Responsibility stinks. There is something liberating about abdicating responsibility. When you are not responsible for an action or a behavior, it allows you to act with impunity because “nothing is your fault.” This is especially true when it comes to dieting and weight loss. When you show up for that holiday gathering and everything offered to eat is full of calories, sugar, fat or carbs, what are supposed to do? You have to eat it! There’s no choice! It’s not your fault! That’s a wonderfully liberating feeling: you can eat without guilt!
Except….you really do have a choice. You can say “no thank you” and not eat what is offered, or you can eat only a little of the healthiest options so as not to appear rude. Holiday gatherings are always the hardest for those of us working to lose weight. A lot of us choose to deal with these kinds of parties as Cheat Days. We essentially give ourselves permission to eat the way we want to eat when we’re out at a holiday event. We know there are going to be all kinds of treats of special foods and we aren’t going to be able to resist anyway, so we might as well eat them and enjoy them! “It’s a Cheat Day!”
Those of us who been down this road before know that while it looks good, it’s really a trap. The Holiday Season runs pretty much from October through January where I am and it’s usually full of potential Cheat Days: there’s the Halloween parties; there’s the Thanksgiving meals; there’s Christmas and Hanukkah parties, and then there’s the big New Year’s Eve bash. Everyone everywhere is celebrating something and then there’s all the holiday treats that make it into the office and your home. Consumable gifts are very common, so there’s cookies, chocolates, cupcakes, candies and liquor going back and forth. They’re there in the office break room, just calling to you! And we all know how it starts: “one won’t hurt!”
The temptation to abdicate responsibility is there: those sugary coffee drinks/ cupcakes/ cookies/ muffins are irresistible! “It’s only for the holidays! I’m allowed to celebrate, right?” Except we end up celebrating ourselves back into our “fat pants” and by New Year’s, we are resolving to lose those Christmas pounds we put back on! As a result, we end up starting the New Year feeling depressed, as if all the hard work we put in during the spring and summer was completely undone by the Holiday Season because, well, it was undone by holiday eating!
This is the Most Dangerous Time of the Year when it comes to weight loss because of the built-in excuses: we can’t keep resisting the temptation of all these delicious seasonal treats and we’re allowed to celebrate, aren’t we? Yes, we can ‘celebrate’ as much as we want to but at the risk of being a real Scrooge here, we don’t have to eat the cookies to have a good time at the party.
I admit I am a confirmed caffeine addict and this time of year, Starbucks is full of their ‘holiday beverages.’ Two of my favorites are the Eggnog Latte and the Chestnut Praline Latte, both of which are chock-full of calories and sugar! I love those things, but I discovered that I love them more when I don’t have them all the time. Usually, I have between two and four of them during the holiday season and I tend to reserve them for times when I am celebrating with friends. Yes, I choose to celebrate by indulging in a rare holiday coffee beverage when I am out with friends, but I am just as likely to choose not to have one too. My friends don’t know or care if I have the seasonal coffee drinks or not, and if we are having a bigger meal than usual later on, I might want to adjust my calories accordingly. The point of getting together with my friends is to socialize, not stuff myself full of fat and sugar.
I know how tempting it is to give in and have something unusual and decadent! Some of these seasonal treats look amazing and I have tried a few of them. In my experience, most of them look better than they taste! A few years ago, I gave in and had a snowman cookie. While it looked yummy, it wasn’t. It was a bland overly sweet sugar cookie– tasteless in my opinion. Cute and seasonal, yes; worth the sugar and calories? Definitely not! (I’d have done better to save those calories for an Eggnog Latte– that would have been worth it!)
We don’t have to Scrooge to lose weight in the holidays but we do need to take a page from his book and keep an eye on where we are spending our calories. I know there are people who scoff at calorie counting and while we don’t need to count every olive and nut we put in our mouths, we do need to keep an eye on the bigger picture! Having a cookie isn’t off limits but maybe we can cap the cookie count at two? The same is true for the parties and events: we don’t have to turn down the invitations but maybe it might be a good idea to decide which ones we are really going to eat at and which ones we’re going to do more hors d’oeurves, which ones we’re going to choose to have alcohol and which ones are going to be alcohol-free.
This is the time to celebrate and enjoy the company of family and friends. We don’t have to resist all the treats and temptations as long as we remember we are responsible for what we choose to eat. Sometimes it really does help to remember all the hard work we’ve done during the year. It took a long time to lose the weight we’ve lost so far. Do we really want to put it all back on because we don’t want to pass on the snowman cookies?