The holidays are a time of fear and dread, not joy and celebration, for many people I meet this time of year. There are no horrible situations in their lives, and in most cases, it is not even the added work involved that they dread. The thing that sends waves of negativity though their holidays is a creation of their own thinking. About potential plane crashes? World hunger? The economy? No, it is none of those things. It is about how they will SURVIVE (yes, that is how it’s stated many times) the holiday food.
The question I ask when I hear the panic in a client’s voice is “How many days are there – really?” My intention by asking this is to draw attention back to the facts and allow for some non-judgmental thinking and planning. When thinking is judgmental and emotional, I can almost see it in their eyes, the plates of food getting bigger and more overwhelming, swirling without end from Thanksgiving (sometimes even as early as Halloween) until New Year’s Day. Emotion takes over, and tensions builds, in most cases causing the very thing they dread – lack of control with their food.
That would be tough enough, but the thinking seldom stops there. The natural reaction, in the absence of non-judgmental thinking, is to confirm in one’s mind the seemingly undenible “fact,” that “I can never control myself during the holidays.” What often happens is that “the holidays” morph from a few days to a time period that includes all or most of the days in between. There is a way out of this bind, and it starts with thinking, not judging.
So how many days are there for you – really? I have 5 holiday gatherings, including Thanksgiving. I met a woman who has 13, but that includes a flurry of birthdays in her family. That is still only 13 days out of 63 days, since she starts worrying at Halloween. Think about how you plan to eat on those days, and please try to make the plan realistic. It can be general, as in “I plan to eat whatever I choose, but I will eat slowly enough to stay in touch with hunger, and I will stop before I feel over-full.” A more specific plan can work too, but remember to make it realistic and flexible. For instance, if a part of your plan involves skipping dessert, but then you see that your absolute favorite deesert in the world is offered, you may choose to modify the plan to include a small piece. The difference in calories overall will be minimal if negative thinking does not take over.
Whatever you decide to do, try to remember that it is not what you do, but how you think and feel about it, that matters most. There is always a “what’s next” moment, and that is the only moment that really matters. The beauty of planning is that it makes it possible to enjoy the holidays more. As I have said before, worrying is not planning, and in fact, planning can remove a lot of worry and start to instill some confidence in the ability to make better choices. I wish all of you a holiday filled with family, fun, and stress-free eating!