Four steps to manage overindulgence over the holidays

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While we might strive to live a healthy life all of the time, unless you’re super human there are going to be occasions where you fall off that health wagon. And the current holiday season is probably the highest risk time of all.

So how do you either manage to stay on track with your health goals, or if you find yourself straying from that path, how do you manage yourself in the best way possible so that you don’t let it destroy all the hard work you’ve put in so far and that you can resume your focus quickly?

Confession: I am partial to the occasional box (and by that I mean an entire box! Actually… I mean a few boxes in under a week) of Ferrero Rocher. It’s a pattern I seem to fall into around Christmas where it feels like such a lovely, fun treat to have. I recognise this as an old habit that I’ve just fallen back into and one that I’m not too thrilled about (even though they taste lovely).

In the past, my mindset would have headed straight for defeat. The shocking collapse of my willpower and complete overindulgence would have meant that I’d failed. And I’d start telling myself that I wasn’t capable of keeping up any kind of healthy regime for the long term like other people who were clearly better than me. I would have opened the floodgates and given in to the cravings for chocolate, carbs and wine. And then I’d feel miserable and have a real uphill battle that would take me ages to fight. That former person who was able to resist all these temptations with little effort had disappeared and in its place was the sugar monster.

But things are different now.

Through the work I’ve been doing more recently to address mindset, nutrition and fitness I’ve come up with four essential things that mean that even if I do over indulge on occasion, I am able to reign it in quickly and not let it derail my long-term goals of living the healthiest life possible. So if you’re facing the same challenges, or just want to enjoy the holiday season without guilt, see if these steps help you too.

Step 1: Enjoy Every Mouthful

A quote that really sticks with me any time I eat anything is, “Enjoy every mouthful.” I don’t know where I heard it, but it really resonates with me. If I’m going to have that Ferrero Rocher (or 10) then I need to enjoy every single bite. Otherwise what’s the point? Accept what you’ve done and enjoy it.

Step 2: Don’t beat yourself up

If you do find yourself overindulging, one of the worst things you can do is beat yourself up. Saying things to yourself that are detrimental does nothing to help you keep a healthy mindset and just makes it harder to get back on track. So, control how you talk to yourself and focus your energy on thinking that this is just a small blip in a long term vision of health, which brings me to Step 3.

Step 3: Be in it for the long term

The key to maintaining a healthy regime is to have your eyes on the horizon. Maintaining your health has to be a long-term lifestyle decision. The occasional blip every now and then is perfectly acceptable so long as you see it as short term, and return to the long term vision that brings you back to your healthy lifestyle. I’ve found this takes the pressure off so that I can enjoy what I’m eating or drinking. It also gives you a little leeway to indulge, if you know it’s something you can easily turn off and return to your healthy lifestyle, rather than giving into your defeated mindset.

Step 4: Look for the motivation to return to your healthy lifestyle

When I recognise that I’ve overindulged I look for inspiration to push me back into my healthy regime. Sometimes it can be very quick (a day or two), other times it can be longer (a week or two). I may have a few false starts but I know I have to keep persevering. And it’s essential that you do persevere.

For me, I make sure I invest time in reconnecting to the ‘why’ of my long term health goals (I go into this in more details and explain how you can do the same in this blog). If that’s not working for me, it may be that I need to do more work on the ‘why’ to find a more compelling reason as things and motivations change over time.

I also read books, listen to podcasts or watch certain TV shows that might inspire me to start eating healthily again and cut out the junk. The books might be nutritional books, or cook books with sections on healthy eating and why it’s important. I then plan meals for the week ahead from my checklist of healthy recipes (even if i don’t feel like eating them at the time) as it can trigger me to move back into my more healthy habits. TV shows might be focused on the impact of poor nutrition on health or more entertaining shows like The Biggest Loser where severely overweight people are kickstarted into a strict health and fitness regime and mostly get great results.

Maintaining the Balance

It may be that you’re able to maintain control over the holiday season – if so, congratulations! For me, I find it harder at this time of year when the focus is so much on food and drink and being merry… I don’t want to live a life of complete restriction. So if I want to enjoy some roast potatoes for Christmas lunch, I don’t want to then feel terrible about it. But I’ve also found I need to put the work in to figure out how I can quickly get back to my healthy regime and not let such indulgence derail me completely.

What’s your downfall in the holiday season? Let me know in the comments below. Or if you’re able to maintain your healthy lifestyle throughout, share with us how you do it!

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Showing 4 comments
  • Samantha

    Great blog – 80/20!! And a wine along the way.

    • Angela Wilbraham

      Thanks! Absolutely. The 80/20 approach is key :-). We can’t be perfect all the time… but doing 80% of the time is going to get pretty good results.

  • Helen

    Have you seen the “Beyond Chocolate” stuff ? I’ve found their approach very useful, again focusing on actually enjoying what we’re eating and being mindful about what we consuming.

    • Angela Wilbraham

      Thanks Helen. Haven’t seen that but will definitely take a look (sorry for the slow reply but didn’t see your original comment til now!).

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