Christmas isn’t an easy season for emotional eaters. In a month where we’re surrounded by good things to eat, we’re also surrounded by opportunities for negative emotions that make us want to eat.
The funny thing is that we’ve taken a holiday designed to celebrate the birth of Jesus, who came to bring us peace, and turned it into probably the least peaceful time of the year. The stress of all the things on our to-do lists would send us to the refrigerator even if the Christmas cookies didn't!
So what do we do? Resign ourselves to the inevitable Christmas weight gain? Get rid of the Christmas cookies? Or use the season as an opportunity to change our focus and see life, ourselves, our to-do list, and even Christmas through God’s eyes?
This Christmas my goal is to keep my focus on God throughout the Christmas season and to avoid getting caught up in the negative emotions that seem to come with the season. Here are a few of the ideas I had to help me reach that goal.
1. Practice the presence of God as much as possible.
I think I mentioned before that I’ve been reading the book The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence, a man who lived in the 1600’s. Here’s an excerpt from his book:
I make it my business only to persevere in His holy presence, wherein I keep myself by a simple attention, and a general fond regard to God, which I may call an actual presence of God; or, to speak better, an habitual, silent, and secret conversation of the soul with God, which often causes me joys and raptures inwardly, and sometimes also outwardly, so great that I am forced to use means to moderate them and prevent their appearance to others.
Brother Lawrence said that developing this habit of always being aware of God’s presence no matter what he was doing did more for his relationship with God than anything he’d ever done before.
I’ve found that it’s a hard habit to develop, but when it works, it’s delightful. It’s like you’re having a side conversation with God while you’re doing other things. Or like He’s right there with you fellowshipping with you while you do those other things. I’ve also found that it makes things you don’t usually enjoy doing almost enjoyable because you’re doing them with the One you love.
2. Deal with the emotions that come up when they come up.
When I find myself craving Christmas cookies, I'll ask myself, Is it the cookies, or is it my emotions? If you have a tendency to eat to procrastinate like I do, you’ll probably find yourself wanting to eat at Christmas. Same with eating for stress. Or relationship problems—often there are more of those at Christmas. What we need to do when we experience those emotion-induced cravings is go to God and work through the emotions.
3. Stick to my eating boundaries faithfully.
This is more important than ever at Christmas. It's helpful to get in the mindset of not even one bite outside of the boundaries - because one bite usually leads to lots of bites!
4. Prepare myself for parties and other tempting eating events by renewing my mind before I go.
I have to tell you that I don't actually do this one because it's not an area of temptation for me anymore, but I thought I'd write about it in case you might like to try it. I think it would have helped me back in the old days.
Here's the idea - before you go to the party, write down a list of things you might tell yourself that would make you want to overeat at the party. Recognize the lies and replace them with truth. You might also make a list of the advantages of eating whatever you want at the party and the disadvantages. This will help you recognize the truth that it really is better not to eat too much.
5. Don’t be a perfectionist or a procrastinator when it comes to holiday jobs.
I probably need to give myself this lecture every day. Perfectionism and procrastination lead to stress. Things don’t have to be perfect. Things don’t have to be done all at once. Pace your holiday jobs throughout the month—if you do one thing a day, it will be more manageable.
Here’s an example. Today, I’m going to buy my Christmas cards and address the envelopes. That’s a job I don’t mind doing—but if I were to tell myself I have to send a bunch of cards today, I probably wouldn’t even get around to buying the cards because the whole process would seem too intimidating. (Yes, I know, I’m a bit on the pathetic side.)
These last three things on the list might seem like they have more to do with practical issues rather than walking with God, but the truth is that every part of our lives affects our relationship with God. When I obsess over food, it affects my relationship with God. When I demand the easy life or the perfect life, it affects my relationship with God. When I get too busy, it affects my relationship with God.
That's why I really want to develop this habit of practicing the presence of God - because I can't focus on Him and demand those other things all at the same time. Living in His presence helps me live for Him. Which is exactly what I want to do this Christmas season.