Everyone knows the equation: holidays = pressure + stress. Even when you try to reduce the stress, it's still stressful. Even when you're not being a host, just a guest, it's still stressful.
When you're under stress, you can more easily be captured by the most prominent temptations in the environment. When it comes to the holidays and someone who struggles with her weight, the most prominent temptation is food.
"I can't help myself", you think. "There's so much good food all around. It's just too tempting." All of this is real and true. However, it is what is in between the lines, what you're not saying, what you're not thinking about, that counts here. What is behind those words, beneath the surface? What is really driving your behavior?
When you are trying to lose weight, what comes into play is the issue of self-regulation. There are different approaches to the study of self-regulation. Some prominent psychology researchers put it this way, and it's a very good way to think about it. You have only a certain amount of self-control strength. Just like in many other areas of life, the supply of energy for self-control is not unlimited. Therefore, exercising a great deal of self-control in one situation might leave you with little or none for other situations. So what does this have to do with the holidays? If you stop to think about it, holidays require a great deal of self-regulation.
It happens every year.
You need to regulate your schedule more than ever because there's a lot more going on, and there's always a lot more to be done. You need to have more control over your time so you can squeeze out extra for all the tasks that holidays present you with. You may need to use more self-regulation in spending money so you don't go overboard during the expensive holiday season. Last but not least, you will no doubt find yourself in many more social situations than usual, and this alone calls for a big dose of self-regulation. In social situations you need to control certain reactions like annoyance, boredom, etc. Also, there is more need to regulate feelings of disappointment, hurt, excitement, joy, sorrow, anger ? all of which are heightened during the holidays.
As you can see, you need to use a lot of self-regulation energy to navigate the holidays. Understanding this, it is easy to see why you may find your self-control energy bordering on empty when it comes to eating.
Here is a way to go. Since there is not enough self-control energy to cover everything you need it for over the holidays, why not ease up on your eating restrictions during this limited period of time? Here's how to do it and still not go overboard.
Give yourself this holiday-friendly set of guidelines. You'll find it works wonders.
My goal for this holiday is to maintain my weight and not gain.
This is a goal you'll be able to achieve. It is realistic and it won't deplete your self-control supply.
I will not restrict myself to a narrow diet plan during this time.
Set aside that particular diet, just for now. It will still be there for you after the holidays, when you will have more energy to bring to it.
I will give myself permission to eat the special treats that are offered.
Giving yourself permission eliminates your conflicting feelings about eating it or not eating it.
I will take care to not go wild because that will interfere with my goal of maintaining my weight.
You will want to be loyal to your interim goal because it is a fair goal, a good goal, and one that is within your capability.
I will consider the achievement of this goal to be a big success for me.
Instead of being left with the unsettling feeling that you're out of control, you will actually be able to feel proud of yourself.
If you can ease up on your expectations in these ways with regard to your eating, not only will you achieve the important goal of maintaining your weight during the course of the holidays, but you are bound to feel better about yourself. You won't have to feel like you blew it again. This is a great way to work out the holiday failure issue. You just might eliminate your usual guilt, self-recrimination, regrets about overeating, doubts about yourself and the strength of your convictions. You might just come out of the holidays feeling empowered.
Here's to the happiest holidays ever.
Kenneth Schwarz, Ph.D. and his wife Julie Schwarz are co-authors of the e-Booklet How to Break Through the 15 Obstacles to Achieve Diet Success. Dr. Schwarz is a psychologist and psychoanalyst specializing in personal change and goal achievement. He practices in Connecticut where he is a member of the allied health staff at Sharon Hospital. For total diet support, go to Dr. Schwarz's website www.mariaslastdiet.com.