Are you familiar with the WTF holiday eating slide? It’s where you eat with full-on abandon during the holiday months and gain a shit-load of weight (you feel like shit too). I used to take a yearly ride. I’d start mine early—with Halloween. Robust handfuls of mini chocolates kept me company during my annual fright fest. I then moved on to Thanksgiving, where I pretended to like turkey to eat the stuffing, mashed potatoes, collard greens, sweet potatoes, side rolls and gravy. Talk about hog-wild!
Then came the official start of WTF holiday overeating with the Christmas party season—work party, girl’s night out, college reunion weekend. My calendar was full of restaurant meals and specialty cocktails. But, no worries, I was getting serious with my diet come January. Everyone knew it. “I’m done with this fat,” I’d say as I scarfed down fried foods, creamy pasta and death-by-chocolate desserts. “I’m starting the _____ diet, and I’ve joined a gym,” I’d say as I ordered my second Manhattan (two cherries, please). I told everyone those lies—but more importantly, I lied to myself.
After the Christmas cookies were gone (two kinds for Santa 😍), I’d move on to my birthday celebration, which conveniently falls a few days before New Year’s Eve. As I blew out the candles on the cake each year, I wished for weight loss success, promising myself that the upcoming year would be the one in which I’d lose weight.
Of course, after the birthday celebration came the last hooray for New Year’s, complete with champagne, appetizers and any food that my heart desired that hadn’t been eaten in the previous three months. I was an expert at WTF holiday overeating. The only problem was that after indulging for months, I’d feel like crap when January 1 came. In addition to the headache from the champagne, I would have tons of extra salt, sugar, fat and preservatives floating in my body as I embarked on my brave new world (of health and fitness). Do you think I was successful? Was I ready for my first HIIT workout with a massive hangover?
How Do You Want to Start the New Year?
I think we can all agree that this year has been hard enough without loading up on a bunch of useless, hard-on-yourself, not-gonna-keep-them dieting resolutions for January. I prefer to look ahead to 2021 with a positive spirit and a sense that I can stay the course and commit to healthy eating and exercise right now.
I finally lost weight in my early 50s and have kept it off for three years. I’ve settled into a whole-foods diet and steady exercise routine that guarantees that I don’t begin the WTF overeating slide. This year, as I blow out my birthday candles, I can use my wish on something more meaningful (and let’s face it, deep). I can stop wishing for things that I’m not willing to work to achieve. Those are wasted wishes. Luckily, I haven’t done that in years, and I don’t want you to either. I know where that ride goes, and I’m not game for it anymore. I hope you’ll consider ditching it too. I have an alternative.
Start Healthy Habits Now
If you really want to lose weight, get healthy or add exercise to your life FOREVER (and not just for the months of January and February), then read on. I want to show you an easier and more self-affirming way to get started on your goals now, instead of dreaming about them as you watch them fade away come early next year.
Ditch the Holiday Overeating Slide
Every meal counts, but not in the way you think. Instead of having a mindset that some indulgent eating means you’ve fucked up the whole month’s plan, realize that there are shades of grey when it comes to healthy eating. Stop the all or nothing thinking that takes hold during the holidays. Replace it with a plan to enjoy a few celebrations (with high-quality food/drinks). Instead of looking at the rest of 2020 as an opportunity to go hog-wild on the eating front, why not view it as a time to take the very best care of yourself as you contemplate a better 2021?
If you eat some creamy dish or indulge in an extra cocktail this month, it’s not going to do much to your weight loss or healthy eating efforts in the long run. But when we let those indulgences stack up because we’ve just thrown in the towel, we enter dangerous water. Plan some high-quality food/drink indulgences into your holiday plans, then move on to step two.
Start Healthy Habits Now
You have three weeks to get started with 1-3 healthy habits that will make you proud come January 1. Write down 1-3 healthy habits using a S.M.A.R.T. goal format (check out this article on S.M.A.R.T. goals if you aren’t sure how to do this). Write a few doable goals like this: I will take a 30-minute walk three times per week or add a green vegetable to my dinner plate at least four times per week. Start following these habits now. Right now, I’m working on drinking three bottles of water per day (at minimum) consistently. I often forget to drink water in the winter months, so I’m focusing on making that habit stick this December.
These first habits don’t have to constitute your complete healthy eating/exercise plan; they are components of a healthy lifestyle. I wholeheartedly believe that weight loss motivation comes from seeing the results of your healthy habits and then getting inspired to continue through this success. Give yourself a chance to achieve some small, new goals, and watch how feeling good about yourself makes healthy habits easier to follow.
Eat Well for Pleasure
You can start learning now (not in January) that it’s possible (and preferable) to enjoy yourself without eating so much that you put yourself in a food coma. It’s possible to have fun without full-on abandon, but the trick is to make sure what you eat is elegant, pleasing to the eyes and taste buds and signals that you are taking good care of yourself.
When I make my celebratory dinners this season, I will add healthy, luxurious foods that I love but don’t usually splurge on—assorted wild mushrooms, gulf shrimp, lobster, crab cakes, and orange rind dipped in dark chocolate. I cook them in a healthy way and let the taste of these foods shine by not overdressing them. Then, I arrange them on a beautifully-crafted plate and put them on an elegant table. I immerse my senses and signal my brain that this experience is unique (and good for my body). Learn new ways to create and envision pleasurable moments, call on food items that are a feast for your senses, and give your body high-nutrient, whole foods that you love.
You Get a Pass on Select Holidays (days, not weeks)
Enjoy eating favorite foods on select holidays, but go right back to healthy eating and exercise the next day. This skill is invaluable because we don’t want to live in a state of deprivation. Treats have to be incorporated into our life. I think it’s best to practice now and not wait until January. The WTF overeating slide exists because we struggle to see a way back to healthy habits once we’ve dipped into indulgences. We can’t give ourselves a tasty treat without the guilt, and we let our minds tell us that we can’t return to eating normally at the next meal.
As someone who has been obese most of my life, it has been one of the most difficult skills to manage, but it can be done. And it must be learned. Eating one indulgent meal doesn’t undo all the work you did in the past week (if you get right back to your healthier habits). Missing 2-3 workouts to spend time with family doesn’t mean your muscles will waste away. Have the break or indulgent moment and go back to your habits.
Develop a mindset that supports the healthy habits you’ve created, and recognize that those habits can’t be broken with one deviation from your plan. They are stronger than that, and they are there for you to draw on whenever you need them, just through the act of picking them back up again.
Start January on a Positive Note
Add healthy habits now, and your body will thank you on January 1. The moment I open my eyes on the morning of January 1, I want to feel hope. I want to be hopeful that the coming year will be so much better than 2020 was, and I don’t want anything to get in the way of that hope. I want to enjoy that day in peace, knowing that if I choose, I will be able to do a HIIT workout, eat a healthy grain bowl or go for a walk. How do you want to start 2021? If you’ve nailed your 1-3 healthy habits in the next three weeks, you can wake up with a sense of accomplishment. Wouldn’t that be nice?
Reaching Your Goal Weight is a Long Game
Losing weight isn’t a single decision; it’s a 365-day gig. Learn that now, and you will save yourself from feeling too overwhelmed. Small, repeatable healthy habits achieved over months matter more than grand, massive changes done over a few select days in January.
I wish you joy, self-love, and good health NOW (and in the months to come)! Drop a comment below and let me know which healthy habits you are choosing to work on.
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