As mentioned in the first post of this series you might choose to survive Christmas by just throwing caution to the wind and part of your plan might be to just forget about healthy eating altogether and take a break from a healthy lifestyle and not stress about it all.
This can work. I know it has worked for me in the past but only if I have planned it (see tip 1 in the series). If I restrict the events or periods where I’m going to let it all go it helps me to get back on track.
Planning to have some time off makes you more like a normal person, normal people over indulge at Christmas and that is what you are trying to become, someone who has a normal, non-obsessional relationship with food. So you can tell those people who are likely to say “Are you allowed to eat that?” “Aren’t you on a diet?” “Oooo watch it you’ll put that weight back on” that you are not ‘on a diet’ over Christmas, you are being a normal person. You can announce it to them to head off the comments and you don’t have to point out your strategy or where your planned ‘days off’ are. This is useful to do because there is nothing worse than sitting down to eat something you’ve waited all year to enjoy and some sibling or aunt harping out “are you supposed to be eating that?”. Soul destroying, misery inducing words or what?
Knowing that you are going to indulge your every gastronomic whim also helps you manage temptation in the lead up to your time of plenty. For instance, knowing that I have my break from Christmas Eve until Boxing Day evening means that I find it so much easier to resist all that office and party temptation in the lead up. I know I have a couple of good days to come when I can have what I want and so saying no to handed around offerings is so much easier to bear. I’ve found in the past that I’ve lost more weight in the run up to Christmas because subconsciously I’ve been ultra good with my healthy eating and exercise because I know I’m going to maybe gain a couple of pounds and so I stick in some donkey work before hand to minmise the overall impact.
Believe it or not, when you’ve had a couple of days of over indulgence, especially if you have been living really healthy this far you will find that you are positively craving a return to your new normal and ending your planned period of face stuffing will not be as difficult as you might imagine. You will feel the adverse effects of rich foods and excess and you will be more aware than you were as an out of control over eater of the damage the food, drink and lack of exercise is doing to your body. Old familiar feelings of lethargy and bloating will return and boy will they feel uncomfortable now. You might find yourself reaching for indigestion medication which used to be a staple part of your daily diet and you haven’t touched for months. You might find yourself developing irregularities with your toilet habits and sleep pattern.
It is amazing how fast a healthy body rebels and how conscious you become of it. For this reason you are not as likely to stuff your face to bursting as you might think you would be. You will find that you have re-trained yourself and what you could have knocked back this time last year you really struggle with this year. For this reason it is highly unlikely that you will really return to old habits. You might feel guilty for eating a slice of cake but last year that slice of cake would have been half a cake. That glass of wine with dinner might have been a bottle, that handful of nuts with a movie might have been a whole packet, those two after dinner mints might feel awfully indulgent but they are nowhere near the whole box you stuffed last year. You will find that you do load your plate with more vegetables and lean meat than goose fat roasted veg and stuffing balls, you will have a smaller dessert, you will drink lots of water … those habits you have learned won’t abandon you now. You’ll be surprised at how resilient you have become and how much you have changed. Keep some perspective to prevent you from getting into a downer with yourself.
You will be surprised at how well you are training yourself and you might be surprised that you actually don’t put on that much weight, if any because your new over doing it, is just normal, it’s what normal people do when they let loose, this is normal, before it was gluttony. If you follow the rest of my tips you will probably find that you have maintained your weight and fitness level and maybe even LOST weight over the festive period. It’s really possible.
When your period of indulgence is over, throw everything away or give it away. Do not have temptation lying around or it will stop being uncomfortable and it will become habit again. Get rid of it. Drop it at a food shelter, give it to guest to take away, let your kids have a party and make sure everything is out for grubby hands to touch so that at the end you throw it all willingly in the bin. Except meat carcasses and bones of course, use them to make fab stocks for soups and stews and casseroles to keep you warm through the rest of winter and to make sure you keep on stuffing down tons of delicious nutritious veggies.
This is my approach to coping with Christmas and other hot spots in the year, and it works, but if you are determined to keep on the straight and narrow and not let Christmas interfere with your eating plan then you can still enjoy yourself and in tip 3 I talk about some ways of living healthy when eating out, partying and how to cope with foodie gifts and staff room handouts.