Recently one of my members asked me how to not go crazy over the holidays with all the parties, dinners and sweets, and how to avoid backsliding after seeing huge positive changes since the start of her program.
So much of eating is influenced by and tied to our emotions from previous conditioning, maladaptive coping mechanisms formed over time, familial and cultural influences, unconscious triggers and latent marketing messages, just to name a few, which is precisely why we need to honor ourselves by consciously cultivating a comprehensive self-care plan that minimizes the obsessive and ubiquitous desire to merely “lose weight”, and more appropriately addresses one’s psychological well-being, emotional health, spiritual enlightenment and altruistic contributions.
A dysfunctional relationship with food does little more than perpetuate shame (e.g., I’m a bad person for eating the way I do), guilt (e.g., I feel awful about myself every time I eat junk food) and obsessive ruminations which does nothing more than damage our essential connection with the very thing that provides sustenance for our survival.
My approach and my advice to clients has always been quite simple: I love to eat unapologetically and I love great REAL food no matter what day of the week, holiday season or special occasion. On holidays such as Thanksgiving or Christmas, I wake up grateful, I exercise rigorously to burn calories and put my body in an optimal state to consume calories efficiently throughout the day. It truly is just “another day” from a nutritional standpoint with no real reason to “behave” any differently than any other day despite having to negotiate a few more temptations.
During dinner, I peruse the table and make supportive choices as best I can given the selections like I would on any other day and if I see something that’s not supportive of my health/fitness goals on the table that I truly enjoy (e.g., pumpkin pie w/ whip cream or lemon meringue pie), I’ll enjoy a slice without any concerns. Also if there’s something I really like (e.g., my wife’s vegetarian 3 bean stew, Mother-in-law’s potato salad or my Mom’s sweet potatoes covered in nutmeg, cinnamon and marshmallows), I’ll have a small portion of it and then come back to it 2-3 hours later for another small serving of it if there’s more left over. If no more is left after those 2-3 hours, no big deal–I probably didn’t need the extra calories anyway.
Because I’m 100% aligned with my goals, I know I’ll wake up the next day, exercise, eat cleanly, manage my stress and sleep for 6-7 hours each night, I bask in the magical moments that the holiday seasons represent to me and enjoy all of those for whom I feel fortunate to share the day.
Not one marginal meal defines me no more than anyone’s insults define me or determine my response. I take 100% responsibility for all of my actions and accept all of the consequences of taking such actions including what I put in my mouth on any festive occasion.
Just like when you’re working out, watch your internal (and sometimes external) dialogue. My thoughts are ALWAYS supportive of me when I’m moving and working to get stronger, more mobile and more resilient. I don’t have an “internal critic” that reminds me of how much I suck–that’s what marriages are for (j/k)!
There is no room for crappy internal dialogue cluttering up the highly precise neurological pathways that enable smooth and fluid movement. Similarly, when you’re at the dinner table this coming holiday season, do me a favor and more importantly, do yourself a favor, and turn off the “internal critic” you’ve successfully cultivated and conditioned to beat yourself up over the years when it comes to food.
Practice detachment and learn to enjoy and appreciate the abundance in our lives. By the same token, take pride in what you’re accomplishing on a daily basis through your exercise and raise your standards by providing your body with the nutrients it requires first. Make a sensible plate with lean protein, veggies and complex carbohydrates just like you would on any other day. If you want to splurge, then splurge. If you love something that’s not all that supportive of your ultimate goals, own it, but don’t allow it to own you. It is only one day so enjoy it. Even if it’s one week of “splurging”, enjoy it. You’re in control; you just have to believe it and practice it without the self-deprecation or punitive judgment that you’ve practiced and have allowed others to impose upon you for many years.
Oh, about that fruitcake…I’m sure you won’t be eating any of it (nobody eats fruitcake, right?) and will probably use it as a doorstop, yoga block or foot rest for the coming year so there’s really no need to talk about the dangers of fruitcake unless, of course, you’re 1) planning on throwing it at the relative who brought it for you and would like to discuss proper throwing mechanics, or 2) planning on re-gifting it to your mother-in-law and will need to know best defensive ground tactics for when she hip tosses you to the floor and puts you in a headlock.
Ah, another year to commemorate priceless family moments…
Happy holidays everyone! Enjoy…