You may see that title and think, “What spiral would that be?”
It’s about the food. Holiday to holiday. Meal to meal. Treat to treat. Although you might think “holiday eating” covers that stretch of time from Christmas to New Year’s, in reality, for most of us, it begins so much earlier and ends so much later.
Some of us begin the cycle as early as September by indulging in too much, too much—and then having that uncomfortably stuffed feeling—during the Jewish Holidays. For others, party time begins with Halloween treats. I know how tempting helping yourself to “just one” candy can be while welcoming trick-or-treaters. (When is it ever just one?) Then it’s the bowl of leftovers sitting in lobbies and waiting rooms—so enticing.
Next comes Thanksgiving. Perhaps the excess begins in our own kitchen as we taste (and taste) everything before the meal. Or maybe we starve ourselves and then arrive to the feast so hungry we binge until we are “Thanksgiving full.” Either way, that holiday dinner means trouble…and then leftovers will probably wind up in your refrigerator, too.
The festivities continue through Christmas and Hanukah. Parties, gifts, sugary cookies (just one again?), alcohol—they’re all part of a big “seasons greetings,” right up until you step on the scale January 1st.
Even New Year’s isn’t the end. The spiral continues with Super Bowl activities and parties. Another chicken wing and chips, anyone? And not long after, comes Valentine’s Day—umm, dark chocolate for me, please.
Get the idea? I knew you would because you most likely ride at least part of this spiral yourself every year. No wonder we feel depleted in the spring, with no energy, little ambition, and (ugh) clothing that’s a lot more snug than we would like.
The worst thing about this spiral is, it doesn’t just add up to poor food choices and more pounds. It also introduces other unhealthy patterns. Ever find yourself staying up too late for celebrations, or sleeping badly from post-party indigestion, or having a constant sense of anxiety because of all the events packed into your holiday calendar? It all converges to leave you frustrated and discouraged.
Not exactly the holiday you signed up for, right? So let’s focus on solutions—things you can do right now to nip this pattern in the bud before it takes you through a full season of indulgence and poor results.
- Don’t fool yourself—the time is now.
Are you thinking, “No problem, that’s not me”? Take a second look, honestly. We are well into November, and for many, poor choices have already begun to look like “the new normal.” Don’t fall for that deception. Recognize and address the bad-habit roller coaster early rather than trying to figure out later how to get off—you know that’s better.
- Don’t skip meals.
Going to a party or another food-centered occasion? Please don’t forgo regular meals in anticipation of eating at your destination. Arriving starved will lead to poor eating decision-making and overindulgence. My mantra: “Eat before you eat.”
- Feeling overwhelmed, burned out, and ready to forget it all?
Often our mindsets create an escapist attitude where “anything goes”—including mindless nutritional choices. That’s what happens when we’re overwhelmed with too many responsibilities and to-dos—we become “decisioned out” and reach for the first thing that catches our eyes. And you know what that will be, don’t you?
- Plan to indulge a little. Really.
If you try to be perfect, too many “just this once” decisions will unleash a whole avalanche of guilt and frustration around eating. Why not enjoy and eat a piece of that pie, or cookie, or treat? Deliciousness is part of the fun of the season. Just remember to have only one extra treat, not ten. And then stop as soon as you get home.
An indulgence now and then won’t rock the boat, but a continual stream of eating without mindfulness and planning will. Make choices work rather than going for more and more.
- Watch the booze.
You know I’m right. Sorry. Extra drinks weaken your resolve, and with that comes eating behavior that won’t serve you then or in the morning. And don’t forget, alcohol is laden with all sorts of sugars and calories, too. One or two drinks, max.
- Learn how to say “No, thanks.”
Sometimes this is hard to do when your favorite foods are prepared just for you, or people offer to send you home with even more treats. Gracious refusal is like a muscle—it needs to be developed, but you can do it! If all else fails, just blame it on me. I’ve got your back.
And remember, the ability to say “no” will serve you well outside of holiday season, too. You can avoid a lot of overwhelm and drain on your resources if you draw and enforce boundaries in your work, special activities, and personal relationships all year long. Repeat after me: No, thanks. No, thanks. No, thanks….
Not in the mood for remorse or guilt come the new year? Then start now to instill good habits that will see you through. I hope these tips will help you glide through the holiday season with ease and enjoyment, knowing that you’re taking care of your energy, health, and wellbeing in the process. That’s truly something to celebrate!