Cavaet: A week of eating what you want and not exercising will not significantly derail your progress. What derails people is the shame, feeling of failure and social judgements that come from “falling off the wagon”. The point of this article is to help people make mindful decisions about eating and exercise during the holidays, however if you can come out the other side happy and not having damaged your mental wellbeing, then fuck it. Eat what you want, drink what you want. If you struggle with the emotional knock ons from that, this article may help.
Part one: Mental strategies
The holiday season is great. For some. But even when it’s great, it’s full of stress triggers, over indulgence, peer pressured eating and drinking, and socialisation with folks many of us have moved thousands of miles to not have to see any more.
Maybe an overstatement.
The thing is the holidays are tough, sure, but they are also a great opportunity to practice and play with the skills necessary the rest of the year round, because if you can stick to your dietary and lifestyle guns when all around are abandoning theirs (and trying to sabotage yours), you are sorted.
Now, I am not big on food rules, but I do believe that how we frame our decisions has a huge effect on out adherence. There’s a big difference mentally between can’t/shouldn’t and don’t/won’t. This piece will be split into two parts, the first looks at the mental architecture and how to think going into the holidays to maximise happiness and success, and cut down on post festive shame. The second part will look at practical strategies.
1. Eat what you want, just make sure you want what you eat.
There’s a lot of good food available at Christmas/New Years and sometimes its just the easiest thing to decide that IF you are going to overeat its going to be on the things you really like. This means saying no to the things you don’t really want to eat, they are just available and being proffered under your nose simply to save room for the things you do want to eat.
This is a pretty simple mindset shift. Consciously engage with what you WANT TO eat, and make sure that if you do overindulge, you do so on things that really do push your buttons.
Here’s your mantra: “Sorry, I am saving myself for X”
2. Eat whenever, just not when you cannot fully enjoy it.
A lot of festive eating is distracted eating, and we are often doing it because it’s there, rather than we want it. Here’s a novel idea, what if you decided you wouldn’t put calories into your body unless you were fully engaged with enjoying it? Would you eat less? Probably. What I believe is important is that even if you didn’t, you would be considerably happier about what you ate.
Here’s your mantra: “Maybe later, I don’t think I’d really enjoy it right now because I am distracted”
3. Eat as much as you want, not as much is as available.
So, a last thing that can cause people to overeat is that they want the food, they are fully engaged, but they end up just having too much. A really simple solution is plan ahead of time to limit yourself to a single serving, and make sure that you get what you want in that serving. Take a moment before eating to decide you will only have one plate, or one dessert. Consciously engage with a plan.
Once you have had that serving, wait 20 minutes before you have anything else. If you are still hungry, then eat some more. Same between main courses and desserts.
Here’s your mantra:
I am full right now, maybe in a minute.
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