We all know the feeling. We start out in early December (or even before thanksgiving!) FOCUSED and MOTIVATED to continue with our weight loss goals through the month. We will NOT eat the Christmas cookies. We will be strict and disciplined and THIS YEAR WILL BE DIFFERENT. And then the parties start. The gatherings of people we love. The treats appear, the food is SO GOOD and constantly saying no seems to make the season LESS. So somewhere before Christmas, we say “SCREW IT”. It’s not fair we have to deny ourselves, it’s the holidays, everyone else is enjoying themselves. So we throw our plan out the window and eat whatever, whenever we like. We reach January 1st feeling bloated and uncomfortable and again, disappointed and frustrated. Which leads us to want to restrict heavily and starts the vicious cycle ALL OVER AGAIN.
But what if there were another way?
We should not be trying to lose weight 365 days a year. Let me say that again. No matter how much you have to lose, we should not be trying to lose weight 365 days a year. We should have periods of maintenance, where we are not actively trying to make the scale go down or ourselves smaller, but rather, focusing on maintaining our current weight. I’ve talked about this before as summer being a great natural time to do this. The holidays are another.
Shifting the goal for the holiday season from weight loss to maintenance is a huge change both mentally and physically. Taking that pressure off to see the scale continue to come down, and being disappointed when it doesn’t, is a huge mental relief. And having the goal of maintaining, rather than losing, gives us so much more freedom with our food to enjoy a season that is BUILT around eating with those we love.
What this shift also does, is give us the freedom to enjoy the things we want to, without overdoing it. So often, when we hold on TIGHT to our weight loss goals over this season, when a “missed” day does come, we eat EVERYTHING in sight, because tomorrow we have to be BACK ON THE PLAN and we can’t have more of whatever it is we’re enjoying. Whereas, if we stop the over-restricting, we would probably be content with one cookie or two, or a reasonable plate full from the party buffet, instead of eating until we’re sick- because all the good things will still be there and available tomorrow.
So how do we maintain during the holidays?
- We be SELECTIVE about what we miss for. Maintaining does not mean a daily free-for-all
from December 1st to January 2nd . Look at the calendar. Look at the days when you have no
holiday activities or gatherings, and mark them as easy days to hit your macros. Continue to
meal plan and prep. If you go into the holiday season with no plan, it won’t work. And then be
really thoughtful about what is WORTH it. Store bought cookies in a plastic container at your
child’s school party or at work are NOT WORTH IT. Baking cookies with your children and making core memories they will remember for years to come? ABSOLUTELY worth it. Crummy sub sandwiches brought in for lunch at work? Ehhh probably not. Your neighbor’s homemade empanadas? No question.
- Don’t fall into the ALL OR NOTHING mentality. For example: a day where you eat normally for breakfast and lunch and then have a holiday gathering but you don’t go starving. You make choices about what you’re going to enjoy (not just grazing all night until you’re sick) and you estimate because tracking is 1 million times better than a day where you just say, “Screw it, it’s the holidays.” Fight that urge to fall into the thought pattern of “if it’s not perfect, why even try”. We don’t do that in other parts of our lives- we don’t not clean the kitchen if we can’t clean the whole house. We don’t not save every month if we can’t save 60% of our income etc. We HAVE to apply this to nutrition too. Keep tracking!! It helps SO MUCH to see that often when we think we’ve way overindulged so we give up, we really aren’t doing that badly and if we just made different, smart choices for the rest of the day, we could end up still high in protein and in a very reasonable calorie range.
Trying to lose weight during the holidays is setting us up for disappointment and frustration. But if we can change that mindset to maintaining, and enjoying this season, and then pushing HARD again in the New Year, we can start to change those patterns of behavior that leave us feeling weak and overwhelmed. It is not a willpower issue. You are not a failure because you enjoyed the season. But learning how to enjoy mindfully and in moderation will change the holidays.