The Halloween decorations have just barely come down, and the web is already flooded with articles on how to avoid over-eating and weight gain during the holidays. They have snappy titles like “10 Strategies for Surviving Holiday Parties with your Waistline in Tact” and “How to Deal with Guilt and Shame when, Inevitably, All Your Strategies Fail.” (OK, the second one was a bit of a stretch, but you know what I’m talking about.)
Every year, health-centric magazines & websites, Dr Phil, and national & local morning news shows everywhere trot out experts with the latest, greatest strategies to stop over-eating. But every expert is essentially saying the same thing:
You’ve got to have a plan.
Whether you’re trying to maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle, working to lose weight, treating a chronic illness, or training toward an endurance event, the only way to stay on track toward achieving that goal is to have a plan. This is especially important when there are a plethora of fried, frosted and home-baked obstacles at every turn—not to mention an evolutionary drive to bulk up this time of year—threatening to derail you.
If I had a maze to solve as a kid, I would cheat by starting at the end of the maze and then working my way back to the start. Much easier to solve when I know where I’m supposed to end up! Creating a plan for health and wellness works the same way. Start with the prize at end of your maze: What do you want to achieve in terms of your health, your diet, your weight, your digestion or other concerns during the holiday season? And then go a layer deeper: Why is achieving that goal important to you? What does health mean for you? What does achieving your goal look or feel like? What does failing look or feel like?
Once you know what you’re trying to achieve, work backwards to identify the steps to get there.
• What are the obstacles between you and your goal? Maybe it’s treats in the office, or a deep-fried holiday buffet at Uncle Bob’s. Or maybe it’s a stressful relationship you have to deal with, or traveling somewhere that causes you anxiety.
• What specific steps can you take to deal with or avoid those obstacles while still enjoying everything that’s good about the holidays?
Write all this down! Use your calendar to help you put some of those strategies into play: Set up timed reminders to exercise or to stand up at your desk and stretch; set a snack alarm, or have a picture of a cute kitten pop up as an alert when you’re planning to be at a stressful event.
Want to improve the likelihood that you’ll stick to a plan? Find a buddy and support each other. Working with a professional, like a therapist, a personal trainer or a health coach like me also provides a layer of accountability that makes you more likely to stick to a plan.
One final important feature for your plan: Build in opportunities to enjoy food, even some splurge-y treats. Depriving yourself of special treats inevitably starts the spiral of stress > sadness/anger/more sadness > binge eating > guilt > more binge eating > feelings of failure and helplessness > deprivation in an attempt to undo the damage. The first step of the cycle is deprivation, so don’t set yourself up for a fall.
One more final final important feature for your plan: Many plans—can we say most plans?— go off course. That’s okay! Successful and happy people make plans and wander off of them. But they get back on them. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t exercise for a few days or eat the whole box of whatever. Make it a feature of your plan to get back on the plan when you veer off the plan.
So what's the plan?
Do you know what you want to achieve but need some help identifying the steps to get there? Let’s meet to talk about your plan during a free one-hour consult.