Successful weight loss takes programming, not willpower.
Around this time last year, I released an article on how to manage your diet over the holidays, with options if you count calories and if you who don’t, so you can click on the link if you are looking for some tips on budgeting your calories or food portions.
Today, I want to delve into some mindset tips that will help you enjoy this time with less guilt and without having to give up on either your fitness goals or the holiday mood.
So I’m going to cover:
Without further ado…
How to Stick to Your Goals and Have Fun Without Guilt
1. Think about your options.
Many of my clients stare at me wide-eyed when I tell them, “You know, we don’t have to diet through the holidays.”
They think they must be losing weight at all times… or else they’d be failing.
That’s not the case.
Staying in a caloric deficit and aiming to lose fat throughout the holidays is certainly an option.
However, taking a break and practising maintenance is also a viable and valid strategy.
How do you choose between the two?
2. Consider what you can realistically accomplish.
First of all, is it reasonable for you to plan a diet through this time period, or are you just going to tell yourself you will stick to the program… only to “fail” and beat yourself up for it?
If you are at home with your partner and you aren’t planning anything special aside from a nice Christmas dinner, maybe dieting would indeed be an effortless endeavour.
On the other hand, you may have numerous family gatherings lined up, with your partner’s mother planning to make her famous chocolate cheesecake and Aunt Hilda vowing to bring her trademark sweet potato casserole.
In this scenario, the sheer quantity of food around you might make it a lot harder to stick to your guns.
Following on from this, the second component to take into account is your own behaviour.
Are you one of those people who won’t be deterred from their goal, regardless of what they might need to say “no” to?
Or are you going to feel deprived if you decide you’re not going to indulge on Christmas day?
Make an honest assessment not only of what your holidays are going to look like, but also of how you are likely to react to the potential food choices you’ll have to make.
3. Consider what you might need.
Is the diet going really well? Do you feel uber-motivated? Do you feel like you won’t “miss” any festive food and would rather carry on as you have been?
Great! Then keep dieting.
Or do you feel you’ve been working hard towards fat loss for a few months? Do you feel like lately you’ve lost your mojo? Are you experiencing major FOMO at the thought of dieting through Thanksgiving and Christmas?
Then take a break and go back to maintenance.
4. Remember that neither is better.
If you keep dieting, you may lose more fat over this time period, but you may also:
If you maintain, you may be able to indulge yourself, but you may also:
Think about the long-term consequences of either choice. Which ones do you think you are more likely to experience, and which ones are you less worried about?
5. Own your choice.
Whichever of the two options you go with, own it.
If you choose to keep dieting, don’t feel pressured to eat or drink something that’s not on your plan. Be proud of your discipline.
If you choose to go back to maintenance, don’t feel pressured to have a “healthy salad” only because everybody knows you’ve been dieting. Be proud of your achievements and of your ability to be flexible.
You’re not doing this for anybody but yourself.
If someone is giving you grief about it, kindly tell them to go choke on some stuffed turkey.
On this note, let’s talk about the next main topic:
How to Get Friends and Family on Board With Your Goals
1. Use the Three Strokes, One Strike system.
Your friends and family may not be used to this new version of you that sets fitness goals and goes after them like a war machine.
You might receive some passive-aggressive comments, like:
“You used to be so much fun!”
“I’m not eating all of that. Won’t you finish it off like you usually do?”
(After force-feeding you ten cookies, whilst offering Cookie Number 11) “One cookie isn’t going to do any harm, is it?”
It’s not that they don’t like the new you. They simply aren’t used to it, and human beings tend to resist and fear the unknown.
An effective way to approach these situations is what I call the Three Strokes, One Strike system.
Let’s use an example: Aunt Hilda made her famous sweet potato casserole.
You’ve decided you don’t want any because it isn’t your favourite food and you’d rather “spend” your calorie budget on something else.
“Come on! One slice won’t hurt!” whines Aunt Hilda.
A Stroke-Stroke-Strike type response would be something like this: “Trust me, Auntie, I know how good your cooking is. If I have one slice, there’s no way I can stop there… (Stroke) But you’ve also made lemon sorbet, which is my absolute favourite dessert of yours. (Stroke) I don’t like the feeling I get when I’m too stuffed, and I really want to enjoy my time with you all today (Stroke), so I’m going to have to pass. (Strike)”
The strokes are compliments, or comments that you know will make Aunt Clara feel good, and the strike is the decision you made.
Showing your loved ones how much you appreciate their affection and their efforts, you may be able to persuade them to accept your choices without putting up a fight.
2. Involve them.
How do you think your mother would feel if you showed up to Thanksgiving dinner with a bunch of Tupperware? Unless she is as serious about her diet and training program as you are… Probably not great.
She might think that you have a problem with her cooking, when all you want to do is stay on track.
Maybe no one who’s reading this article is thinking about bringing Tupperware to any dinner. To entertain a less extreme scenario, what if you spent the entire Thanksgiving dinner in an awful mood because you were uncomfortable with the food being served?
Again, your behaviour might hurt your loved ones, even though that’s far from your desired outcome.
What you can do instead is try to involve them in your new lifestyle without imposing it on them.
This is a non-exhaustive list of options to consider:
The common denominator to all of these strategies is early communication.
Don’t just wait until the event to make your demands, or you may come across as impolite and disrespectful. Inform your loved ones of your intentions ahead of time and introduce them as an opportunity to share your fitness journey in an unobtrusive and potentially fun way, not as a chance for you to “boss everyone around”.
3. Take charge and change the topic.
We all have that one relative or friend that just doesn’t get it and keeps pushing food or drinks on you as though you two are speaking different languages.
In this case, your only option may be to change the subject and make it about them, not you.
For example, if they insist you “must” have a drink or a slice of cheesecake, you can tell them you are already full and happy with your meal, then follow this up with a question about something they really care about, such as their latest job promotion or their children.
Unfortunately, not everyone can be reasoned with, but, if you take charge of the conversation in a polite manner, you can turn almost any ugly exchange into a positive one.
Hopefully, these tips can give you some ideas on how to turn the holidays into a productive time for both your goals and your relationships.
What approach has worked best for you when it came to sticking to your goals during the holidays? Let me know in a comment!
A personal trainer who likes bodybuilding, superheroes, and bread.
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