Christmas may have started even earlier this year! It’s been an unusual year that’s for sure, and I understand wholeheartedly that many people are looking for a reason to celebrate…. Christmas is a great reason; it is also a time of huge temptation… huge, prolonged temptation, so combining these two things could quite easily lead to big time, all out excess!
This might seem great in the immediate term but long term or even just a few days into it do you really want to be suffering, more than you already may have been this year? Emotions are likely higher than many other previous seasons and when high emotion is mixed with unconscious abandon and well ingrained eating patterns…. we can easily eat a huge slice of cake or 4 mince pies when we are not at all hungry, (or it’s not yet Christmas!) or we dig into a huge tub of cheap chocolates when we KNOW it’s going to make us feel sick.
I have a few simple tools that I personally use to make the season an enjoyable time. And I want to share them with you.
Firstly, right now visualise how you want to celebrate this festive season in terms of eating and drinking and how you want to look and feel during this time….and at the end of it. When we decide to ‘let go’ completely, all our usual rules go out the window, then it’s tricky, if not impossible to remember boundaries and when and how to reign things in. There’s a difference between indulging in your favorite foods and feeling satisfied and comfortably in control, rather than feeling in pain, unhappy and disappointed with yourself.
It’s important to know exactly what you want – not what you don’t want. If you want to indulge more than usual, that’s fine if you know the consequences.
If you want to avoid all foods you know will make you feel unhappy, fat, and make you crave more sugary foods, then keep that strongly in your mind. Remember ‘willpower’ is not a real thing – if you believe that you need willpower, all you must do to go off track, is tell yourself you have lost it and hey presto – cakes, sweets, fatty snacks etc. are back on the menu!
Mind-set, attitude and desire are what you need to keep you on track.
Imagine you were addicted to eating a box of chocolates every Christmas day. That you processed it and labelled these chocolates as a ‘once a year Christmas indulgence’. Ahead of Christmas day, your brain is in anticipation, and begins to release dopamine in readiness of the chocolates long before you eat them. By the time Christmas day comes there’s no way you are not going to celebrate it with a whole box of chocolates. Now, imagine as a result of doing this you have the worst nausea and stomach pain, that you spend most of the day with a migraine and vomiting. You know with absolute certainty it was the chocolates that made you so graphically ill and that your body felt poisoned.
If someone offered you a chocolate the next day, your body would have learned to change the association and you would probably repel the thought.
It’s critical to change your neurology so that any old behavior genuinely loses its appeal. To the point that when you think of it you almost feel repulsed at the thought of doing it. Just because you have spent every Christmas day in the past overloading yourself to the point of pain doesn’t mean you can’t do things differently this year.
Use this ‘Craving Crusher’ technique ahead of Christmas to change how you think and feel about a specific food particularly if you fear it might be your downfall again this year.
Think about what you are doing consciously and just STOP!
If you are struggling in any moment and you feel an internal dilemma about whether to eat or drink something, the chances are you will think something you have thought before.
In terms of making choices that affect your health, if you love mince pies and think how good they taste and how they are so much a part of Christmas, and you ate them all the time as a kid at Christmas, then when you stop and think about it before you decide, the thought you are most likely to have, is how delicious they are! That’s clearly not going to help.
Instead of stopping to think… JUST STOP! Literally. If you feel the thought coming into your mind literally say “STOP” to yourself before you put something in your mouth that makes you fat or lethargic, and either make a different food or drink choice, or if you’re eating or drinking when you’re neither hungry nor thirsty, do something else instead. It’s that pause that allows the change. Just Stop. SLOW DOWN. BE AWARE.
Here are some ways to change the direction of your thoughts and actions:
- Change your posture: there are more signals travelling from your body to your brain telling you how to feel, than the other way around. Literally just changing your posture and adopting a more dynamic positive stance, changes your brain chemistry. Get up from your slouching, lazy position and take a walk, have a glass of water, break the moment.
- Focus on a colour. It might sound a little crazy, but research has shown that the brain responds strongly to colour, and that being exposed to certain colours can literally change how we think and feel; and the colours that affect us are personal to us. Think about how you would like to feel, e.g. in control, comfortable, strong etc. and ask yourself, if that feeling has a colour, what colour might that be? You may not necessarily see a colour but go with whatever word or image pops into your mind. When you need to feel in a position of strength imagine you are surrounded by a cloud made up of tiny particles of that colour and each particle contains a little of that feeling. Adjust your posture based on how that colour feels.
The 10-minute rule:
Studies have shown that people who chew their food more, and who put their cutlery down in between each mouthful, eat less overall (estimates show this can be up to 200 calories less per meal!).
Before you start your Christmas meal, take a good look at the amount of food on your plate. Your stomach can comfortably distend to twice the size of your fist, so make a fist and put it next to your plate to give you a reference. Bear in mind once inside your stomach it will have been chewed up. When over halfway through a meal, close your eyes, go inside and connect with your stomach, visualise it and practice paying attention to how full it is. In between each mouthful put your knife and fork down until you have chewed and swallowed. Every 10 mouthfuls close your eyes and go inside and notice how your stomach feels. Stop as soon as you notice a sense of comfortable satisfaction. Wait ten minutes and then go inside and notice if you feel even more satisfied (you almost certainly will as it can take several minutes to distend the stomach after each mouthful).
Obviously, drink can often make all sensible action go out of the window, simply, drink more water.
These are simple techniques that work – why not try which one appeals and see if it works for you! It doesn’t have to be ALL or NOTHING – going into a downward spiral won’t help.
Indulge here and there. Balance days out and celebration meals by eating lighter beforehand and afterwards. Nobody is perfect and trying to be is exhausting. It’s a great time of year to start eating lighter and remember that Intermittent Fasting or Time Restricted Eating up until and around Christmas can work wonders. NEVER beat yourself up about the food you indulge in, every moment is a moment to make a choice, bullying and talking badly to yourself will always make things worse.
Make some alternative sweet treats such as energy balls rather than processed chocolate. (There are some great recipes in our Members Area). Enjoy Christmas day in all its glory, and the few days that surround it but don’t make it an all you can eat – and – drink-athon for the whole month!