Or alternatively, how to avoid the negative habit loop or spiral we get sucked into this time of year.
With Thanksgiving coming up next week, the holiday season is clearly upon us, whether we like it or not.
This time of year can be a total downward tailspin in terms of food, fitness, and overall feelings of health and vibrancy. More often than not, the Halloween candy is the initial push on that first domino that turns into series of events, meals, treats, parties, and food decisions that leave us feeling like we got hit by a bus come January.
This is also what leads us to feel like we need to damage control in January and start a cleanse or detox or diet, because we've been basically eating and living with complete abandon for 2 months.
I like to call this domino effect the Fuck It Spiral, because that's usually the headspace we find ourselves in, isn't it? Like you already drank too much at that holiday party last night, so fuck it, may as well order takeout today. And you already ruined this week with that family dinner where you had 17 dinner rolls, so fuck it, may as well finish off the Oreos in the pantry. We already messed up and went off-plan and feel like garbage, so may as well go big, cuz, well, fuck it, right?
Well I got news for you: it doesn't have to be like this. Here are 3 things to keep in mind as we wind our way towards 2018 that will keep those feelings of "fuck it" at bay, and enjoy a balanced, happy + fun holiday season (no guilt required).
FIND POCKETS OF ROUTINE, NORMALCY, + FEEL GOOD HABITS
It's all too common to glance at our calendar and just see a medley of events and travel and holidays and to-dos, and decide that there's no use in even trying to eat well or exercise during this stretch because it's just one thing after another. Like you're never going to see results from your efforts, so may as well just submit to gluttony and laziness now, and start/maintain healthy habits later when you can really "commit".
This mentality is flawed because what you're actually saying to yourself is this: There's no room for me to be "good" so I may as well just be "bad" (fuck it); I can't be 100% "on" right now so I'm going to be 100% "off". This right here is the diet cycle mentality: on/off, good/bad, and it's a slippery slope.
Thinking that it's all fine because you're planning to do a Whole30 in January is missing the forest for the trees. (Can you see how that is the on/off diet mentality? "I'm getting all the bad stuff in now because I won't be able to have it when I start my diet/clean eating in January"? Or, "I'm gonna NEED a Whole30 to detox/undo everything I'm doing now". Same/same.)
So instead of being either squarely in the "on" or "off" category, I encourage you to live in the gray area. Take the pockets of routine that you DO have, and do just that: keep up your routine, make choices that support you feeling great, and keep up those habits as best you can. Keep in mind, there will be times that you will need to CREATE these pockets for yourself, so think proactively. Sure, you may be at your Aunt Susan's, but could you go out for a walk right now and get some fresh air, or do something that will just make you feel good, in mind body and spirit?
Remember that it doesn't have to perfect. It doesn't have to be 100% on or off, because you're not doing it to "see results" necessarily, you're doing it because of the impact it has on your mood, your energy, and your outlook. And if you look closely enough, there are plenty of pockets in your day or week to either find or create, where you can make choices that make you feel good, vibrant, healthy, and in a headspace to make more choices like that. Start looking for them.
DECIDE WHAT IS MEANINGFUL TO YOU + WHAT IS NOT
All the meals, treats, events, parties, dinners, etc can be a lot to navigate, and saying yes to absolutely everything during this time can put us on the fast and narrow to Fuck It Town.
Deciding which meals, traditions, foods, events, and treats are most meaningful to you can help sort through things and create some perspective.
This can mean a few different things: maybe it's still attending every event and saying yes to all the invites (you social butterfly, you), but then deciding what food at each specific event is actually something that is meaningful to you, and what is something you could really do without (but might find yourself reaching for, because it's there). Alternatively, maybe you look at all your invites and pick a couple that you wouldn't miss for the world, and then turn the rest down.
There's no wrong or right way here, but I encourage you to really think about all the traditions, events, moments and meals that appear this time of year, and figure out what has sincere, deep, meaning to you (not your mom or your grandmother or anyone else), and what doesn't. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Is this food or event something I can eat/enjoy any time of year, or something that's only here right now? (i.e. your once a year grandmother's apple pie vs Halloween candy that you could go buy right now if you wanted)
- Is this something that I sincerely love, or am I just eating it because it's in front of me? (Am I thinking "fuck it" on any level, or am I eating this with intention and savoring it to it's fullest capacity?)
- Does this food add to my overall experience of this event or moment? Could I omit this particular food and still feel like I got the whole experience or is it an important, meaningful part of this moment? (i.e. is this food really special to me?)
OWN YOUR CHOICES
One of the biggest fuels to the Fuck It Spiral fire is the feeling of shame. Of thinking you really messed this one up, or you went way overboard on that cheeseboard last night, or you shouldn't have had seconds (or thirds), and now you regret your choices.
Here's the stuff you need to remember:
- You never, ever, (ever!) have to do anything to earn or deserve a meal or a treat.
- Forcing yourself into preemptive exercise in order to "earn" a meal is a dangerous mindset. Move or workout because you want to, because of how it makes you and your body feel.
- Even if you went in with a plan and you didn't stick to it perfectly, so what? Nothing is ruined or failed here-- thinking you've already "messed up" is what sets us up PERFECTLY for that Fuck It Spiral.
The bottom line is, IT'S OK. For most of us, we need to literally tell ourselves this over and over again, until we really believe it.
You won't set yourself up for a downward spiral if you stand squarely in your decisions, savor those moments when you're in them, and own your choices with confidence after the fact, instead of harping, regretting, and feeling ashamed or guilty. Self compassion is a game changer.
When we talk about the struggles of the holiday season, we are usually referring to this cycle of regretting our choices and trying to correct for them, over and over again until the end of time (or, calendar year). What happens when you take the guilt out of the equation entirely? All of a sudden, there is no struggle. Seriously.
Don't believe me? Look at it this way: you've tried the guilt thing, the feeling ashamed, or feeling totally out of control, and what did that do for you? Try owning your choices with confidence instead and see what happens.
Note: If you haven't yet, watch my video all about food guilt + shame
Above all else remember that you are always "allowed" to indulge, to treat yourself, and to enjoy these moments in life, with no explanation, "earning", or "correcting" needed. Looking at your calendar and seeing all these speed bumps and road blocks and thinking there's no use in trying, is the diet mindset talking: you don't need to be on or off, just take it day by day and do your best. Work in some routines, rituals, and habits that just make you feel good and healthy and taken care of, decide what's super meaningful to you and what you don't really need, and no matter what happens, own those choices.
Wishing you all a wonderful holiday season!
And remember that my email list is getting weekly nuggets of extra tips and strategies to navigate this season, so if you're not yet, join the tribe and get yourself on the list!
Looking for a little help on your nutrition journey? You might be interested in this free 5 day workshop, designed to break through your roadblocks with food. Click below for deets!