The holidays are rough. Suddenly, everyone's a baker. And regardless of quality, they ply you with their homemade, sugary outcomes.
Plus, the weather is simultaneously cold and dark, so we’re biologically programmed to store fat, slink around in heavy layers, and not fret over widening thighs.
Try as you might to maintain dietary order, the swift, abrupt fall into gluttony looms. Let me illustrate.
I don’t eat gluten or dairy. I’m probably not allergic; I just feel better when I don’t. (You’re welcome to make fun of me if you must) One day, on a trip with my mom, I indulged in a gluten-filled cookie. It was enjoyable! I understand the fuss.
But once I broke my commitment, I wrote off the whole day. This meant hovering at the Trader Joe’s sample counter hours later, awaiting cheese tortellini in pesto.
I never try samples. Although no one agrees with me, I maintain it’s strange to eat whatever strangers offer in a tiny paper bucket.
What are we, hummingbirds sipping nectar from visitors at the botanical garden?
But I found myself jostling with senior citizens and intently observing the employee’s every move, like a malnourished stray.
Emerging from my free-food haze, I thought, Today’s shot anyway. Let’s try again tomorrow. Which, after one mishap, would also be chucked aside as “irreparable.”
By the time I headed back to LA, I willingly chomped on weird biscuits guaranteeing 4-hours of sustained energy. Why not, right? Gluten, like misery, loves company. @@The more slip-ups I accumulated, the easier each became to justify.@@ Every instance of rule breaking reinforced not the value of my restriction, but its lunacy. At this point, the idea was, essentially, why not have a few Cheez-Its?
Nooooooooo. Put down the glowing orange square.
You think you've contaminated the entire 24-hours with one ill-conceived bite. But it's not true! Starting fresh with tomorrow, after succumbing to your culinary kryptonite, might be too late.
When we begin new habits, we tend to evaluate ourselves on a daily basis. And ordinarily, days are great chunks of time for measuring and observing our behavior.
In a major departure from the norm, do not take holiday food threats one day at a time.
Instead, live moment-by-moment, meal-by-meal, bite-by-bite. You know, the way we're supposed to anyway.
The lapse in healthy decision-making, whether deliberate or accidental, must be acknowledged and owned. But you begin again immediately. This requires willingness to shape up and rebuild as soon as you overindulge. Every food interaction presents a chance to restart, instead of repeat. It’s a constant renewal, not reinforcement.
This method recognizes human fallibility, always at an annual high when family, travel, presents, and societal expectations combine and shake like bits of plastic inside a snow globe.
At some point you’ll forget your pact. Or, you’ll be so shocked by the craftsmanship of your co-worker’s gingerbread house you’ll need to devour it to ensure it’s completely edible, as per the rules.
Evaluating meal-to-meal is also immediately effective. By preparing for the worst and taking charge at the time, you feel proactive, leaving less time to obsess over your mistake. I ate fudge but I’m fixing it by paying closer attention at the next party is more empowering than I ate fudge so I might as well finish the box. And that other one.
True, you may seem like a ruthless hardass when you relentlessly stick to your goal amid gluttony. You may even be called a ruthless hardass by friends and family. But here’s another fact: being a (dietary) hardass gives you a hard ass.
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