Prepare Mentally

Yesterday I gave you a couple of lower fat/calorie recipes for the upcoming holiday. Whether or not you make and eat lower fat desserts for Thanksgiving, I want to encourage you to mentally prepare yourself for the upcoming holiday and beyond.  Mental preparation is so important in this journey towards better health and fitness, and now is not the time to slack off!

Speaking from personal experience, the holidays aren’t always completely full of gladness and joy. For many of us, there are events from our past that cause us to have some sad and painful memories during the holidays. I think it’s important to mentally prepare yourself for all the aspects of the upcoming events, from the food to the emotions. I failed to do this for many years, and instead, found myself feeling blue and on edge sometimes. (Not that I don’t get that way other times of the year as well!) But during the holiday season, I expected myself to be happy, be full of frivolity, and be upbeat! But sometimes I wasn’t and it made me mad. Then I’d turn to food for comfort.

Emotional issues were a part of my becoming obese, and learning how to handle some of those emotions that came my way during the holidays was an important part of my journey. I had to realize that I didn’t have to be Miss Merry Sunshine every minute, and that feeling some sadness over past hurts was okay, and even healthy! Furthermore I discovered that sharing those feelings with other people was healing, not hurtful.

I never blame my obesity on anything other than my own choices, but I know there were circumstances from my life that I allowed to affect my food choices. For some reason, the holidays bring back a lot of those memories, and I had to make a conscious effort to feel the memory, but not allow the memory to push me into eating out of control. It took some conscious efforts of telling myself, “No, I do not NEED chocolate chips right now. What I need is some time with John.” Each time I made a good choice and didn’t fall apart was a victory.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, for some people, the holidays are so full of joy and wonderful memories of  being surrounded by family and friends that they overeat from happiness! A dear lady in my recent weight loss class talked about this. She shared how her memories of the holidays were so positive that she ate too much because of the good feelings surrounding food and family. Several other ladies in my class seconded her observation, and I saw where those kinds of positive memories would be as important to prepare for as sad emotions.

We talk a lot in weight loss land about preparation of meals, scheduling our exercise, and planning ahead for social situations. I think it’s just as important to mentally prepare yourself for the emotions that may surface during the holiday season. After all, many of us who have fought the battle with weight have some emotional attachments to food that could be improved upon. How well prepared are you emotionally for the holiday season? Or do you not feel that this is a valid point? Either way, I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Diane

38 thoughts on “Prepare Mentally

  1. vickie says:

    I (used to, past tense) had a TERRIBLE spiral deep into the ‘well’ each holiday season.

    Instead of one bad hour or one bad day – it would pull me down for days or even weeks.

    My personally – I think my psych meds helped even me out and now I do not get pulled under.

    I might have a thought flit thought my head – but I am now able to say –
    yes that is sad,
    yes that was unfortunate,
    yes I wish that had never happened, or
    yes, I wish that had been different.

    AND THEN MOVE ON. Big difference.

    And getting pulled under (THEN) definitely impacted my food choices. And of course that made the cycle even worse. My thoughts went something like this – I can’t do anything at all right, I am the worst mother in the world, my poor family is stuck with me, I hate the holidays, I wish it would have just been a regular day, I don’t know how to help myself.

    I feel very bad for that ‘me’ because that went on for many, many years. And I totally understand that it was a really awful place.

    It does not make me feel bad/sad to write this. It is an accurate chronical of the past. It is reality. And I mostly take empowerment from writing it – because I did get myself the help that I needed. And ironically – I got the help that I needed because several blogger friends told me to tell my husband one time when it was really bad. And them saying it and them my verbalizing it allowed me to get help. And that was the beginning of climbing out of the well.
    .-= vickie´s last blog ..Are they standing on your porch at 5:30am waiting for you? =-.

  2. SeaShore says:

    Good point. For me, Christmas time is an emotional minefield tied up with a big red bow. I made some headway with it last year, but thanks for the advanced warning to start preparing now.
    .-= SeaShore´s last blog ..Evolution =-.

  3. Andrea@WellnessNotes says:

    Diane, all of your posts are fantastic. But this is one is the most important one to me.

    For me, preparing myself emotionally was the key to losing weight. I prepared myself for every evening, when the stresses of the day would so easily get the best of me, as well as for special occasions. For a while there, I had somehow started to associate special occasions with eating whatever I wanted. It was almost like I “had” to eat a lot because it was a special occasion. I truly don’t even remember how I started to think that way, but once I started, it got pretty bad quickly.

    I also like that you point out that the holidays are not always a happy time and that they can bring back some bad memories and emotions. Having a plan to deal with these emotions is so important. For me, daily exercise does wonders these days.

  4. Gigi says:

    Emotions are a huge part of my story and even though I go into each holiday with high hopes, there is also the tension that exists around particular people who can’t be avoided. It’s like navigating a minefield most times and stresses me out but I sense the tide is turning. Thanks for the great reminder.
    .-= Gigi´s last blog ..Talking Turkey and Other Stuff =-.

  5. Sara N. says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone addressing this and it’s really too bad. Because holidays are emotional, at least for me they are. I have all kinds of memories associated with particular holidays and most are good, but there are a few that aren’t the most positive.

    Eating is emotional for me and thinking today about preparing for the holiday times is a great idea and I appreciate so much your bringing it up. It’s not always easy.

  6. Monica says:

    I think you are talking directly to me sometimes. I know that I need to do a better job of feeling my emotions and reacting to them without filling up with chips.

    Thanks for the reminder to prepare my mind and not just my menu!

  7. Lori says:

    I have a lot of emotions tied to this time of year (I usually have some sort of a “seasonal depression during this time of year.)– There would always be so much food around, and I never could resist it, so I’d overeat, and have terrible feelings of guilt (mostly b/c of my mom, and hate the way I looked later). My mom and I would always fight, growing up, about how I ate too much, and she didn’t like the way that I looked, and what I was doing to myself. She was just trying her best, to get me to stop, b/c she knew it was unhealthy, but I wasn’t wanting to listen to her. After going to a Christian counselor, I have since been able to try to not connect guilt with food, but it’s still sometimes a struggle. I feel a little bit better this year, even though the last few weeks have been kind of hard for me. I’m trying to go into it with “balance and moderation,” and not have so many feelings connected with the holidays.

  8. Larkspur says:

    A very good post. I have generally happy cozy feelings about the holidays, but I do get run a little ragged (my best friend has a lot more energy and ambition than I do, and the three days she’ll be with us are going to be packed to the gills with cooking and crafts). Helpful to remember that maybe what will be MOST helpful would be checking in with myself, or spending a few minutes with my sweetie, rather than yet another bite of chocolate. The other danger zone for me is disposing of dangerous leftovers before Saturday. I’m not too worried about a few days of special foods mindfully. It’s the point at which the special foods need to take a hike that I have to be careful about.
    .-= Larkspur´s last blog ..This Should Please the Planners Out There =-.

  9. Joanna Sutter says:

    I have to prepare mentally but it’s not the food I have to worry about. I love the holidays but I dread when I have to drive home to an empty house. I’d much rather drive home with a husband and kids and a family of my own. Sometimes I focus on this a little too much during the holidays. Instead I should be focusing on what I do have…because that is enough.
    .-= Joanna Sutter´s last blog ..Junior Hi’s and Goodbyes =-.

  10. Jody - Fit at 52 says:

    It is so much emotion Diane.. you are so right whether the emotion is good or bad… plus the stresses of this season too. We love the holidays BUT they are stressful with things to do, regular life money & family.

    Yes, I prepare for sure…. both in planning for food/exercise & for the feeling of the lost ones no longer here….

    Great post!

  11. Gina Fit by 41, Maybe 42 says:

    Your post is most valid…and needed.

    My parents are coming today. we rarely see each other, and it’s a big celebration when we do…including many tasty treats and restaurant excursions. we all want to watch what we eat, but when together we’re like little kids being naughty while raiding the cookie jar.

    They are great people, and I think they’ll be supportive with my goals. I’m thankful for them.

    And thankful for you.
    .-= Gina Fit by 41, Maybe 42´s last blog ..First Monthly Report =-.

  12. Sarah says:

    This was a really interesting post for me. My childhood holidays were relatively happy but I’ve always yearned for that tv-only supreme holiday perfection and joy and it occurs to me that without even meaning to, I try to create the supreme holiday perfection *menu* as my instinctual effort to create that happiness. This year is not the exception (except that I’m striving for quality over quantity), but I have been thinking about holiday traditions that I could create for my family that are less focused on food (going on a hike the day after Thanksgiving, going to see a fun movie instead of sitting around eating leftovers, etc.) but that would still be joyful traditions that my kids will remember happily, and this post just reinforces that I should make every effort to do that.
    .-= Sarah´s last blog ..Week 31: -3.8 =-.

  13. brenda says:

    I love your post on “prepare mentally”!! I have Thanksgiving figured out (I eat to live, I never live to eat~even on November 24), it’s all about healthier dishes, still keeping an eye on portions, and having a long healthy walk with the family and dogs after. We are still a family and making great memories without being over stuffed!

    My challenge ahead is the 2 weeks before Christmas when EVERYONE is making sweets. I find I ‘only have one here and one there’ till it shows on the scale. I will keep this post in mind and bookmark it so I can re read it when needed 🙂
    .-= brenda´s last blog ..Tag Tuesday challenge =-.

  14. Leah says:

    Very good! I like that you brought out the happy eaters as well for I am definitely a happy eater! The holidays are such a joyful time for me with good memories that I tend to overeat because “it’s all good!”, to borrow the phrase. 🙂

    For me it’s not about planning to not turn to food when I’m sad, but that I can enjoy the happy memories and current joys without eating too much in the process.

    Great post!

  15. Hilary says:

    Sometimes I think my holiday emotions have more to do with all the holiday movies and TV shows I’ve watched than anything else; I suspect they inform my mental fantasies about this time of year more than anything else! The reality is, we are all imperfect people and if we are fortunate we have a loving but imperfect family. When everyone gets together there is a lot of love and human foibles all in one place, and it is rarely going to look like something out of a Thanksgiving or Christmas movie. I can relate to what you wrote about feeling like you “should” feel a certain way. I often don’t feel the way I “should” . . . but by giving up the shoulds in the first place, it can take a bit of the stress off.
    .-= Hilary´s last blog ..Anticipation and Inspiration =-.

  16. Marcelle says:

    Lovely entry…I can relate to so much that is written there – I find Xmas time very emotional with living so far away from home and family….but do try – I really do.
    I do feel forgotten here…if I dont call or sms home I wont hear from anyone..
    This year I have organised that the gifts we send the little children for xmas the open with me watching via webcam on Xmas morning, that way they have to involve me.
    I’m preparing myself mentally…I am!
    .-= Marcelle´s last blog ..My Mojo Is Back =-.

  17. Jack Sh*t, Gettin' Fit says:

    In the past, big events like Thanksgiving were no problem for me, because there were plenty of people around and I’d act accordingly. It was the secret eating that did me in…

    Now when my family goes out of town and leaves me on my own, it means something entirely different to me: double workouts!

    Happy holidays to you and your crew, Diane.
    .-= Jack Sh*t, Gettin’ Fit´s last blog ..Signs It’s Going to Be a Bad Weigh-In =-.

  18. Leslie says:

    Great thoughts, Diane. I know that as much as I love big holidays today, there is always a vague baseline melancholy for me throughout – almost from November 1 – January 2. I was an only child with a sick dad (who died when I was 11) and after his death, it was just mom and me for the holidays. Talk about depressing! The importance of mental preparation for the onslaught of feelings that accompany holiday season can’t be stressed too much. And this process doesn’t just take one set of holidays…it’s the work of a lifetime of learning to love and care for ourselves in the present day, and to not fear our feelings. Caring for myself definitely includes not sabotaging my weight loss efforts for the immediate but oh so temporary balm of heavy eating. Thanks for another relevant post!
    .-= Leslie´s last blog ..Avoiding temptation vs. accepting and dealing with it =-.

  19. Erin says:

    Mental preparation for me is huge this year, but it’s all food based. My holiday memories have always been pleasant, surrounded by loving family and not withstanding tons of laughter and fellowship. The only emotional issue I foresee is the fact that my Grandma has been gone 3 years now, and that’s tough at times.

    I’ve been getting preparing myself for the past few weeks now. The first test was my work feast last Friday. I noticed I couldn’t bear to watch my coworkers piling up their massive plates with massive amounts of carbs, sodium, and fat. I realized the progress and changes I’ve made in the past year. I had only tiny portions of turkey, stuffing, and corn. I had a sliver of pie. I then devoured a spinach salad brought from home. Did I get a few dirty looks? Of course. Did I care? Not at all. Thursday will be another test, however, as I have two feasts in one day! I am confident I will be strong in my eating plan. Workouts will not cease to exist, either! I’ve got a plan and I’m stickin’ to it!

  20. josie says:

    For me, the holidays are a splendid time. I absolutely love them and I would definitely fall into the group of people who overeat at the holidays because of GOOD emotions. But, I am making the commitment this year that I can have a wondrous holiday without gorging on all the goodies. Thanks for the reminder that we need to be emotionally prepared as well.
    .-= josie´s last blog ..Hot 100 Update – and I am back in the saddle again! =-.

  21. Fran says:

    I love December and I’m not worrying about food, just enjoying this time of year and usually don’t overeat. I miss my Dad during these days but I’ve been missing him for the 9th Christmas this year and I’m getting used to this feeling. Usually there’s one moment when I’m crying about him but mostly remembering him with love but never replace the loss with food: not anymore! His passing away has been the main reason I gained weight and I’m not letting that happen again.
    .-= Fran´s last blog ..A day in my life: Monday November 23th 2009 =-.

  22. Alissa says:

    For me, I eat because of happiness. It’s so great to have the whole family together. My family love to eat so this will be a challenge for me! Thanks for the advice.

  23. Kat says:

    Hi Diane – I am working on being mentally prepared this holiday season. I have had holiday seasons where I have gained weight and also a couple where I have lost weight. The losing weight periods are so much better! I am going to plan my meals and prepare mentally this holiday season. Thank you so much for your thought provoking posts – they really get me thinking in a good way!

  24. 266 says:

    I definitely agree with your words here! I was just saying in one of my last posts that I allowed the expectations I put on myself regarding Christmas to begin driving me to a few more carbs than I normally would have had in a day. It is so important to recognize the emotions of the holidays and ensure that they do not result in overindulgences!
    .-= 266´s last blog ..Internet Down =-.

  25. Taryl says:

    The holidays are generally not emotionally difficult for me, not too happy OR too sad, so I can’t really relate to this one, but my heart goes out to all the other commenters who might struggle with this. Emotions are tricky to manage, and planning ahead mentally is sound advice!
    .-= Taryl´s last blog ..I’m calling it. =-.

  26. MackAttack says:

    I have no idea if I’m prepared. I am such an emotional eater that if all goes well I will be fine. I need to make sure that my emotions don’t get the best of me. Getting rid of leftovers is my main goal!
    .-= MackAttack´s last blog ..Food experiments =-.

  27. Lola says:

    I love that you always give us something good to think about. Thank you so much for your thoughtful posts (and wonderful comments). This year, one of the things I’m thankful for is you. :o)

    I’m going to write on my to-do list to make a plan for Thursday for food and for mental preparedness.
    .-= Lola´s last blog ..Hi…I’m ok :o) =-.

  28. Sally says:

    Weight loss is as much a mental issue as a physical issue. You cannot lose weight unless you tackle the issues that caused you to become over weight in the past. It isn’t just holiday times when you need to deal with emotional times.

    I know this Christmas is going to be difficult because it will be the first Christmas without my son’s grandmother (my ex mother-in-law) And although she wasn’t the typical cuddly and easy to love gradnparent she was important in our lives – and her absence will leave a gap.(I am in the UK so no thanksgiving) But as you say Diane mental preparation is the key – and learning how to deal appropraiely with emotion is important. That does NOT mean suppress the emotion – it means acknowledging it and dealing with it appropriately. The emotion is a signal that is trying to tell you something. Even in the middle of a festival sometiems tears are the best response.
    .-= Sally´s last blog ..Step Aerobics =-.

Leave a Reply