Monday, November 17, 2008

First Days and Maintain Don't Gain

Saturday was the first day of hunting season. For my nephew, Matthew, this meant transforming my coat closet into a tree stand and hunting imaginary deer for most of the morning. I left for a while to go to the gym, thinking the boys would have things cleaned up when I got back (ha!), and while I was on the treadmill I started thinking about the whole concept of “first days.” In our society, we tend to have an “all or nothing” mentality when it comes to action items. For example, we either completely adhere to an exercise program or we do absolutely nothing. At this time of year, with the holiday season approaching, many people decide to throw their healthy habits out the window and plan to restart after January 1st. After all, if I’m going to overeat on Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years Eve, and at all the parties in between, why don’t I just let loose and do whatever I want for the next two months?

Truth be told, this is not a great time of year to begin a weight loss program and the reason isn’t because we can’t do it, but mostly that we’re more likely to screw it up with the higher number of temptations. I’d like to tempt you to try and alter the way you think about the holiday season in terms of your health. This doesn’t mean I’m trying to ruin the holiday eating season for you, just that I hope you can make some changes regarding the way you think about eating and exercise.

Concepts to consider:

Ask yourself how much and which kinds of food you really need/want?
We tend to see parties and shared meals as a time for overindulging on EVERYTHING! Why not just check out the choices, and then eat just what you really want the most? Eat slowly and enjoy the food—you’ll eat less in the long run.

Which days are you going to be tempted to overeat (or skip your workout, etc)?
Identify those days and then plan how to eat just a little bit healthier (or workout a little more) leading up to and after those days. Or if you’re going to have a heavy evening meal, compensate by eating less before and after. Your body does not give you a score each day for how strict you were, but it is significantly affected by how you treat it over time. This means that if you compartmentalize your unhealthy eating to a defined number of days over the next 45 days, you will be impacted significantly less than if you just decided to get back on the diet or exercise wagon after January 1st.

Today is not really the First Day of another new program to be healthy---it’s just another day of your life. If you can think about what kind of person you’d like to be in terms of your health and wellness, there’s no time like right now to just do more things that lead you in that direction. This is not an All-or-Nothing world, and your wellness is not that way either. Maintaining your health (and weight) throughout the holiday season is not about restriction and struggling. It’s about strategizing and being aware of what you really want and enjoy.

The journey toward wellness is different for everyone—one thing we all have in common is that we’re not perfect! We all have things we can improve, and evolving into the well person you want to be is not something you do overnight. So in the end it isn’t about a first day or a deadline or someone else’s ideas about what you should do. Identify your goal (Maintain Don’t Gain?), and then figure out ways to reach your goal while enjoying yourself throughout the process!

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