...was to give up on food rules and body shame - even just for a month or a few months or the whole next year?
How would your life be different if you weren't trying to keep up with wellness trends? What other areas of your life would you like to put more energy into?
We all know how the holiday-eating story goes...
"I Indulged in more holiday treats than I should have. Better get back on track January 2!"
Sound familiar? It's far too common for people, especially women, to make New Year's resolutions about changing their bodies (i.e. shrink, tone, get-eating-under-control, etc).
Here's what the science says about those New Year's dieting and exercising attempts...97% of all attempts to regain control with eating and weight will fail. Of that 97%, two-thirds of diet-resolutioners will regain the weight back plus some.
If these statistics are so outstanding, why fall for the same New Year, New You routine?
Two simple answers. Seasonal permission to eat whatever you want AND restriction - both prior to the holidays and perceived future restriction come January.
Here's an example.
For most of my young adult life, my relationship with food was fraught with rules and conditions. My healthy eating habits became more about not eating and less about being healthy.
When the holidays rolled around, I'd give myself seasonal permission to have sweets, baked goods, and other foods that were normally off-limits the rest of the year. From Thanksgiving to New Year's, I'd sneak holiday foods, binge on them, then hate myself for it. It was like being on the worst roller coaster ride of intense pleasure followed by intense guilt and shame. The only thought that would console my inner critic was that January was coming and I wouldn't eat like this ever again - or at least for another 11 months.
If this sounds familiar, hear me when I say that you are not a failure and you didn't lose all
your willpower once the pumpkin pie was cut.
There are physiological reasons why this seasonal overeating/binge-fest happens each year for MANY people.
First when you spend 11 months out of the year restricting your foods, either amount or types of foods, then you let yourself taste one of your forbidden foods (i.e. pie at Thanksgiving), the pleasure center of your brain goes haywire in the "where have your been all my life" sort of way.
You enter into a relationship with the food similar to a new romance, wanting to be with each other 24/7. The attraction can be even stronger if your reputation as a healthy eater/wellness guru is on the line if people find out about your seasonal romance. This is why I was always sneaking around with the forbidden holiday goodies.
If you couple this forbidden food lust with typical holiday season stress like being around family members, traveling, trying to get EVERYTHING done, and taking very little time for self-care, this creates the perfect snowstorm for bingeing. None of this is your fault, but the way.
What I'm describing is the diet cycle = diet restriction/restrained eating for 11 months - event (holidays) - a taste of forbidden food (allow permission) - fuckit eating ("where have you been all my life") - feel guilty (but I have a reputation) - back to diet restriction/restrained eating.
It's a mish-mash of physiology trying to make up for being hungry all year, plus emotional stress, and the need for more pleasure with food on a regular basis. Again, not your fault.
The second piece to this is seasonal permission to eat - also known as conditional permission to eat and goes something like this,
"Yeah, I'm totally going for seconds and having desserts - tis' the season to be happy, merry, and too full. Good thing January is right around the corner!"
So, even if you're giving yourself permission to enjoy the holiday foods and drink if the permission is granted under the condition that restriction will start again in January, your body and brain gear up for another famine coming - the New Year's resolution-wellness-lifestyle-change (aka new diet).
This causes your brain to encourage you to eat beyond fullness by turning down the volume on the hormone messages that create your fullness cues.
See how the diet cycle continues year after year?
Even though New Year's is still a couple of weeks away, I wanted to plant this seed of understanding how the diet cycle works and how you can choose to get out of that fuckit eating snowstorm this holiday season and hopefully well into the New Year.
You may find it helpful to reflect on or journal about these thoughts...
1. In what 3 ways will your life be different if you don't go on a diet on January 2?
2. What will you be giving up if you don't opt-in to the "national dieting month" hype in January?
3. What fears do you have about not following a strict set of food rules?
4. What support do you need to not start a new wellness-lifestyle diet in January?
For additional support to start the New Year by reclaiming your health from the toxic body shame and blame created by the diet cycle, download the FREE Savor Food & Body Guide.
You'll get 6 action-packed steps to start healing your relationship with food and your body. You'll also receive the monthly Alpine Nutrition Insider Newsletter with additional tips, resources, and recipes to support your Intuitive Eating practice.
Let's do different not harder next year - Happy Holidays!