The time to Eat, Drink and be Merry is just about upon us. This is the time of year when we get to relax and enjoy spending time with family and friends. A time when the diet relaxes and the training tends to wind down. I think it is important to have this time as a psychological break. A season of feast and plenty, before getting right back on it in the New Year. But, how can we manage to avoid ruining an entire year’s hard work, while still having fun? How can we avoid feeling like we are missing out, without ending up with a stocking full of regret? This is probably the tenth Christmas I have spent in “weight management” mode, so I have learned a few things to help me over the years.
Firstly, be realistic: There is very little point in promising yourself that this year you absolutely WILL NOT over indulge. Swearing to yourself that not one Quality Street will cross your lips and the Christmas Dinner will consist only of meat and veg. In my experience, trying to be overly restrictive in the run up to Christmas only leads to me end up diving head first into a trifle and reaching for the stretchy pants. I have found that a far better strategy is to decide, ahead of time, which of the Christmas treats I absolutely must have. I then allow myself to have these and actively avoid the rest. For me, this is the turkey and ham sandwich on Christmas night, made by my super sister, I look forward to it all year. You can keep the dessert, but if I don’t get my sandwich, did Christmas even happen?
Beware of the Bargains: Growing up, the tin of sweets at Christmas was a really big deal. It was the only time of year you could get them. They would be bought ahead of time, but on pain of death, we were never allowed to open them until Christmas Eve. Since I have moved out, I never bother buying them. Between work and our family homes, there is more than enough junk floating around to satisfy even the sweetest tooth. This year, however, I began to wonder if this was a little churlish. Was I a complete Grinch to not even have a single sweet in the house. I thought to myself I will pick up one tin, sure what harm? I went to the supermarket and saw they were 3 for €15! Wow, what a bargain!! In the space of about 4 seconds, I had gone from not buying any, to buying 3 whole tins. Luckily, I came to my senses and abandoned my purchase.
I will never forget a leader in Weight Watchers talking about buy one get one free tins of Pringles. She said when she looked at it all she saw was “44 points for the price of 22.” It really isn’t a good deal if you end up eating more than you intended to and feeling bad about it. Don’t let the marketers draw you in to ruining your progress.
Let work days be “normal” days: I will admit that routine is an absolute saviour of mine. Automating as many decisions about food as I can has made maintaining my weight so much easier than relying on will power alone. Every work day I have the same breakfast, and one of 2-3 different homemade lunches. I don’t deviate from this just because it is December. It helps me a lot to feel like at least some parts of my diet can be consistent regardless of the season. If I were to abandon this for the month, I know I would feel completely out of control.
Offices are a minefield for the diet conscious at the best of times, and Christmas is the worst. Across the country mince pies and selection boxes are being passed around with abandon. My advice, and something I have always had to do, is just give it a wide berth. I would always prefer to indulge in sweets and treats consciously. Sitting at home relaxing with a nice cuppa and the fur babies. Not while on a conference call and trying to get a balance sheet worked out.
Practice the one bite rule: If you take a bite of something, (especially if it’s calorie laden) and you don’t really love it, stop eating it. If you take a slice of grannies fruit cake and it’s as dry as the Mojave desert, proclaim it delicious and yourself still full from dinner, and leave it alone. Calories are too precious to be wasted on things which don’t make you make yummy noises.
Remember that Christmas is ONE DAY: I have lost count of the number of times I have heard people saying that there is “no point trying to be good in December!” This simply is not true. When you think about it, it is one day, one dinner and maybe a party or two. When you consider that on average in December, we will eat over 100 meals, it puts the big one into a little perspective. There is only so much damage you can do in a day (even if you do my trifle dive) a whole month ,on the other hand, is a completely different story. If you make a decision to abandon all your good habits in December, you can expect to have a significant backslide with your results. If you make this decision, accept that it is a decision and own it. Christmas did not do it to you!
Move on: Whatever happens over Christmas, it’s not the end of the world. Even if you eat and drink far more than you had intended and if the scales calls you out on it, it’s not terminal. Win, lose or draw this silly season, allow yourself to move on. The worst thing we can do is fall into the familiar negative feedback loop of self loathing. When 2017 comes in, be mentally ready to attack it, not wasting energy worrying about what you ate last year.
Lastly, enjoy: I for one am so ready for the break at Christmas. Having a few days away from work, watching old movies in my pj’s sounds like just what the doctor ordered. This is the time of year to catch up with friends and family and relax. Reflect on the year just gone and get ready for the one to come. However you will be spending this holiday season, enjoy it, for it comes but once a year. Be well xxx