Strategies for Celebrations – Holidays, Eating out and Vacations

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

While we need these times emotionally, spiritually and in so many different ways, they’re also risky for those of us who deal with weight challenges. Here are some ideas and strategies that will hopefully help you as you try to balance weight management and fun celebrations.

Celebrations: Healthy Tips

Have a Plan

First, have a plan for how you’re going to handle the event in terms of food.  It’s really important to be prepared. Have you ever heard the expression, “He 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, 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 for food is one that takes into consideration 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 can prepare us for failure because it leaves us feeling deprived. 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 not to arrive at the event so hungry 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 is important for successful long-term weight management.

Focus on Experiences

Learn to focus on enjoying people and experiences. Make it more about special relationships and less about food.

Before you leave for an event, think about the people you’re going to spend time with. Tune-in to 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 and perhaps for your family too. As you think about all of this, notice how you’re feeling.

We often indulge 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. We can share 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 a strategy for managing stress. It can be as simple as taking a few deep breaths, learning to speak-up for yourself or avoiding certain conversation topics. 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 places, events and people. About the new sights and sounds and not about 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.


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