How do you react when special occasions turn into routine?
As Christmas and New Year’s parties start to kick in and holidays are only four weeks away, I repeatedly hear the same question on how to elude excesses and avoid side tracking from our supportive eating habits.
You’ve probably already noticed that you are doing better when cruising along, following habitual patterns and adopting a routine around your food preparation and eating patterns. Relying on your automatic brain requires less effort and don’t use much of your limited willpower. That’s how habits and meal plans are a sure road for long term success. BUT they are easily put at stake with life circumstances.
The end of the year is a period for numerous “unusual” events, “exceptional” social meetings and family rendez-vous around food and drink. You end up repeatedly out of routine, you rely too often on your willpower and you are challenged by social conventions and habits.
- When you rely on your willpower….
You are completely in self-control. You start tapping in the same part of your brain that deals with making any other decisions, such as answering an email or managing your emotions. That’s when you may fall into the “willpower gap”: you know which eating patterns serve your energy and weight but you actually do make a different choice in the moment. And you start to rationalize your “off-track” behavior : “it’s time to have fun”, you “deserve this glass of wine” or “it would be nice to have this fruit cake cooked by your auntie (it’s only one after all)”.
Willpower functions like a battery: it becomes depleted as you use it. Parties and events often happen at the end of busy days, after multiple decisions using up your willpower supply. That’s a time when you easily end up making food choices in a state of willpower depletion. You are more susceptible to get off your plan.
- When you face up the social “normality”….
You may enter into the dilemma of pleasing, not being a trouble, blending in, versus taking care of yourself, acknowledging your self-worth or standing for yourself. You oscillate between conforming to the “social normal” or standing for your own sense of normality.
At a party, with the usual nibbles, sweets and alcohol, it is very normal to eat and drink these foods. If you don’t, you probably have experienced people coming to you to inquire about your choices, encourage you to have some or remind you “it’s a special occasion”? It is socially normal to (over)eat processed foods, sugary foods and drink alcohol when you socialize. It is even considered as an intrinsic way of enjoying yourself. If you don’t showcase as “normal”, you quickly feel pressured. Stress kicks in. And you are again more susceptible to make a choice that is off the plan.
How to celebrate health and wellness during the festive season?
These 3 tips are for you to create the best outcome for yourself:
SIMPLIFY and SET boundaries : set up your “bright lines” before going to an event. These bright lines are clear and simple rules that leave no room for interpretation. These bright lines reduce the number of decisions you make in the moment and help you stand for your choices. If you feel this technique is rigid, remember that it saves willpower and energy to areas of your life when you need more creativity and spontaneity.
Look for SUPPORT: there is no such a way as doing everything by yourself. Accountability and support are definitely increasing your chances of success. Ask your partner to remind you when you are off boundaries, talk to your supportive friends or a group of like-minded people that are experiencing similar dietary requirements or check the END OF THE YEAR DEAL to stay on track during this festive season. Research shows that your deplete less your willpower in a supportive environment.
Acknowledge your SELF-WORTH: you are the only one that is worth the eating and lifestyle choices you make. Become aware of your self-talk. Come back to your inner world and worth: your goal, intention and specific needs. It is a sure way to dampen the stress (invariably based on the outer world, where the danger lurks).
If you need accountability and support TO STAY ON TRACK WHEN YOUR HABITS ARE FALLING APART, check THIS OFFER or share this blog with a friend or loved one if you think they could benefit from it.
Yours in health and wellness,
References upon request