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Navigate Holiday Eating With This Simple, Yet Powerful Tool

December 10, 2014

Along with peace and goodwill, this time of year really brings on the angst about eating. We assume it’s going to be hard, we assume we’ll gain weight.

Actually though, it doesn’t have to be so different from the rest of the year. Instead of thinking of this season as landmines of sugar and booze just waiting to blow you up, consider it an opportunity to practice all you’ve learned about doing BETTER this year.

The skill I suggest you practice this season is: ownership. 110% ownership of your choices.

Why? Because it’s simple and incredibly effective. It is also the antidote to one of the worst Fattitudes: deserve. More on all the Fattitudes that mess you up here, but let’s talk now about deserve. It can look like, “I deserve this treat because I’ve been so good all week.” Or it can also look like, “I’s OK because it only comes once a year!” Either way, deserve – which is always followed by justifications like but and because – will leave you feeling frustrated, depressed and ready to start “another diet” on New Year’s Day.

The cure for deserve is ownership, aka responsibility. Instead of being victim to the Holiday Season -which I’ll admit brings its challenges of food, busy schedules and lots of alcohol – own it. If you can own your choices this season, you are in control – in a situation where most people feel totally out of control.

Weight gain in December is so pervasive it even has its own names like Winter Weight and Holiday Pounds.

Ownership is a tough thing to swallow for many of us. It’s much easier to be at the mercy of this season as it’s just expected that it will be too hard to be “on track” right now. Sugar, alcohol and overindulgence are simply accepted as part of the Holiday thing. And too much of all of them will be part of your holidays if you aren’t owning the choices you make as trays of cookies and cups of egg nog come your way this month.

So how do you own it?

In each instance, you choose powerfully and make no excuses or justifications for why you’re doing what you’re doing. If you decide to abstain, own it and don’t defend it. Your choices are yours, whether you’re gluten free or trying to eat less sugar this month or not drink at a Holiday party, you don’t need to explain that to anyone.

Simply say no thank you and feel damn good about yourself for owning your choices. No big deal. It’s only a big deal when we make it a big deal.

If you decide to indulge, own it and don’t justify it. If it’s a decision you are on board with, you can skip the clarifiers. If you hear them coming up as in, “but it’s Christmas…” then you aren’t totally on board with your choices. You’re making justifications to the part of you that thinks this is a bad idea.

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Like I always say, there is no workout and salad police. Your goals are YOURS, so own them. You are responsible for them. You actually don’t have to lose so much as one pound. However, if you want to, you have to take 110% responsibility for that goal. Even this time of year when things get decidedly harder. But don’t’ worry, I’ve got some tips to make ownership of your Holiday choices easier:

Be discerning.

You don’t have to turn down invitations in order to avoid overeating NOR do you have to eat everything at every party. Pick one of these two strategies: Eat a bite of everything you want to at every party, but just a bite, not more. OR pick the events that either you really want to relax at or has the best food. Indulge at those and politely sip your sparkling water at the others. (Hint: Best to show up at those with a full belly from a great meal you had before you left home.)

Another example: if your Grandma makes the best pecan pie evah and she only does it once a year and she won’t be around forever, make that one of the indulgences you have. Plan for it, account for it, own it – and of course enjoy it! That is a worthy piece of pie. Maybe you  have pie and skip the Santa shaped Peeps .OR if Peeps are your thing (my husband friggin loves those things, I don’t’ get it…) then pick that. But be strategic and whatever you do pick, own it.

Ask yourself: What is most special to you? What can you skip without feeling sad about? What are your must haves? Then choose and skip the stuff that doesn’t really matter.

Don’t be scared.

Holidays are prime time to experience the “fear of missing out”. Separate the specialness and emotion from the food so that you can make more conscious choices. Remember, it’s just food….

“Watch the “its only once a year trap.”

This is indeed a trap because we can get food nearly any time we want so this one just isn’t even really true. And the flip side of this is that sometimes there are foods we just need to avoid no matter what month it is because they send us down a very slippery slope. They are what I call Sabotage Foods (more on that idea here) and they just plain don’t agree with us.

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Know your body and if there are some foods you just can’t go there with, ask yourself: is it worth it? For me that’s gluten. I get so depressed and tired for days that nothing tastes good enough to lose 3 days of my life for. But I don’t get tripped up and feel sad about this one, there are PLENTY of other things to enjoy this time of year.

So know yourself, you decide what’s worth it to you. And one more that is less mindset and more muscle:

Get more exercise.

More walking, maybe even another strength or cardio session per week can help off set some of the holiday cheer. I employed this strategy earlier this week. On Sunday, I’d already done my workout for the day but my hubby was perfecting a cocktail with his cinnamon spice brandied cherries and of course, he needed my input!

So I simply said, “you go work on the cherries and I’m going to go run 20 stair sprints.”

For the long term, justifying more dietary indiscretions by thinking “we’ll work it off with exercise”  is not a good strategy. But in the short term, it can be handy. I truly hope this was a slightly different perspective on navigating this time of year and gives you a powerful tool to have a great Holiday Season!

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