My inbox has been flooded with advice from all the people I follow online, each one suggesting a different set of tips designed to keep my diet “on track” over the holidays. I appreciate it, I really do. Unfortunately, it ends up giving me more anxiety than help.
Weight Watchers reminds me to cook healthy “alternatives” to my family favorites. Hungry Girl gives me product suggestions I can try and “skinny” mock-tail recipes to substitute for real booze. Geneen Roth, who I love, reminds me to be mindful while I eat–to enjoy each bite of my food so I can be satisfied with less. Kayla Weight Loss offers a “tip a day” which include using a salad sized plate.
With all the advice flowing in about food, it’s hard for me to concentrate on all the other 9 million things happening this time of year: constant cleaning, family photos, grocery shopping, gift getting, memory making activities with the kids, laundry, creating, crafting, cooking, work, holiday parties, you name it. Not to mention there are all these “feelings” that surface. The holidays bring up a certain nostalgia, a melancholy, for many people. The year is ending and we start thinking about all the things we wanted to accomplish during the year, think about holidays past, and the people who are no longer a part of our lives.
As an emotional eater, this time of year is a constant struggle. I decided I needed to do two things to make it through:
Focus on balance. Get help.
Over the Thanksgiving week, I had the pleasure of meeting with fitness/health coach, Vanessa Aviles. Her article on emotional eating was eye opening! Here is a beautiful and incredibly fit woman, who trains people to be their strongest selves, and she admits to using food as a coping mechanism? Yes. And she has obviously succeeded in keeping it under control and in check–so there’s hope for the rest of us!
I’ve never had a private consultation with a fitness expert before. Certainly I’ve talked with doctors, clinics, and group leaders, but I’ve never looked for a private coach. My first thought, before meeting with her was, “I’m just a regular person. Isn’t coaching for serious athletes?” My next thought was, “Am I crazy for doing this over the holidays? Maybe I should wait until January.” The excuses come some easily!
First, who doesn’t need help? We seek out experts for our medical issues, our cars, our faith, our electronics, our mental health–why not also other areas of need like fitness, success, goals and our careers. People at the beginning of their journey need a hand and someone to guide them. People in the middle of their journey need someone to offer perspective and give a push to continue. Do yourself a favor and get a second opinion on whatever it is you are working towards. You really can’t afford not to.
Second, “now” is always the time. Like many people, this time of year for me is packed with activities and functions I don’t normally have scheduled in my life. Aside from the plethora of parties, there are holiday shows/concerts, children’s school events, community functions, work socials, family obligations, traditions to follow…I could go on. Having committed myself, truly, to making my own health a priority, I need help navigating through all the obstacles this time of year presents. I don’t have my normal routine to rely on, so I can use all the help I can get.
Quick with a warm smile, Vanessa immediately put my nerves at ease. We got to talking about all “stuff” going on and where I am in my journey. I told her all I wanted to do was make it through the holidays feeling balanced. I don’t want to feel like I missed out or the guilt and shame from overindulgence. I don’t want to undo my hard work and I don’t want to have to hide myself away from temptation. She had several helpful things to say, and I wanted to share them with you. Her advice is not only only about staying on-track with your diet, but about resilience through a difficult time of year.
1. Give yourself a time-out. “Breathe, pray, listen to music in your car, remember the good things in life, but give yourself a 15 minute time-out.” A clear head and more level emotions will help us make better decisions. Since this time of year is a whirlwind, stepping back from the hustle can give you breathing room to make a different choice. Have you just gotten back from vacation where you’ve been completely off-schedule? A mini-time-out can help get you refocused.
2. Allow for indulgence with a set cut-off and proper preparation. “Prepare healthy go-to’s for your day after.” Feeling like you missed out can cause your subconscious to retaliate. Plan for your indulgence, plan a stopping point, and make it easy on yourself to “get back at it” by having pre-prepared meals. Simple and extremely effective. Imagine how easy it is to get back to work when you can just grab your lunch and walk out the door? It’s the drudgery of staring blankly into the refrigerator, with thoughts of your delectable cheat meals, that makes it even harder to get back to normalcy. It’s hard to pack yourself lunch when you don’t even feel like getting back to work! Do it way ahead of time–make a plan and prepare what you can for exactly those moments. Grab and go without the dread.
3. Save the good stuff and toss the temptation. This was a rough one for me. As Vanessa was giving me this advice I was thinking, “I can’t throw food away!! That’s so wasteful!!!” It is wasteful, but why is the only solution always for me to eat it all? There’s another way. If you host a party, buy a bunch of cheap “take-and-toss” containers and send people home with all the tempting goodies. Buy individual servings of treats instead of a giant cake you have to cut. There are also a lot of delicious, good-for you items you can keep. Vegetables, meat, nuts, olives can all be treats you keep. Make a turkey wrap. Eat veggies and hummus.
Of course, technology can be your friend too. Believe it or not, there is an app for that! LeftoverSwap lets you give away your food to someone in your community. LeftoverSwap solves lots of problems at once.
Aside from these tips, something else Vanessa told me really stuck with me. She asked me if I thought this year flew by. “Of course,” I said. “You know what? Next year will go by just as fast” she said. It is so true. We always think we need to cram in everything. There’s nothing to miss out on. Next year will be here in a snap and we will have the chance to do it all again. Breathe.
Today, I am “back at it” and hope you are too. Celebrate every good choice you made over Thanksgiving and every good choice you will make over the next month. Don’t shame yourself over any “bad” choices. Keep moving, and make it easy on yourself to resume all normal functions for the days not spent in celebration.
Keep moving, too. Always, exercise gives us opportunity to clear our minds, strengthen our bodies, and get positive endorphin flowing through our bodies. Try some of Vanessa’s “do-anywhere” moves and feel like you’ve accomplished something.