Perhaps one of the most commonly heard holiday-related sabotaging thoughts is, “My resolution is to eat healthfully so I’ll start dieting after New Year’s.” In our work with dieters we don’t subscribe to the notion that it’s a good idea, or even a rational idea, to wait until the holidays are over to start eating healthfully. Instead, we work with our dieters to help them build skills and practice them consistently so that they don’t have to struggle to get back on track come January 1st. The reason we do this is because the holiday season happens year, and if dieters decide to throw in the towel during the holidays this year, chances are pretty good they will do the same thing next year, and every year to follow. Here’s why it’s so problematic to wait until the New Year to begin eating healthfully again:
1. If dieters decide that it’s okay to splurge a lot during the holidays and eat whatever they want, it sends themselves the message that it’s okay to make exceptions to dieting and healthy eating. Once dieters start making exceptions in one area, they begin to get tempted to make exceptions in other ways as well, telling themselves, “just this one time won’t matter”. Instead of just knowing that they will stay in control during the weekends, at weddings, functions, dinners out, parties, and other holidays, they may begin to struggle with themselves before and during each one and agonize over whether or not to make an exception. We always remind our dieters that one of the hardest parts of dieting is the struggle, and everything we can do to reduce the struggle is worth it.
2. There is no guarantee that dieters will actually be able to get themselves back on track once the holiday season is over. At the beginning of the holiday season, dieters may firmly believe that no matter what once the New Year hits they will be able to return to healthy eating, but this is not always the case. If dieters eat off track during the holiday season, it is likely that they will end up gaining some, or even a lot, of weight. Gaining weight can be very discouraging, and the more discouraged dieters feel, the harder it will be for them to get back on track. If dieters are feeling discouraged, when the New Year comes they may very well end up telling themselves, “I’ve gained all this weight so what’s the point,” or, “I’ll get back on track tomorrow,” or, “I’ll start my diet next week,” and it may take weeks or even months for dieters to regain control over their eating.
3. Dieters will constantly undo all of their hard work from the rest of the year by gaining weight during the holiday season. Even if they are able to get themselves back on track January 1st, they may not be able to quite lose all the weight they had gained. If this happens, dieters will find that their weight slowly begins to creep up year after year and they may begin to feel helpless to stop it.
4. It often happens with dieters that once they get off track for a number of days, they actually forget how good it feels to be in control of their eating and how much they enjoy all the benefits of losing weight. Especially if dieters have gotten used to giving in to all their cravings, eating whatever they feel like, and not having a plan, it can be very difficult for them to convince themselves to return to healthy eating once the holiday season is over because they don’t remember how much better it feels when they are practicing their skills consistently.
5. Once dieters get off track, it can undermine their confidence that they are capable of dieting successfully and controlling their eating. Not only do they forget how good it feels when they are in control, they may also begin to question their abilities to lose weight and keep it off permanently.
For all of these reasons and more, we find that it is just not worth it to continually splurge during the holiday season and have to count on getting back on track January 1st, because doing so can make almost every part of dieting and maintaining harder and jeopardize future success. Our dieters come to realize that good health, feeling good about themselves, having more self-confidence, being able to move around better, being able to fit into their old clothes, feeling proud of themselves, setting a good example for their kids, and feeling good when they look in the mirror more than makes up for it. So don’t wait, start your resolution RIGHT NOW and come January 1st you will be so happy you did.