'Tis the season to eat cookies, fa la la la la, la la la la! Don we now our stretchy sweatpants, fa la la, la la la, la la la! Shove the fudge things down our pie hole, fa la la la la, la la la la.
We all know that Thanksgiving through New Year’s is the time to treat yo’ self, overindulge, and face the new year with a barrage of weight loss resolutions. Oftentimes the prospect of that “New Year, New You” fresh start can even contribute to overindulging: “Yeah, I might be overdoing it now, but come January 1, I’m all diet and exercise, baby!” But we also all know how those resolutions typically pan out. By January 8th, we’ve disembarked from the weight loss bandwagon with our tail between our legs and the burden of failure weighing us down even more. So how can we break this cycle of defeat? How do we enjoy the holidays without feeling deprived or laden with guilt? With the power of choice.
When it comes to striving to eat better, we often enter in to a situation with a mindset of “I can’t.” Even though I want to indulge in X,Y,Z, I’m going to practice extreme restraint because those things are off limits. But extreme restraint most often leads to extreme overdoing it. What if instead we shifted that mentality just a smidge? Rather than an “I can’t have that” mentality, we choose an “I don’t have that” mentality. In that seemingly simple shift of semantics, something much bigger is actually happening. It’s a reclaiming of power over ourselves and our situation. What do I mean by that? When we say “I can’t” in terms of having/not having something, say a festive holiday treat for example, what we’re doing is relinquishing our power to choose and giving it to something outside of ourselves. Now, all of a sudden, that thing that we’re saying “no” to has the power. That leaves us feeling helpless and defeated, two very powerful emotions that can also lead to overindulging. We feel sorry for ourselves, desire something to make us feel better, and off we go into a cycle of unhealthy eating filled with a caramelly layer of guilt.
Power and control arise from saying “I can.” You can indulge, but have decided that you don’t, or won’t. Does that mean you won’t enjoy any treats this holiday season? No way. It means you can decide in advance what’s really worth it to you, and what perhaps can be left behind. Let’s say you have a family function or holiday party coming up. You have a general idea of the type of fare that will be available. Maybe your kryptonite is your co-worker’s famous double chocolate peppermint cookies, or your grandma’s world-renowned pecan pie. Rather than going in blind and caving to every little thing that calls your name, go with a plan. Practice the don’t vs. can’t mentality. In advance, decide what’s really worth it to you, commit to that decision, and enjoy that treat mindfully. Don’t let that cornucopia of treats control you and take you down a sugar-paved path of overindulgence and guilt. If you say “I can have whatever I want, but I’m choosing to only have this thing,” it sets you up for success.
In addition to giving yourself the choice, remember to chew slowly, savor, and take the time to recognize when your body has had enough. More often than not we inhale our food, never stopping to listen to our body’s signal that we’re satisfied, and then we reach that uncomfortable state of feeling too full and not great about ourselves. You have the power to choose and to enjoy mindfully!
Your choices don’t have to be super dogmatic or drowning in rules and regulations. Food should be enjoyed. But there is a very fine, often over-crossed line between true enjoyment of our treats, and overindulgence to the point of guilt and discomfort. Choose to savor. It doesn’t mean telling yourself that instead of that delectable Christmas cookie, what you really want is a carrot. Please. There’s no trickery involved, just the power of choice, the ability to say “no,” and the true fulfillment of savoring and enjoying your food with true satisfaction.
Have a safe, healthy, and mindfully indulgent holiday season!
In loving health,