Christmas is one of those occasions, like many other but magnified a hundred times, which has a real emphasis on food. Christmas can’t be good unless you stuff yourself to bursting. We plan to eat loads, we talk about eating loads, we joke about eating loads, avoiding the subject is impossible, Christmas and food are linked together by tradition.
So how do you enjoy the excesses of the season and still manage to eat healthy or lose weight? For those of us who are obese going strong with healthy eating how do we make sure that we are not made miserable by depriving ourselves of festive goodies and how do we make sure we don’t set ourselves back on the bad relationship with food track that we’re striving so hard to keep away from?
It can be done. In my past I’ve managed to lose weight over Christmas and other times I’ve managed to maintain a weight loss and we’ll just forget those times I managed to put on a whole 14 pounds in a week. Those were never good times. So it is possible to keep on track and I can honestly say that during those festive seasons where I managed to maintain or lose I was not unhappy, I didn’t feel deprived, I just employed some good tactics and prepared myself well. I’m going to share those with anyone who is just panic striken by the thought of Christmas. It started off as one post but was too long so I split it up into a few focused ones. This is the first the rest are linked from this page at the bottom of this post and from each other at the bottom at each post.
I aim my posts at the clinically obese, morbidly and super morbidly obese (like I once was) and I use the term ‘normal people’ very loosely, without wishing to cause offence, we know there is no such thing as normal, but all we want is to be able to deal with food the way most people do and we don’t want to be regarded as abominations by society any longer, so being normal aka healthy and happy and in control is terminology used loosely.
Tip One – Planning
This is the first of my big tips for changing your eating and exercise habits and losing weight anytime but at Christmas it is even more important to plan. You know it’s coming, you know what the real danger spots are going to be for you so think about them now and strategise how you are going to deal with them. I firmly believe that planning itself helps us to overcome hot spots, it has a psychological effect that helps us win this battle in our head. If you decide you are going to throw caution to the wind and not even think about your food consumption and your exercise over the festive period (see tip 2) I would suggest that you make that choice more specific. Rather than just say you’re not thinking about it with no start and end date, set yourself a time frame or frames where you are going to not think about it and potentially over indulge (why I say ‘potentially’ becomes clear in tip 2).
Start then by working out where your danger zones are. Mine are:
- Chocolates in the staff room from now on wards, food gifts from students (always chocolate) and colleagues (anything from choc, to wine, to cheeses and cookies)
- Christmas lunches and dinners with groups of colleagues, friends and study groups
- Christmas cinema trip with the kids
- Christmas Eve, Day, Boxing Day
- New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day
Once you know where yours are start to plan how you are going to handle yourself through them. Tip 3 deals with most of the common problems under its heading Force Feeding.
I know that for me (this isn’t a one size fits all approach) it helps to isolate times where I’m going to be less than fussed about what I eat and drink. I find this helps on two counts:
1. This new lifestyle, these changes are forever not for just a couple of hundred pounds so get into lifelong, sustainable habits now. Build a better relationship with food and that doesn’t have to be a 100% perfect angelic approach to what you eat. What we have to do is eat like normal people do not like obese people do. And guess what? Normal people eat more at Christmas than they do the rest of the year and normal people gain weight and normal people let their exercise slip and normal people drink too much. So if you do choose to let it all go you are just doing what normal people do. Tip 2 deals more with this because we know that we are not wired up the same as ‘normal people’ and straying is like telling an alcoholic they can have a day off so I wanted to present a more detailed rationale for this approach and discuss if it’s a good one or not.
2. Psychologically if I tell myself and prepare myself to let those periods of laissez-faire happen during a pre-determined space in time it helps me to refrain from straying in the lead up to those dates because I know they are coming and I have something to save myself for. It also helps me to get back on track once the allocated time is over. It’s like making a mental pact with yourself in advance. Those psychological preparations can be pretty powerful too, don’t underestimate them.
If I was to tell myself “Hey it’s Christmas I’m just going to forget this healthy eating and exercise thing and enjoy myself” I know that the relaxed approach would begin somewhere in the first or second week of December and run on into early or mid January and after a month of it, old habits would be returned, they’d be back and I would struggle like all hell to get back to a healthy lifestyle, I’d gain at least 14 pounds and I would feel miserable about that and I would more than likely give up and regain the 110lbs I’ve lost within weeks.
BUT, if I say right OK, I’m going to manage the staff room chocs, I’m going to manage eating out and parties (see tip 3) but I’m going to just eat what I like from lunch time on Christmas Eve to bed time on Boxing Day and then I’m back to healthy me with another ‘break’ from lunch time on New Year’s Eve until bedtime on New Year’s Day… that I can manage. That is what I’m doing, this is my plan and it has worked for me in the past (please do read tip 2 because this is nowhere near as bad as it sounds… you’ll be surprised what happens if you do have a plan like this).
Make working out recipes and menus part of your planning some tips for this are included along with the other posts in this series.
Most importantly if you have already managed to change your habits for a while and if you have already seen a weight loss and an increase in activity with an overall enhanced sense of health and well being then you know how good it feels to be making the progress you’ve made and this short tiny period of time in your whole life (which is by the way perhaps getting longer the more work you do on your health) shouldn’t be a threat and if you do fall off the wagon don’t beat yourself up about it, don’t get into a panic over it. If you gain a few pounds it can be undone with work, but staying close to the good path isn’t hard and it doesn’t mean a miserable deprived Christmas is in store for you. Read the rest of my tips to find out how and why.