As I write this, there are only 12 days left to Thanksgiving. I can’t believe it! Is it me, or as we age, does time compress? Maybe…
I do know one thing: as I age, I no longer wish to experience the holidays as a time for over indulgence. I am done with the stress over eating, the stress over drinking and the regrets that come after. While it is well known that most of us gain weight over the holidays, what is even more distressing is that, research shows, we then never lose that weight, thus gaining 3-5 pounds year after year after year. This weight gain is not automatic nor inevitable. We have choices. But, these choices need to be backed by mindfulness practice, pre -holiday nutrition diligence and practice, and concrete strategies for behavioral change and coping with the stress of the holidays.
My first suggestion is to take the next two weeks to practice the techniques and mindfulness behaviors we then want to use over the holidays. Begin food logs. Eliminate unhealthy foods NOW so that you can either: keep off these trigger foods completely, or if you CHOOSE, eat them over the holidays with control and mindfulness. The key to eating treats and special holiday foods is to do so with true awareness and enjoyment, not by stuffing or bingeing. If we all took a moment to slowly eat our treats, to enjoy each and every bite, to enjoy the way the food looks, the way it smells, the way it tastes, we would definitely eat less of it. Practice this now. Before you eat any special treat or holiday food, take pause. Take 3 breaths first, getting yourself centered and aware. Then, look at the food, the way it looks. Enjoy its beauty. Next, slowly eat the food, pausing between each bite to really taste it. If necessary, pause longer between bites to ckeck in with your feelings of fullness. These techniques are proven to decrease over eating. Start practicing now!
My second suggestion is to begin to set up structures and plans that will allow to you stay aware and on track during the holidays. Make a plan for how you are going to eat and drink. Include easy things such as planning low cal healthy appetizers, a meal with plenty of vegetables and healthy protein, using a smaller plate for smaller portions, or limiting portions initially to no bigger than 1 cup. Make only one or two desserts, rather than 3 or 4, and give away leftovers so you do not continue to over eat past the holiday itself. And please, there is no need to have a never ending candy jar sitting around the house. No one will miss it if you eliminate it. That’s just your excuse to allow yourself to eat candy without accountability and awareness. Your choice. Let’s face it- if we ate indulgently for JUST the holiday itself, we would never gain the 3-5 pounds most of us gain during this season. The weight we gain is a factor of multiple meals, multiple over indulgences, and lots of excuses.
Lastly, take time this week to put down on paper your vision for a better holiday- not a perfect holiday- no holiday is ever perfect- but a better one . While you can not control your brother-in-law and his craziness, or your mother and her criticism, you can control how you choose to react. Write down your vision. Then, live it.