my “protective shield” – an imaginary light space about an arm’s wingspan around me that holds and protects me from outside negative energy. This lets positive energy in, but keeps negative energy out-particularly efficient for people at family dinners or social events where you feel trapped. According to the book Emotional Freedom by Judith Orloff, M.D., visualized energy fields have been proven to make people feel more protected and grounded throughout the day.
Bountiful, Abundance, Earthy. Take five minutes to write down positive words you associate with fall. The season brings us so much; scarcity is a state of mind. Focus on what you have and what is good, instead of what is missing or troublesome, and you will have everything and more.
Cultivate a seasonal hobby. Summer’s long hours and warm temperatures bring with them a host of activities. But fall’s shorter days and coolness hold a whole host of new opportunities – knitting by a fire, canning the summer’s bounty, leaf peeping on a fall hike.
Think of learning to embrace fall as a baby step on the road to embracing that big, bad word: Change. Fall is the ultimate in change – every day brings a new bare branch, a little more darkness, a bite to the air. “Change” often feels like a dirty word, but whether we like it or not, it’s always around us. Being able to accept and celebrate it in our environment brings us that much closer to doing so in ourselves.
How does fall represent change for you? I welcome hearing from you.
Weight Release & Body Image Expert Laura Fenamore supports women around the world to love who they see in the mirror. Having overcome her own battle with addiction, obesity, and eating disorders, Laura released 100 pounds 25 years ago. She has chronicled this journey in her new book, Weightless: The Be Good To Yourself Diet. Learn more about Laura’s programs, or invite her to speak by visiting her website at OnePinky.com, her Facebook Pages and connect with Laura on Twitter.