Love like you've never loved this Christmas

Grief is a terrible beast.  It sneaks up on you when you least expect it. Yesterday I was wrapping my still warm Christmas cake in newspaper and my Nana, who has wrapped our Christmas cakes in newspaper for as long as I can remember, just filled my soul.   All I could think of was all the years I have spent with her at Christmas, and her relief last year when I took over making the Christmas Cakes for the family.     I remember watching her nervously as she took her first bite, worried it wouldn’t cut the mustard, but she closed her eyes and hummed in pleasure.  I passed.    3 years ago I gave her a present that wasn’t really a present for her, it was for me.  It was an empty recipe book for her to record her recipes.  For me.  

My mum and dad built her a new house on her 1/4 acre of land 10 years ago (when she was 90) as we all decided it was time she had an inside toilet.  But she still did all her baking in the old house as she ‘knew that oven’.   Her lunches and baking were legendary.  It was always scones when I was young, then when my children were born she moved to apple pies.  As soon as we’d arrive at the house they’d run to her and ask for their apple pies.   She always had a beautifully laid table of food with finely cut lettuce, pickled cucumber, and tomatoes, homemade mustard (for you Siany) all set on her finest dinner set.  When we ate with Nana it was an unspoken lesson on how to eat; Chew your food 30 times, eat slowly, breath, enjoy every mouthful, enjoy the company.   I think of her every time I sit down to eat and try to practice her art of eating, and indeed am passing it onto my clients.    She then moved onto banana cake, which I used to pass off as my own at any opportunity (should I feel guilty?).  She used to pop them into the plastic bags her NZ herald came in, and then suggest I used them to put the nappies in. 

There is so much we can learn from our elders, we can learn practicalities of life, because honestly, they do know best, they’ve been here for the longest.   We can also learn dignity, we can learn to not sweat the small stuff, we can learn to forgive and move on, we can learn to be our true, honest selves, because lets face it, most people at age 100 are their true selves.  They’ve realised who they are, and really what means the most to them.  And this, it seems to me, is love. The greater lesson we can learn from our elders is unconditional love.   Love is what makes this world go around, whether it’s the love you feel for a newborn, or whether it’s love in the form of grief that fills your heart with both pleasure at memories, and pain at the hole they have left.   

My nana only left me 2 months ago so my grief is still raw, overwhelming, sudden, physically painful.  I try to cry in private now as I could see the kids starting to get worried at the amount of tears I seemed to be shedding.    Often I cry as I am walking back up the ski slope to my house after delivery the children to school, which is a pretty impressive act as I’m usually struggling to breath given the gradient.   I cry when I see my daughter in Nana’s nighty (they were the same height). I cried when I chopped the end off my finger last week and thought of all her injuries over the years and how brave she was.  I know crying is part of a process so when they need to come, I let the tears fall.   I know the more I cry the easier it will be to move on.   

I have been listening to a lot of Deepak Chopra lately, and I am clinging onto his theory on death “The key to the conquest of death is to discover your true self. Your true self is not in form. Your true self is formless. Your true self is inconceivable. When we connect with our true self, which is in the field of infinite possibilities, infinite creativity, infinite synchronistic correlation, where the power of intention resides, then we are liberated from the fear of the unknown because the so-called unknown has become known to us.”

This time of year can be so difficult, whether it’s near the anniversary of losing someone, or whether their presence is missed as you gather with others   I’m no Deepak Chopra, but I firmly believe that the more we give to people, the more our soul is filled, and the more satisfied with life we feel.  We don’t desire more, because we have enough when we give.  And I don’t mean tangible giving, I mean giving time, giving love, listening with your whole being to what someone is saying.  This is the biggest gift we can give in this world where no-one has time to really listen.  And if you still have a grandparent alive, visit them, sit with them, ask them questions, rub their feet, hold their hands, and make sure they know how much they mean to you. 

How to survive Christmas if you are a 'Freaky Eater'

I've done 3 Christmas's now as a 'freaky eater' so I reckon I have the authority to write this.  It's really important to remember that surviving isn’t just about what you put in your mouth.  Here’s 8 tips on how to survive this coming month without resorting to physical violence on a distant relative. 


We love our endorphins (especially at Christmas), and the best way to keep these pumping through the body is sadly not through necking booze or drugs, it’s through exercise.  My favourite exercise, dancing, ticks all the boxes, not only are you listening to music, letting it enter your cells, but you are having fun with friends (or solo) and getting those muscles moving.   Also, when those who class you as a 'freaky eater' see you cutting  a rug on the dance floor they'll forget you didn't indulge in that mini-burger.  If you have to stick to traditional exercise, give yourself little rewards for every time you partake, we all love a star chart, “yes I can have that vodka and soda with berries (no sugar thanks) at the office Christmas party if I do my Vinyasa flow today.”  If it’s too hard fitting it in, walk to work, walk up and down the stairs at work, sit on a fit ball at your desk, have a snowball fight, do squats in the lift (weirdo).   Not only does this mean that those reading this in the Northern Hemisphere will keep the old SADD at bay, but those in the Southern Hemisphere are going to feel happy in togs for the month of January and thus get in all the Vitamin D required to keep immunity, and mood, high. If you maintain your exercise regime right up until Noel, give yourself the next week off.  Allow yourself a ‘deload’ week, where your muscles have a welcome change to relax and repair themselves. NO guilt, enjoy every second. 


These are people who can’t bear the fact that you aren’t eating ‘normal’ food.  They fall into 3 categories: 

Enabler A/ They think you are a twat for joining the ‘Paleo Fad’ and want you to know how much of a twat they think you are. 

Enabler B/ Because food is the cultural language of choice during the holidays, when you eat their food they see it as emotional reassurance that you care about them.  They want you to like/love them, via the medium of their Caramel Tarte/Turkey Stuffing/Garlic Bread and don’t understand that you would like them more if they didn’t keep sneaking those ‘treats’ onto your plate with a conspiratory wink.

 Enabler C/They wish they had the will-power to do what you are doing.  They want quit drinking a bottle of wine a night but can’t find the energy to break the cycle (understandable, because life is stressful right?)  They want to feel better about themselves, they see you looking smoking hot and clear eyed and sparkling and the way they deal with their emotions is to pull you down to their level by ‘proving’ you wrong with your food choices and giving you grief. 


‘Tell me about your job/mother/cat/dog/gastric bypass/prolapse’ is the easiest way to deal with enablers.   When they start asking questions about your dietary choices, don’t explain yourself, change the subject and ask them a question about themselves.  People love talking about themselves and you’ll address A,B & C all in one by doing this.  Whatever you do though, don’t make the question about food.  Anything but food.  And make sure you listen to the response.  Practice your belly breathing while you listen, unless the afore mentioned A, B & C person has bad booze breath, and then I give you full permission to mouth breathe. 

Enabler A/ Will re-think the fact you are a twat because you aren’t talking about your ‘diet’.

Enabler B/ Will know you love them because you are genuinely interested in them enough to ask a question. 

Enabler C/ Will hopefully lose the feeling of resentment because you not only look good but your inside is running clean, kind and non-judgmental too.  

Lastly on the subject of Enablers, don’t preach.  If someone won’t give up until you’ve explained why you aren’t eating something, say ‘I’ve realised it doesn’t agree with me’ or ‘I don't feel well when I eat gluten’.  Definitely don't launch into a detailed description of the damage that white bread roll is doing on their gut lining at the very moment the missile is entering their gob. 


I have a very good friend who has faked a peanut allergy for years, just because he doesn’t like them and he’s sick of people saying ‘what?? why??’ when he says ‘no thanks I don’t like nuts’.   This is a highly controversial subject but I think it’s a winner way out when you know you are pushing shit up hill and it means you will immediately get someone off your back.   People respect a physical disability far more than someones attempt to stay healthy.  It’s a shame we can’t wear a bandage around our bellies .


It’s not so bad for those down under as you are coming into summer and thus it’s not your time of year to spend weeks horizontal with the flu.  But for those of us currently nearer Santa it’s the perfect time for a flu to hit. You’ve been working hard all year, and now you stop, of course you’re going to get sick.  Not only have you been sharing snot off those shopping trolley handles, packing yourselves into indoor places with heating like malls & shopping centres, but you aren’t getting as much Vitamin D as you get in summer.  Fortunately increasing your water intake, cutting out complex carbs, increasing your fresh veggies and fat is the perfect way to keep those bugs at bay.  Sleep is too, so if you are out on a bender, make sure you have a nana nap the next day. 


This is the key to surviving.  In the lead up to christmas double your recipes, and fill that freezer with good stuff. Pate, energy balls, truffles, banana cake, nut and seed bread, nut christmas cake, casseroles, have them all on the ready to take with you to particularly ‘unfriendly’ places or pull out if you are caught out late and don't have time to cook.  

If you are hosting Christmas make an abundance of roast veggies and some particularly fancy salads to go with your ham/turkey/prawns/oysters and no-one will even notice.   

Eat before you go out so you aren’t tempted by those vol-au-vents, and have a green smoothie ready in the fridge to neck when you get home to help alkalise your gut and stop the hangover. 


Right I’m not giving you permission to eat every candy cane on the tree or demolish the stuffing out of the Turkeys ass, but seriously, if you are dying on the inside because you ‘aren’t allowed’ Champagne, let yourself have it.    If your mother in law insists on making a mind-blowingly tasty christmas cake that certainly isn’t DF, GF, V, FFGFDV (I made that one up), for the sake of your relationship, eat it.   And beating yourself up afterwards is highly unproductive. Enjoy it, accept you’ve ‘slipped’ off eating what makes you feel good, and then just have another serving of greens and a digestive enzyme so you can help your body process it through ok.   Some people like to ‘plan’ a cheat day, so a whole day where you can eat what you want (or what you think you want), but I don’t recommend this as you will feel awful for days after. 


At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the key to surviving both food and emotional stress over Christmas is to breathe and laugh your way through it.  If you haven’t yet read my article on breathing, click to it now, read it on the loo, in bed, whenever, but just make sure you do as this will keep those stress hormones low and the digestion working well to process everything you put in.  Well maybe not everything, but most things.  Laughter has the same effect, as do hugs.  So turn that frown upside down, enjoy those hurdles that leap up to meet you, smile as you listen to boring Aunts and Uncles, and just take a moment to feel gratitude for your life.  And the fact that you only see these people once a year.