Spring Holiday Eating


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.”

Holiday Eating: Maria

Our Cognitive Therapy weight loss group has now been meeting for 6 months.  In spite of the fact that our dieters are faced with an overabundance of holiday goodies everywhere they turn, their motivation stays high and almost everyone lost weight this week.

At our meeting yesterday we discussed the possible eating-related perils and pitfalls that can arise during holiday time, and how to deal with them, especially how to cook and bake without nibbling. This had been a problem for many of the women in the past, including Maria.

Maria is a 38 year-old mother of two.  She started dieting at age 20 and since then has tried at least five different diets on more than ten different occasions.  In the past, she’s lost as much as 60 pounds. It took her about eight months to lose this much weight but she started gaining it back within only three months. Since she joined our group, Maria has lost 38 pounds.

Maria had a big triumph this week.  Once again she made a cheese tray to bring to a function at her daughter’s school.  Last time she made one (about a month ago), she had the sabotaging thought: “It won’t matter if I just shave off a few pieces while I’m cutting the cheese.” This sabotaging thought led her to eat lots off unplanned pieces. Keeping that experience in mind (a skill learned on Day 13 of The Beck Diet Solution), and remembering how bad she felt last time for giving into her craving, Maria prepared herself in advance with the following thought: “The cheese would taste good but if I eat it, I’ll feel bad.” Therefore, she held strong and didn’t eat even a single piece while she was preparing the tray.  She also did some problem-solving. To eliminate some of the temptation, Maria bought already cut up cheese so she wouldn’t be tempted by cutting it herself.  A few days later, Maria is still thinking about her triumph with the cheese tray and giving herself credit (Day 4).