You Have More Control Than You Give Yourself Credit

New Year's resolutions are the traditions in which we commit to changing an undesired trait or behavior in ourselves, in order to accomplish a personal goal or otherwise improve our quality of life. Until I was 27 years old, my New Year’s Resolution was always weight loss related (along with 90% of the population) with the hope to get the holiday weight gain off. I set myself up for failure, year after year, starting in October, by throwing in the effort towel a little early. I would overindulge for nearly three months straight, only to waste a time meant for personal growth on superficial nonsense that was brought about by my own hand (and mouth).

It was only after I realized that weight gain does not have to go hand in hand with the holidays that I was able to really grow as person and focus on things other than a few unwanted holiday pounds. For the last three years, I can proudly say that I now get to go into each new year more worried about improving my mind, heart, and soul, rather than making trivial goals to drop unnecessary, short term weight gain.

I gained weight at the end of the year, every single year, from the ages of 18 to 27, simply because as this time of year is synonymous with “food”. The holidays have always meant: overeating treats at parties, going for thirds at family gatherings, pumpkin flavored everything, and drinking way too much alcohol. I told myself stupid shit like “weight gain is just part of the holidays”, “I will get back on track on January 1st”, and “tis the season to make gainz”. All the same stupid shit you tell yourself, I said to myself for nearly a decade. I didn’t even once try to stay on track this time of year… “why bother?”, I’d ask myself.

But this is not about New Year’s resolutions. This is about altering our mindset during this year and not giving up. You have more control than you give yourself credit for.

This is a problem. We enable ourselves (and each other) to spiral out of control under the above-mentioned guises that are meant to justify overeating during the holidays. We actually make excuses for the terrible eating behavior that we adopt for THREE ENTIRE MONTHS, every year. Then abruptly try to stop it literally out of nowhere, just because the year changed. Like… HUH?! I have been there, time and time again. So now I am here to offer a solution.

Given that it is the middle of November, you might already feel like you are the point of no return. The Halloween parties and candy are where the big downfall begins for most people. Not to mention, Thanksgiving, where it is culturally acceptable to binge eat, is sneaking up on us in just about a week. There is no better time of the year to skip the gym than between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I get it. It’s freaking cold in there, anyway, amiright? At this moment, you are only about six weeks away from the first of the year. What damage could you possibly do?

A lot.

It is that exact type of thinking that set me up for failure each year. This was my vicious cycle for nearly a decade, until I made the decision to compete in the USAPL Regional Championship in December 2015, as it was in my hometown. Big meets are few and far between in Northern Nevada, so I was very excited to compete. But, for the first time in my life, I truly had to pay attention to what I was eating & eat in moderation through the holidays. I was walking around about two pounds under my weight class, so no weight cut needed to happen. I didn’t need to be restrictive by any means, I simply just didn’t have the option to gain weight if I wanted to take lifting & this meet seriously.

At first, I told myself the holiday season was “going to suck”, ya know, since I couldn’t [over]indulge as normal. But I was making a choice, I also told myself to just “embrace the [self-inflicted] suck”. Halloween hit and I still got to enjoy candy and pumpkin treats, I just had to track all of it and not overdo it. And guess what? I actually made it out weighing a hair under what I did when I went in. And even more importantly, I didn’t feel the guilt associated with the loss of self-control following extreme overeating that I normally did on the first day of November.

The same thing happened on Thanksgiving. My first plate was moderate and had more meat and veggies on it than certain other higher calories sides that I normally pile on first. I allowed myself a little bit of the “good stuff” in my second helping once I was already pretty full. I even got two pieces of pie, a dramatic downshift from usual half of a pie. Again, I woke up lighter. Lighter on the scale, but more importantly, lighter mentally, as I woke up the day after Thanksgiving without shame for the first time in ten years.

I ended up not doing well in that meet due to the state of my personal life at the time. While I didn’t take home any hardware or records, I gained more from that meet prep than I have gained from any of my athletic endeavors. I gained wisdom. I gained access to a world of moderation that I didn’t think could possibly exist this time of year. I gained the courage to do it again, every year, with no meet prep holding me accountable. And that is exactly what I have done. That experience of actually doing it was SO freeing, that I have had no issue doing it every year since. I get to go into a new year with no superficial goals. I get to go into a new year without being down on myself for slacking off.

I think the issue is the “all or nothing” approach that we keep talking about kicking to the curb, but nobody actually ditches it. We know this mindset is bad, yet we adhere to it. It is either, “I am not giving in to ANY temptation this holiday season” or “I am not even going to try, I’ll get back on track in January”. When it should be, “I can indulge in moderation free of guilt this year & maintain my current bodyweight”. I know that isn’t sexy, but it’s the truth.

Here are a few tips to help you see this through:

  1. Accountability is everything. And I am not telling you to hold yourself accountable, because that takes a lot of practice and will power. If all of this is hitting a little too close to home, you need to be real with yourself. If you have a track record, seek out some accountability. Make a pact with a friend, hire a coach, or publically proclaim your goal somewhere, repeatedly. You need someone to hold you to your highest standard & be your support system.

  2. Indulging is a must. Going into the holidays with “off limits” foods is a surefire way to fail. Again, you need to be real with yourself. The next six weeks are going to be centered around food and there is no escaping it. This is not about being restrictive, but actually about being a little bit looser in order to curb cravings and prevent the overeating that we susceptible to right now. Furthermore, if you genuinely love holiday treats, depriving yourself of that happiness is counterproductive.

  3. The food is not going anywhere. I know this sounds super silly, but it is the truth. Why are you worried about eating four plates tonight, only to punish yourself the following day? Instead of four plates one night and zero the next, remember you can have two each night. I have fallen victim to the, “if I eat all these cookies NOW, I can’t eat them tomorrow and I will get back on track” bullshit. Guess what? It’s the holidays and cookies are going to keep showing up, day after day. There are absolutely no good excuses to eat ten cookies. Check yourself.

  4. Be in the moment as you eat. Mindful eating is so important, especially during this time of year when we are all busy and social. Remember what you are trying to achieve, and know that it is absolutely acceptable to slow down during the never-ending parties and events. When you are alone it is easier to implement mindful eating practices as you have fewer distractions, but it can be tough at parties. Don’t be a rude, antisocial weirdo in the corner! Just try to have conversations away from the food to avoid mindless snacking.

  5. Be grateful. That is exactly what this time of year is about: gratitude. We get so hyper focused on the actual food and what it does to us, we forget that it is a privilege to even get to indulge in holiday themed baked goods. Take a few seconds before each meal (a plate of treats counts as meal this time of year), and be truly grateful for the food in front of you, what went into preparing it, and how delicious it is going to taste.

Author: Krissy Mae Cagney, Owner & Head Nutritionist, krissymaecagney.com