Imagine how it would feel to maintain your weight and health throughout the holidays and to start the New Year feeling in control, strong and vibrant? Holiday temptations can be hard to resist without a carefully planned strategy to keep you on track. If you are tired of having to choose between deprivation and decadence, you can learn how to indulge without the bulge. These simple strategies will help you to thrive during the holidays when most people around you are floundering.
Tip 1 – New Years Day Reflection
Sit down with a sheet of paper and write down in very descriptive language how you’d like to feel on New Year’s Day 2012. Write your refection as if New Years Day is here. Here is my reflection:
“I’m proud of myself for taking such good care of me during the holidays. I’ve been able to take time out to relax and exercise and I don’t feel burnt out like I have in years passed. I have energy to start off the New Year healthy and vibrant. I feel in control of sugar cravings because I mindfully indulged and crowded out sweets with lots of festive whole food. I’m thrilled to have the energy to do all the fun and rewarding activities I love to do. I look healthy and vibrant. I feel fantastic.”
Read it out loud. Close your eyes and visualize yourself in this positive place. Notice how you feel. Now write your reflection on an index card and carry the card with you wherever you go during the holidays. Whenever you struggle with a food or activity choice, take out the card and read it. Feel it. Then ask which choice will bring you closer to this New Years Day vision of yourself.
Tip 2 – Identify Your Holiday Memory Food
Take some time to reflect and identify your holiday memory foods. Ask yourself, “What taste brings my memories to life?”
My family has a special milk cracker turkey dressing recipe that has been passed down through the generations. Whenever I take a bite, my grandmother who passed 10 years ago, is right there with me at the table. Although not PCOS friendly, it would be unhealthy to deprive myself of that experience. When these “memory” foods are absent from our lives, it is not so much the food we are missing, but the person or the feelings with which we associate with it. Special holiday foods that remind us of home and family, are central to special occasions and rituals. Through food, we are able to maintain a sense of generation and extension. Find one food that really matters and keep it on the menu!
Tip 3 – Take Inventory
Take a little time to reflect upon and identify all the situations that make it difficult for you to eat healthy during the holiday season. Is it family get-togethers, office parties, food courts at the shopping mall, eating out because you are too busy to cook? Or perhaps it is the fudge, cookies or other baking you do during the holidays for food gifts and desserts? When you can anticipate a road block, it is easier to plan for a healthy alternative. Take a PCOS friendly food with you to the family get-together. Make sure to eat something healthy before the office party, bring snacks and water with you to the mall and find an alternative to food gifts this year or at least find a place to store holiday goodies where you won’t be tempted.
Tip 4 – Savor the Experience
“He who distinguishes the true savor of his food can never be a glutton; he who does not cannot be otherwise.”- Henry David Thoreau.
Part of creating health is truly experiencing pleasure. When we deprive ourselves of our favorite foods or feel we cannot (or should not) enjoy a special meal with our friends and family, it affects our health in negative ways. Stressing about eating is really counterproductive to our health. Give yourself permission to mindfully savor and enjoy holiday meals. Just the act of giving yourself permission and not banning foods, will put you in a place of empowerment – you no longer need to binge on what you think you shouldn’t be eating! During the holidays, if the food is so special – don’t eat it on autopilot. Here are some ways to savor:
- Before you begin to enjoy a meal, take a deep breath and appreciate the appearance and aroma of your food. Give thanks to all those that helped produce and prepare the amazing feast in front of you.
- Eat with your non-dominant hand to slow down your eating.
- Savor one small bite at a time and chew each bite thoroughly.
- Put your fork down between bites.
- Give your self permission to stop before your plate is empty and before you are stuffed.
Tip 5 - Be a Food Snob
Only eat special holiday food if it is truly delicious. If the food doesn’t taste as good as you expected, stop eating it and chose something else. Skip store-bought and processed sweets. Think of how much less you’d eat if you only ate things that tasted fabulous!
Many experts recommend eating before you go to a party so that you are not hungry. While I do think it is important to keep your blood sugar balanced, I don’t think you need a mini-meal. Often a handful of nuts and a piece of fruit is all you need to keep blood sugar stable. Food actually tastes better when you are hungry. So, if you are full after eating dinner, ask the hostess if you can take your dessert home and have a few bites when you are hungry again and can really enjoy it.
Tip 6 – Stay Positive
Focus on staying positive. Everyone over-indulges once in a while, even the most disciplined person will slip. Don’t worry or stress during these mishaps—it is critical to get back on track. Remember, you are always one workout, meal or snack away from getting back on track and feeling good again. Staying positive and not throwing in the towel, is half the battle.
Tip 7 – Find a Non-Food Indulgence.
Indulgence isn’t a sign of failure; it’s an opportunity to experience pure pleasure. ~ Terri Trespicio
Don’t put yourself last on Santa’s List. Make time for self-care this season. Think about what that means for you. For me it means going to Bikram Yoga, making time to go to the gym, relaxing in the sauna or maybe a mani/pedi before a Christmas Party. Why not look at an occasional indulgence as a part of your life – a part of your life that you are entitled to? What can you consciously CHOOSE to indulge in today that is not food-related! Choose something and then savor it. Soak it in. Treat yourself. Because YOU are worth it!
Amy Medling is the founder of PCOS Diva, a website that in many ways chronicles her journey back to health after her PCOS diagnosis 10 years ago. She provides nutrition and exercise advice, menu planning and most of all inspiration on her website. She is a certified health coach and mom to 3 children.