by: Michael R. Mantell, Ph.D
In only a few short days the holiday season begins, challenging anything that a fitness psychologist can teach. Complete with festive meals, parties, and seeming non-stop food and drink, it’s a healthy body’s nightmare. All of those hours at the gym can go “poof” in practically no time.
Most people don’t ever lose the pound or two of weight they put on during the holidays, according to a report in The New England Journal of Medicine. But it sure doesn’t have to be that way. Not if you know how to “THINk THIN.” It’s the program I’ve been talking about and teaching for quite some time and simply put, it works.
Don’t get me wrong, continuous exercise is an essential ingredient in maintaining your fitness and weight goals through this holiday season. In fact, in a study published in New England Journal of Medicine the lead researcher stated that: “The finding that study volunteers reporting more physical activity had less holiday weight gain suggests that increasing physical activity may be an effective method for preventing weight gain during this high-risk time.” (source: nichd.nih.gov)
But exercise alone won’t insure that you will resist that apple pie with heaps of ice cream on top, or that triple chocolate cake at Extraordinary Desserts, handfuls of chips and rich dips, pizza, French fries, and of course Starbucks. With “55 million people every year resolving to lose weight” after the holidays according to Prevention Magazine, we need to be armed with more than just exercise.
While reducing saturated fats, drinking less alcohol, eating more protein and less carbs, avoiding buffet chat, eating a healthy breakfast every day, eating the turkey light meat instead of dark meat, not eating turkey skin, skimming the fat off the gravy, and sharing every dessert you have may also help you stick to your holiday weight plan, again, by itself, it won’t do the trick.
The key to successful weight reduction and maintenance is to “THINk THIN.” Irrational dieters think differently from healthy weight maintainers. They may believe:
- It’s okay to eat [this food I hadn't planned] because I’m upset, I’m happy, I’m tired/I’m celebrating/everyone else is eating it/it’s free/no one is watching/I’ll make up for it later.
- I cheated! Oh, well, I may as well eat whatever I want for the rest of the day and start again tomorrow.
- Hunger is bad, abnormal, intolerable and it’s to be avoided.
- If I’m upset, I deserve to eat. (Or, the only way I can calm down is through eating.)
- If I have a craving, there’s nothing I can do except give in.
If these sound like you or someone you know, you need to learn to “THINk THIN.” Here’s how:
- Write down all of the reasons you have for maintaining your weight goals through the holiday season, one reason on each 3×5 card. Be sure to rate each reason with a level of importance, 1-4, with 1 being most important and 4 being least important.
- Read each card twice every day between Thanksgiving and New Year’s day.
- Select a diet plan that is reasonable for you to stick with. Then choose another as a back up.
- Never eat standing up and when you do eat, be sure you are mindful of what you are eating to increase the satisfaction you derive from the taste, smell, texture sight and feeling of the food.
- Learn to THINk THIN through hunger. You may THINk that you will feel horrible if you don’t eat and can’t stand feeling the “awful” feeling of being hungry. Or you may THINk that it is unfair that you can’t eat what you want and foolishly THINk that life is unfair and it shouldn’t be. Or you call yourself names for wanting to eat.
- Counter these erroneous and irrational thoughts with something more accurate. Ask yourself if this is the worst situation on the planet? It is worse than 100% bad? Can no good possibly come from this at all? Realistically remind yourself that you can, after all, stand feeling hungry, that it’s not really awful but rather “too bad,” or “no big deal,” and hunger tolerance is a good lesson to learn. Also remind yourself that life certainly is not fair, that you really can’t dictate how life SHOULD be, and finally that you are only human for wanting to eat something that looks tasty, not weak, bad or some other negative label.
- Understand that the more you wait out your cravings, the less intense they become and once you decide you are going to ride it out, you are already diminish in them.
- Avoid unplanned eating by reminding yourself, “I can eat this surprising dessert that I had not expected, or maintain my weight.”
- Use a response card for when you do, inevitably, slip. After all, you are only human. Judy Beck, famed author of the wonderful “Beck Diet Solution,” suggests that this card say, “It’s not the end of the world. I can start following my plan again right now. Just because I made a mistake doesn’t mean I should keep eating. That makes no sense. It’s a million times better to stop now than to allow myself to eat more.”
- Give yourself a “breather” one day each week.
There you have some idea of how to start to “THINk THIN.” Along with increased exercise time at The Sporting Club and healthy nutrition choices, these steps will have you looking as good after the holidays as you do going into them. One more benefit — you’ll have one less New Year’s resolution to make this year