A number of dieters have come to see me in anticipation of the holidays. Here’s what I asked them:
When Passover or Easter is over, how do you want to feel about yourself?
Proud that you followed your holiday eating plan? Motivated and in control? Pleased with yourself? Confident that you’ll return to your usual eating routine?
Upset that you abandoned your plan, distressed that you gained a significant amount of weight, and unsure that you can get back on track?
We then discussed, among other topics, four major strategies they could use to maximize the chance that they’ll feel good when the holiday is over. Here’s what I told them.
(1) Develop a reasonable holiday eating plan.
For example, if you celebrate Easter, you might decide to follow your usual plan but add a specific amount of extra calories for chocolate eggs on several days during the holiday. Or follow your regular plan but allow yourself to eat 500 extra calories during your big family dinner. Your weight loss will slow (unless you’re exercising more) or you may gain a little weight, but so what? You may be able to stick to your regular eating plan better if you know you can splurge a little.
Passover is more difficult, especially if you follow the holiday dietary laws for eight days and have large ritualistic meals. Again, the most important guideline is to figure out in advance what variation of your usual eating plan is reasonable. Trying to stick to your usual plan for every meal is probably unrealistic.
(2) Continue your good eating habits
Even if you’re rushed and life is frenetic, take the time to eat ALL your food sitting down and slowly, while enjoying every bite. Plan your day so you have enough time to do so. Drink a glass of water before you eat and take a few deep breaths to calm down so you can fully enjoy what you’re eating.
(3) Watch out for too much or too little entitlement
A key sabotaging thought is: “It’s a holiday. I deserve to eat whatever I want.” Face the fact that you have a choice. You can eat whatever you want and feel badly about the consequences OR you can stick to your holiday eating plan and feel good about the consequences.
Another key sabotaging thought is: “I have so much to do. I don’t have time to….exercise, sit down to eat, prepare the food on my plan, read my Advantages Cards and Response Cards.” You need to build a sense of entitlement: “I deserve to take the time I need for my important goal of healthy eating, even if other people are momentarily displeased or inconvenienced.”
(4) Get right back on track when you make a mistake
It may be unrealistic to think that you won’t slip up at all during the holidays, especially if your new ways of thinking and your new behaviors aren’t firmly in place. If you eat something you hadn’t planned, tell yourself, “Big deal. I made a mistake. I’m only human. But I’m not going to fall into my old habit of waiting until tomorrow to start again because that has NEVER worked to my advantage in the past. I’m going to get away from food and distract myself in a compelling way until the urge to keep eating goes away.”