Anticipation. Brady had left to the airport an hour before. I knew he’d be home any second and I was filled with an eagerness to embrace the ones he’d left to pickup. It had been several years since the last time we saw his sister and her husband. Our time together was all too brief. I could still see how tightly his sister fisted Brady’s shirt in her hands as she embraced him for the last time at our parting. The way her knuckles turned white as she buried her blonde head in his beard covered neck, knowing that it would probably be awhile before they were together again.
We began to make tentative plans about meeting up the following summer in Florida. We could get an airbnb on the beach, invite the rest of the family. We began to dream of a week on the coast but then, COVID, a pandemic, and just as it derailed everyone else’s plans— it derailed ours too. But now was not the time to think about moments lost but the sacred ones still to come. This was the first Christmas we’d spend with Brady’s family in 8 years and I was equal parts nervous and excited.
Brady’s family was a tight-knit bunch. The only people who really understood them were, well, them. Every gathering full of inside jokes, obscure movies quotes, playing games like children, and sporadic laughter— one couldn’t help but feel like an outsider around them. Their bond formed during years where all they had was each other.
I loved to sit in admiration and watch them weave back together after a separation. They spoke in a language, fast and fluid that only those on the inside understood. Being an outsider in this case didn’t feel ostracizing but amusing.
One of them makes the coconut sound from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, another chimes in, “you’ve got two empty halves of coconut and you’re bangin’ em together!”
“Where’d you get the coconuts?” Another asks as they continue to play cards with kids buzzing around them, carrying on a code-like conversation in movie quotes.
“We found them!” Someone else cries.
“Found them? In Mercia?! The coconuts tropical!”
And on and on it goes. They switch from Monty Python to The Court Jester to Almost Heroes and then to a Muppets Christmas Carol— round and round again until they’re all sniggering and laughing and can hardly catch their breath. I send a secret smile to Eric, the other outsider, the one who married Brady’s sister Ericka. He rolls his eyes a little and grins back. We don’t get it, we’re not on the inside, but we love that it makes the ones we love happy. When they’re together like this, they feel understood in a way that, try as we might, we never quite get and that’s okay. It’s core family stuff.
I used to think that if I stuck around long enough that I’d learn the lingo but you know what, their lingo just isn’t my lingo, and it’s okay. I have a lingo with my core family. We don’t quote Monty Python but Farris Bueller, Better Off Dead, and You’ve Got Mail. It’s different, but you see, it’s just the same with mine.
Brady looks around the table as I talk in code with my people and rolls his eyes as we snicker at our cleverness. He shares grins with my siblings non-native speaking spouses too. Brady and I have our own language though, one that our kids are picking up on and adding to— a mix of our core languages, new inside jokes, and experiences with each other. It’s a beautiful language built of treasured time.
The kids sound like elephants on the stairs and I know that means the airport shuttle, aka our Suburu Ascent, must be near. A quick look out the window confirms it. I give the pot of Minestrone Soup one last stir and check on the loaves of sourdough that I have in the oven. I am wearing a dark gray jumper with a long cream cable knit sweater over top. The house smells like a bakery and I am completely in my element.
Over the next 24 hours, Bradys parents arrive. Then his younger sister Aubrie. Each new arrival cues a marvelous welcome full of breath stealing embraces, cries of jubilee, and fanfare befitting royalty. The Williams family knows how to say hello in a manner that feels like they’ve been waiting for your arrival all their life. There’s nothing like it.
For days we don’t change out of our pajamas. We bake Christmas cookies and bread. We eat lasagnas, roasts, briskets, turkeys, enchiladas, homemade pizza, chicken and dumplings with sides of green beans, creamed corn, potatoes, cranberry sauce, stuffing, and salads. The food is never ending and ever present, just like the love, because food has always been my language. One I’ve learned to speak quite fluently and one that I use often to say, “I love you, I’m glad you’re here, I care deeply for you.”
As Brady’s family returns home one by one, my family begins to arrive for our Christmas Eve celebration. This is the first year I’ve ever hosted our long-standing tradition and I feel humbled, honored, and very intimidated. Growing up, we always celebrated Christmas with extended family on Christmas Eve so that everyone could stay home on Christmas Day with their immediate family– enjoying the gifts, enjoying the jammies, and relaxing. I love not having to drive or upset the blissful slothfulness of the day. I look forward to it all year.
Eric had mentioned a couple days before that his family does a Super Bowl appetizer theme every year for Christmas and I decided to adopt the idea. Instead of a ham, lamb or bird, we had egg rolls, chicken wings, chips and dip, beanie weanies, and barbecue meatballs, with countless desserts. My youngest brother proclaimed it the best Christmas spread ever and told me if I cooked like that every day, he’d never leave.
I’ve come to realize the need and recognize the difference between food for the soul and food for nourishment. As a food addict, it hasn’t always been easy to uphold food boundaries. Though every year, I feel like I get a little better. And that’s all I’m really after— better, not best. Best means perfect or as close to perfect as possible. Perfect just seems like such a far-fetched thing. So instead, I try to do a little better all the time. That has seemed to suit.
Aubrie’s flight was cancelled twice, a victim of the Southwest Airlines fiasco. So she stayed through and beyond Christmas. The two of us decided that we’d start a reset on December 26th– our intentions were good. Both of our bodies screaming at us to take a break from the Christmas goodies and drink a green juice or 87. But with a house full of leftover food and Christmas cookies, by lunch we were eating chips with seven layer dip and drinking champagne.
Note to future-self: don’t start a reset with 2 pounds of peanut brittle, a whole tray of peppermint shortbread, and two Costco sized bags of potato chips in the house. It won’t end well. That, or it’ll end much more abruptly than you planned. Ha!
Oh thee of little willpower, get rid of the temptation first, preferably not by eating it. Gift them. Send things home with other people. Don’t be like me. Don’t eat all the things.
I do this crazy thing. I’m not hungry, I don’t even really want to eat something. But because it’s there, I’ll eat it. I can eat Brady under the table any day. It’s like my stomach didn’t come with a bottom– it’s just a huge gaping pit that extends forever and ever and ever. All that to say, I have a hard time with moderation, but only when I’m eating heavily processed foods.
I’ve never binged carrots, or celery, or broccoli before. It’s always highly refined, hyper palatable, empty foods. I used to think that I was always hungry but I wasn’t. I was just undernourished. As a result, my hunger signals never turned off because my body was never getting the nutrients it needed. When I’m feeling out of control with food, it’s because of the way that my body responds chemically when I consume foods that it doesn’t process well. It’s screaming at me— “feed me protein, feed me fiber, I need vitamins!!!” But all I feel is dissatisfaction. I continue eating, not the right foods mind you, so the screaming never stops.
I knew that it would be difficult to maintain a whole foods approach through the holiday season. This is my 5th holiday season post weight loss and I’m no stranger to holiday gains. I did think it would be nice if this was the year that I didn’t experience that. When I’m with family, I don’t really worry about foods’ nutritional value but how good and loved and comforted it’s going to make everyone around me feel. It’s my language. So I cooked and I baked, saying “I love you” in every cut out sugar cookie and individual sourdough crust pizza. Everyone felt welcomed and cherished and loved. My soul was alive. It was alive in a way that only happens when my walls are bursting at the seems with people I can feed.
I didn’t worry about the scale or how my foot was swelling. I ignored my puffy face and the way my rings and pants were getting too tight. I was filling up my soul with people and dumplings. It’s okay sometimes to tell your body, “It’ll be your turn soon but right now, this is my priority.”
It’s okay if your body’s wellness isn’t always occupying the #1 spot on your priority list. There will be times when it doesn’t even crack the top 5. I’m not saying that it’s not important to prioritize it’s needs, just that sometimes, the healthiest thing is homemade eggnog and making peanut butter blossoms or Rolo turtles with your kids.
So… I gained 17 pounds in two weeks. Nothing new. I once gained 15 pounds on a three day cruise. My body is highly sensitive and it holds onto water weight when it’s stressed—dietary stress, environmental stress, emotional stress. The body cannot distinguish between “good” stress and “bad” stress. I was excited and so happy to be juggling all of the things. It’s my language. The food I consumed wasn’t the most nourishing for the body but it was for the soul. My soul is filled and bursting though and it’s now time to direct attention to my body’s cries.
The keratosis pillars outbreak on my thighs and arms, along with my stomach cramps, are telling me that I need to lay off dairy. The whole body swollen feeling is telling me that the inflammatory oils and highly processed sugars I’ve been snacking on are irritating my gut. My bowel changes are signaling that I need to focus on getting more fiber. My insomnia, only getting 4 hours of sleep a night, is telling me that I need to watch my caffeine and sugar intake while getting more sunlight during the day and less screen time at night.
It’s time to listen and respect the signals it’s sending to get me back to feeling my best again. Despite my heart being full of happiness, my body feels run down. It’s okay though, because I know how to speak this language too, and if you’d like– I’d love to teach you.
Follow along on stories (tap here for faceboook, tap here for instagram) as I show you daily how I am loving my body through this reset. We talk about mindset, making adjustments, staying motivated, and food— we talk a lot about food.
For simple recipes to get you started, tap here.
If you would like a more in-depth guide on how to start with simple recipes and a meal plan, check out my book Instant Loss Cookbook. It is on sale now! I also have a budget-friendly book with tips on how to keep your costs down this year, with meal plans and grocery lists. Tap here for Instant Loss on a Budget!
And, if you hadn’t heard, I have a new book debuting in February called Dear Body, What I lost, What I gained, and What I’ve learned along the way! Everyone knows the story of how I lost 125 pounds in one year but very few know why I gained it. I take you to my most secret places and I talk about my struggle with food addiction and how I’ve started to recover. Tap here to read more!
Below are my goals for this year. You are more than welcome to borrow and expand on them! I can’t wait to see what this year brings us. I have a feeling it’s going to be a good one.
New Year Reset
- Drink enough water
- Eat enough protein
- Eat enough fiber
- Don’t neglect plant food (fruit, veggies, nut, seeds, legumes etc.)
- Strength train 3 days a week
- Take 7 to 10,000 steps a day
- Take more time off
- Sleep more
- Read more
- Learn more
- Love more