Well, here we are. The final month of 2020. One of the craziest years that I have personally lived through.
As we speed in to the holiday season, I have a lot on my mind. And I don’t know about you but I am THROWING myself in to the festivities this year. I am going to decorate so hard you’ll be able to see my house from space and it’s Christmas music from now until Valentine’s Day.
For many of us, myself included, in fact possibly all of us, significant parts of 2020 have been traumatic. And I mean that literally. It’s only with the hindsight of looking back at the year that I am able to recognise the trauma of it, as in the moment I just went in to ‘management’ mode and was busy dealing with all the things that were happening.
It is human to experience very hard things as part of life. Loved ones get sick – two of my close friends/family are battling cancer right now for example. We go through financial, home, family, relationship and personal crises just as part of being human and alive.
But this year we have collectively been through multiple things, all at once, on top of all the usual trials and tribulations of day to day life.
We have all had suspension and reconfiguration of our normal working life, our social lives and our family interactions. We miss hugs. We miss the casual ease of social interaction and recognise how terribly important that is to us. We have all faced our own health vulnerability and perhaps mortality (with the help of a very sensationalist media), and that of our family and loved ones.
We have faced the glaring weakness and ineptitude of our governments during a time of crisis, and growing polarisation of the community. We watched a man get murdered, on camera, while his killer stared down the lens completely unperturbed by what he was doing or who saw.
All of this, while trying to raise our children, work, and take care of ourselves and our homes.
Not wanting to be a Debbie Downer, brining this all up, but I think it’s very important to reflect and acknowledge what we have all been through this year, and to make sure that we use this experience in a couple of ways.
1. Check in with yourself.
Take some time to very honestly reflect on how you are doing emotionally and also physically. And what can you do in the next month or two to really tend to any areas needed.
Do you need to rest and really build extra sleep and downtime in to your schedule for December and January? Do you need to cash in an extra week of vacation if you have it and just lie in bed watching holiday movies and eating soup? Do you need to coat yourself in tinsel and just do anything and everything that makes you feel joyful and celebratory? Do you need to talk to someone to help you process this year and reinforce some tools for emotional recovery and / or resilience?
2. What have you learned about your life this year, that you will be taking forwards?
What have you learned about your life, that you would like to change going forwards? Or that has been forced to change but you’d like to keep it that way now?
How has this year forced you to confront or realign with your core values and the things that are truly important to you?
I have seen, for example, a few people forced to dramatically pivot their jobs or businesses due to everything falling apart overnight in March, but come out the other side so much happier with what they are doing now and have in place for next year. They had to go through a fair amount of fear and stress to do it, but it was worth it for what was on the other side.
There have been so many silver linings to this year. For me:
Time spent with my family in a way we literally never have before and watching how much the kids have loved that actually has been fun.
Feeling like I got a break from rushing around.
There have been moments where I would have given a limb for 2 hours at soft-play, but actually just not rushing from place to place every day week in week out has been brilliant.
Country-wide focus on health as a core value.
I know I’ve spoken about this here before, but it’s been very interesting for me to watch people’s relationship with their bodies and their health radically change overnight.
Everything switching to virtual.
I have been working virtually for 5 years now, but with the global switch to virtual I now have access to so many things I didn’t before because of time or distance. Yoga and exercise classes online, hanging out with book groups and attending conferences I would have to miss otherwise due to family obligations, art classes, therapy. So many additions and I’m loving it!
Everyone working virtually means we can help to support other small businesses and that feels good too.
Don’t let perfection be the enemy of joy this Christmas.
We hosted family from Australia last Christmas and, wow. am I even more thrilled we did that now. But it is so easy for me to go in to that mum mode of constantly doing-all-the-things and not actually being that present for the moments. Well this year I am determined to actually just relax and enjoy it and not care AT ALL if anything is even close to perfect.
I am going to try and just look at everything through the lens of the kids experience and if they are happy, then that’s ok!
Of course food is the heart of my Christmas celebrations and I probably won’t dramatically change the menu this year, but I will start cooking and freezing now a couple of dishes per week so that I don’t have to knock myself out on the 23rd prepping and shopping for last minute things I forgot to buy.
Although the holiday season looks different this year with COVID, it doesn’t make it any easier for those of us following a restrictive diet.
Not only have I heard it all in clinic, I think I have also experienced every single nightmare scenario to do with food and family celebrations myself over the last 15 years. In fact, for a while there I actually started to really dread the holidays. I found the whole thing really stressful. Not just the social interactions and conversations about ‘my food’, but also the worry of getting sick because either I didn’t advocate for myself properly for fear of being a pain, or just inadvertent exposure to something that would tip me into an autoimmune flare.
So it’s with seasoned experience that I have compiled what I personally do and cook to not only survive but thrive during the holiday season.
All my recipes are on my website, but I am including some here too for you, for ease of reference:
Slow Cooker, Apple Roasted Turkey
Healthy Holiday Gingerbread
Healthy Hot Chocolate
Christmas Morning Pancakes
Holiday Sweet Potato Casserole
Offering an Autoimmune Mentoring Program for 2021
I’ve decided to offer a year long mentoring program starting in February focussing just on autoimmune disease.
I’d like to take a small group of doctors and nutritionists through a DEEP dive in to autoimmunity in clinical practice. To look at all the underlying mechanisms, research, testing, diets, programs and products and really dissect and asses it all and discuss the practical management of people with autoimmune disease. We’ll start in February so I’ll be launching it probably between Christmas and New Year.
If you’d be interested in applying for this, just let me know.
I’m seeing more and more Long Covid cases in clinic as the ball continues to roll down the hill. I feel so grateful to have the tools and experience to work with this group people. It’s very rewarding. I wrote my thesis on viral infection back in the day, but I never imagined then that we’d be facing this now.
My three favourite podcasts this month have been:
1. Armchair Expert: Dax Shepherd and Susan David PhD.
Favourite moment in the episode: Susan says, we need to stop saying ‘I’m stressed’. We actually need to specify what we are feeling. I’m feeling depleted and overwhelmed. I’m stressed AND lonely. etc. And this helps us to communicate our actual needs to other people, helping us to get our needs met. It’s a small change in language that can have a huge impact on our quality of life (and health).
2. Armchair Expert: Dax Shepherd and Tristan Harris.
A very thought provoking episode on the ethics of the online world and our relationship with our tech.
Tristan Harris has been called “the closest thing Silicon Valley has to a conscience” by The Atlantic magazine. He was Google’s Design Ethicist, developing a framework for how technology should “ethically” steer the thoughts and actions of billions of people from screens.
3. iWeigh with Jameela Jamil and Caitlin Moran.
Caitlin speaks frankly about her experience parenting her daughter through an eating disorder. It was a very interesting insight into a really tough life experience and as a parent, I learned a lot even though this isn’t my own journey right now.
At one point Caitlin relays a moment that created a big shift in the communication between herself and her daughter, where she looked her in the eye and told her that she (Caitlin) could see that her daughter was angry and sad, and she wasn’t afraid of her anger or her sadness and nothing that she could do would change how much she loved her. And eating disorder or not, I think that’s a very profound parental or relational strategy. I suspect we all need to hear that from someone at some point.
I got a grocery order this week from a new company, called Natoora. They have been on my radar for ages and I have ordered from them before via Ocado, but never directly. Sounds ridiculous, but downloading their app has been on my to-do list for months, and I finally did it and placed an order.
I have a very specific intention for this company, which is:
Diversity, Variety, Abundance.
So I scroll through the whole menu looking only for the weird, the wild and the wonderful. It is my MOST fun and gorgeous grocery order. As well as being different and interesting, the food is great quality. The produce is delicious and even a simple carrot or some greens adds so much to the meal they are used in.
AND Natoora has the very least plastic packaging of ANY of the delivery companies I have used (I’m looking at you here Riverford). Just one bag for green leaves, and they are really committed to biodiversity and supporting small farms and small businesses. So this really checks a lot of my boxes.
They are not local, and the food does travel so it’s not perfect. But I’ll be discussing in the next newsletter more about how I try to balance everything when it comes to food purchasing.
Aside from the autoimmune mentoring program, I have a few exciting announcements for the January newsletter and I’m going to share my best books of 2020 as well.
And as I mentioned above, I’ll also be sharing what I do when I have to choose between two (or more) of my values when it comes to food e.g. organic OR plastic free.
I wish you ALL the very best of the festive season if you are celebrating.
I wish you peace, comfort, health, safety and security as we close out a turbulent and distressing year.
Thank you for joining me this year and I look forward to 2021 with you too!
Wishing you the very best of health. -Robyn