Health Coach in the making

Break the diet cycle before the Holidays

Happy Monday, y’all!  Today I want to talk about diets since we’re approaching the up-swing of diet culture.  The holidays and cold weather are just around the corner, which means we’ll be spending the next few months staying inside, going to parties, and eating treats that may not make us feel our best.  Sometimes we try to be proactive and “eat healthy” between indulgences, until your coworker brings in that tray of cookies and just one turns into three, and having just a cookie turns into what the heck, I’ll start over in January.

If you have never felt this way, congratulations! You likely have a healthy relationship with food, and I’m honestly, super happy for you.  For the rest of us, diets are like an abusive boyfriend that we just can’t shake.  We get hurt and leave, saying we’ll never go back, but a month or three later and we’re in the same situation because we think this time it will be different.

Y’all, it’s never different.  Say it with me: diets NEVER work.  This year, let’s get a handle on our relationship with food before we’re knee deep in pumpkin pie and holiday parties, so that you can actually enjoy this holiday season!  Over-indulging for months and then ‘making up for it’ by starting a diet in January is not going to feel good or help you stay healthy.  It means you’re feeling guilty or desperate or both for months because you think you’re being ‘bad’, but you also have a deadline looming over you, so better enjoy it while you can!  It also means you’re entering the dead of winter with a diet mentality and really, winter is depressing enough without adding the pressure of a restrictive diet.

I’m not saying that the answer is to remain super rigid and say no to every treat that passes your way, but we also don’t want to fall face first into every plate of cookies that passes our way; the answer is somewhere in between order and chaos.   I think we can all agree that super sugary treats don’t make anyone feel great, but we need to evaluate each opportunity to decide if eating that treat is worth it.  My family has a tradition where we make pizzelle cookies together every Christmas, and for me, eating a few (or more!) of those cookies and enjoying the nostalgia is totally worth it.  However, eating store-bought pizzelles at a party? no thank you.

Start training your brain now to evaluate what you’re eating, how you feel, and if eating that food is worth the potential consequences.  When you’re able to make a rational decision about food during the holidays, you can choose to really enjoy the foods that are either A) going to make you feel good or at least have little negative consequences or B) mindfully choose to enjoy something that may not feel good later, but is worth it’s special to you in some way.

The easiest way to notice how foods make you feel is to write down what you eat and how you feel after.  It doesn’t have to be super detailed or include calorie or macro counts; buy a cute journal from the store or write notes in your phone.  Here’s what you’ll want to track each day:

  1. Time you woke up
  2. How did you sleep? (length and quality)
  3. What did you eat at what times?
  4. How do you feel an hour after each meal?
  5. What did you drink? how much water?
  6. Any movement today? how did it make you feel?
  7. Any noticeable changes in moods, energy, etc?
  8. What time are you going to bed?

Here’s an example of what a day might look like:

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When you note things like how you’re feeling and how well you’re sleeping, you can look back at previous days and notice correlations.  Maybe I felt gassy because the chips were fried in a junky oil, or maybe I’m sensitive to gluten.  The only way to know how foods affect you is to pay attention, and taking notes on what you eat and how you feel will help you build a foundation of foods that you know make you feel good and give you energy.  It will also teach you which foods don’t make you feel great after eating, and if those side effects are worth it.  Note: not all reactions happen right away, maybe you have a reaction to dairy a day or two later.  Looking at the bigger picture of several days worth of information will be helpful to see correlations between foods and symptoms.

When you have a better understanding of how your body is reacting to foods, you’ll be able to approach the holidays with a clear plan.  Maybe your grandma’s pecan pie is the absolute best and totally worth a slight headache the next day, but the donuts in your office are not very special and less tempting when you think about the potential headache and energy crash.  When you feel empowered to make choices for yourself, you can go through the holiday season truly enjoying your choices, and enjoying the time spent with your loved ones, instead of thinking about how you’re going to have to diet next month, because you won’t feel the desire to diet at all!

What a freeing thought that is, right?

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