The winter holidays and the start of a new year is often a joyous time full of family, friends, good memories, hope, and the excitement of beginning a new chapter. But for those of us focusing on our health goals, this time of year can also bring anxiety, fear, stress, and an immense amount of guilt. Losing weight and changing our health habits is tough, but in the middle of the holiday season it can seem like an impossible uphill battle. Many of us fall into one of two thought processes after the holidays.
After indulging way too much since Thanksgiving, you feel like there is no way you will ever achieve your goals, so why bother to continue trying? You feel like you fell knee deep into brownie batter and there is no turning back.
You feel more driven than ever now that a new year has begun. You are going to eat all of the “right” foods, exercise every day, and you are going to “get back on track.” No. More. Indulging.
The holidays have a tendency to skew our mindsets too far in one of these directions, but I want to tell you that it is okay to be in the middle. It is okay to have enjoyed the holidays and indulged in your favorite foods, even if they weren’t the greatest choices. The holidays, the “slip-ups,” and the less-than-healthy choices are all part of your weight loss and health journey. Your goals do not stop here because you were less-than-perfect. These moments are small blips in the bigger picture and you deserve self-compassion. Remember, you aren’t and shouldn’t be on a diet. There are no rigid rules to follow, and there is no track to get back onto or fall off of when it comes to your health.
When in the “on or off track” mindset, you are constantly starting over because you assign your health the all-or-nothing mantra. When you think this way, you don’t give yourself the chance to appreciate or learn from the potholes on your journey. You make yourself feel guilty for eating that piece of pie and then throw yourself back on the treadmill for hours just to burn off the calories. This doesn’t alleviate the feeling that you “failed,” so you spend the next week depriving yourself of your favorite foods and spend all your free time doing grueling workouts you don’t even enjoy.
The problem with this mindset of being “on or off track” is that it places you as the passenger of the car instead of the driver. You unconsciously think you just need to follow a set of rigid rules mindlessly and when you get pushed off the road, you groan just thinking about how you will need to work extra hard to get back on the road because again, you are the passenger here and not the driver.
The solution? You need to consider the road to reaching your goals as a journey chock full of ups, downs, turns, and bumps, each playing a very specific and important role in reaching your goals. Think about it: when you are driving, you run into all kinds of obstacles– other cars, bumps, road construction, pedestrians, bad weather, etc. But do you stop driving and pull over every time you see an obstacle and consider yourself a bad driver and a failure? Probably not. You keep going forward, you move to avoid the pothole, and you get right back on the road to get to where you’re going. The best part? You learn from the obstacles each time you drive so that you can try and avoid the same mistake.
So what does your new journey to health look like? It means loving yourself and being okay with each decision you make along the way. No one is perfect and nobody is expecting you to be. It means celebrating the good, accepting and learning from the not-so-good, and continuing to move forward towards your goals. This new year, indulge in the occasional treat and indulge yourself with sympathy, understanding, and kindness.