The holiday season is upon us and with it often comes overindulgence. Whether it be spending, eating, drinking, or committing, many of us takes things to excess this time of year. The question is, how quickly are you able to reel it back in?
Recently, I noticed a pattern in my behavior that I want to get in check. Due to various social events, I relaxed my commitment to healthy eating a bit too much, telling myself I’d just exercise more to make up for the indulgences.
While I can celebrate my commitment to activity (I actually did kick things up a notch to counteract the food and drink), it feels a bit like a Band-Aid on a broken arm. What I need to look at is hedonic hunger (a physiological response, involving the brain’s “reward centers” to smelling, seeing and thinking about certain foods). This results in eating solely for pleasure and not for my body’s hunger needs – a slippery slope, for sure.
So I went back and updated my food journal to track all the food and drink I had over the past week. You might think it would be horrible to see that reality staring you in the face, but instead, it reclaims the power from the indulgences and gets you back in relationship with your mind, body, and spirit. Knowledge is power, after all.
I then made a commitment to be more present when making my choices, and plan to not arrive hungry at future gatherings and celebrations. I’ll also do my best to choose treats that I really love rather than waste the calories on so-so snacks (note the “do my best” part of that statement: Very intentional). Finally, I’ll remind little Kerri that she’ll never be deprived; that we can eat whatever we want, whenever we want, so as to not fall victim to the “I only get to have this once a year” lie.
If you find yourself loosening the reins more than you’d like, here are 5 tips to get back on track:
- Acknowledge. Pause to recognize that your eating, spending, drinking, committing, etc. has gotten away from you. Do this simply from an awareness place and not from a self-punitive one; otherwise, you’ll be reaching for that cookie or credit card again in no time!
- Plan. After identifying what behaviors are not working for you, reassess your approach to help bring you back to center. What tweaks do you need to make to honor your needs and energy levels? Maybe you decline a party invitation, change your mind about participating in the neighborhood cookie swap, decide to not buy that distant relative a gift, or alternate your glasses of wine with a glass of seltzer.
- Debunk the myths. We tell ourselves a lot of lies to justify our less-than-ideal behaviors. “I’ll regroup on Monday/in January/etc,” “This is the only time I ever get to have Nan’s banana cream pie,” “My neighbors will never speak to me again if I don’t participate,” “I’ll look like a Scrooge if I don’t buy him a gift.” These lies are merely the symptoms. If you look below the surface, you’ll find that these justifications are really about a fear of disappointing others, discomfort around someone possibly being angry with you, or a resistance to setting boundaries. Welcome these fears and feelings in and you’ll be surprised how quickly they let go of you; and then how much more willing you are to take care of yourself.
- Be realistic. When we’ve gotten away from ourselves, we can often slip in to all-or-nothing thinking. One of the main components to my healthy living success over the last year has been my permission to be “good enough” instead of “perfect”. Hence the “I’ll do my best…” clarification in my intention above. When you say that you’ll start your commitment with the New Year, you’re essentially giving yourself free rein to go bananas now. Instead, you can start small today. If you want to get your finances in check in the New Year, for example, make one wiser spending decision today. You don’t have to do a 180-degree turnaround to have success. Start with 5 degrees. J
- Practice kindness. Through all of these steps, keep a consistent theme of loving-kindness for yourself. Patience, understanding, and reassurance are all vital to moving forward. Remember, long-lasting change comes from a place of self-love, not self-judgment.
OK, your turn! As always, let’s keep this conversation going in the comments below. What are your thoughts on all of this? Where do you need to get in check? What tips can you add to the list above? Where could you use some support?