Strategies for Celebrations — Holidays, Eating out and Vacations

Doreen Lerner, PhD

We enjoy and look forward to the fun times in our lives – parties, celebrations, family gatherings, holidays, vacations, restaurant eating and so on. We need these times! If our lives were all work and no play, we’d feel bored and we’d enjoy our lives a whole lot less.

While we need these times – emotionally, spiritually, in so many ways – they’re also risky for those of us who deal with weight challenges. So here are some ideas and strategies that hopefully will help you out as you try to figure out how to enjoy these good times while still honoring your weight management goals:

    • Have a plan for how you’re going to handle the event, in terms of the food.

It’s really important to be prepared with a plan. Have you ever heard the expression “he (or she) who fails to plan, plans to fail?” It’s so true!

No doubt, you plan for many things in life. When you go to work, you have a plan for what you’re going to do that day, even if it’s to simply follow your job description. When you go to the grocery store, you may or may not carry a list with you, but you still have some kind of plan, even if it’s simply, “I need to pick up milk and bread.” When you get home from work (or wherever you’ve been that day) you have some sense of how you’ll spend the evening (feed the kids, watch your favorite show, etc.). Imagine how we’d do if we tried to negotiate life without any plan whatsoever!

The best kind of plan, when it comes to food, is about what you are going to eat, not what you’re not going to eat. If we focus on what we can’t eat (or what we think we shouldn’t eat), this kind of thinking can set us up for failure because it simply leaves us feeling deprived.

Obviously, this is easier when we’re going to a restaurant and we can check the menu online, but what if the event is a party or some other event where we have no idea what kind of food is going to be served?

We can still do some planning. For example, we can plan to eat on the light side both before and after the event, and we can plan to not arrive at the event so hungry that we’d gladly eat the furniture. We can also plan on sticking with lower-calorie drinks and foods and doing some exercise that day.

Planning in general is really important for being successful with long-term weight management.

    • Learn to focus on enjoying the people and the experiences – make it more about your special relationships, and less about the food.

Before you leave for one of these special events, think about the people you’re going to get to spend time with. Tune into yourself, and ask yourself what you really enjoy about these people. Think about how you’re going to feel when you get to see them, about the conversations you’re looking forward to having, about the stories (and maybe also the jokes!) that you’re going to be sharing with them, about the memories you’re going to be building for yourself and perhaps for your family too, at whatever the upcoming event is. As you think about all this, notice how you’re feeling.

We often find ourselves indulging in comfort foods at holiday celebrations and family events because they remind us of a beloved family member who is no longer with us. But instead of eating two servings of grandma’s apple pie, we can plan on mindfully eating one bite in a way that lets us truly savor it, and sharing stories and memories of grandma with our loved ones.

As you know, family events can also be stressful. If you’re anticipating that a family gathering might be stressful in some way, it’s important to arrive with some strategy for managing your stress. It can be as simple as taking a few deep breaths, learning to speak up for yourself, or avoiding certain topics of conversation. Remember that indulging in your favorite comfort foods is not going to change how your mother-in-law behaves toward you!

When it comes to vacations, think about the experiences you’re going to be having each day of your trip and let yourself get excited! Learn to make it about the places, events and people. Make it about the new sights and sounds and not about the food. Again, go with a plan, and focus on what you are going to eat, and have a great time!

About the Author:
Doreen Lerner, PhD, is the Psychologist/Director for the Institute for Lifelong Weight Management. To receive Dr. Lerner’s free report, “The 7 Habits of Highly Successful Losers,” please CLICK HERE.

Disclaimer: This blog post does not reflect the views of the OAC, the National Board of Directors or staff. The OAC does not endorse any merchandise, program or hyperlinks mentioned in this blog post.

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