We’ve all heard the saying ‘”If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail”. But I’d like to add a second piece to that…. “Plan for failure”. I know it sounds negative, but it is more about reality than negativity, especially when it comes to long term planning and goal setting around nutrition and exercise. For example, if having a lovely glass of wine or a holiday cookie is something you truly enjoy, but you are actively decreasing these treats to keep weight off during the holidays, do you actually think you’ll have no wine or cookies at all over the holidays? Really? Not one glass? Not one cookie? Mmmmm… Doesn’t seem too realistic. And, if you do overindulge, what do you then do? Do you have a plan?
Initially, after our indiscretion, most of us will mentally beat ourselves up. But, making ourselves feel bad is not a long term motivator. This is because bad feelings= negative emotions= seeking pleasure to offset negative emotions=over eating! Yes, making ourselves feel bad may actually push us towards bad behaviors. Your internal conversation might sound something like ” I am such a jerk. I promised myself I wouldn’t have wine, and now I have had a glass. I have no willpower.” These internal statements make us feel bad about ourselves. A very familiar feeling. The next part of the subconscious conversation may then be: “Might as well throw in the towel completely and have that next glass, I just can’t do this”. Resignation of another failure, when, in reality, the only failure was being unrealistic to begin with.
Contrast that scenario to an attitude that includes my new saying “Plan for Failure”. Instead of an unrealistic goal of no treats, how about a goal of only 1 treat per holiday party? Add to that realistic goal a positive mental playbook and plan of action for when the 1 treat becomes 3, and now you are much more likely to create The Quick Comeback. This does not mean we let ourselves off the hook from our goals, it just means that we are realistic and forward thinking about the long haul.
Think about your favorite football team. They are losing the game due to poor defense…what do they do next? Does the Coach say- “Oh screw it. We suck… why try?” No!!! the opposite happens. The coach has planned well in advance for the chance that his game plan may fail. He then changes the game plan to adapt to new stressors. You can do the same
It’s all about the comeback. Take time to create a realistic plan of action, with specific steps you will take in the event of some type of failure. No matter how small or large the failure, you have a plan to execute moving forward. Here’s my top 5 go-to’s for the quick comeback after a holiday over indulgence:
- Think “Do The Next Right Thing”. Write this down where you can see it. It reminds you to act in your best interest after a setback. Don’t make this complicated- you will know the next right thing to do.
- Remove temptations from your home and day-to-day surroundings. We are not in the depression; you can throw away those last 2 cookies and 1/4 bottle of wine. While you may overindulge at a party, don’t let it slip to day to day indulgences.
- Plan ahead for the party/event you are attending. Be very choosy. Does your friend make THE BEST holiday cookies? Then plan on having those at that party. Don’t eat the crappy cookies that your office mate bought at Ocean State Job Lot for the office party. Those are totally skippable. Or, let’s say you have 2 parties to go to- one is fab, the other filled with stress and poor food choices. Skip the second party. You aren’t missing anything anyway.
- Have a mindset and verbal response going into your holiday event in case of peer pressure. We often eat unconsciously in response to what others are eating. If you planned to have just salad, protein and one dessert, don’t let your relative pressure you into eating more. Have a response planned ahead of time. Something like- “Everything is so delicious, I am full already, no thank you!” is a nice one. I fantasize about a meaner one; ” If I eat one more thing I’ll puke uncontrollably on you- is that what you want?”
- Exercise exercise exercise. ADD exercise this time of year, don’t take it out. When I am planning on attending a holiday event with rich, delicious food, I always exercise that same day and the day after. I recommend that you push yourself on this. Walking for 1/2 hour at 2mph may not offset the excess calorie intake, but a good hard weight training session, some cardio intervals or a bit of both, certainly will. And you will feel very good about yourself afterward, offsetting negative thoughts, which we know lead to negative behaviors.