I wanted to write this post because from a member’s perspective because I really do know how difficult this time of year can be. Before I go any further I want to clarify that I know that Christmas only comes once a year and is a time people want to enjoy. I also know that some people will genuinely find it bizarre that such a positive time would even require a “survival guide” or be associated with anything negative.
However, the truth is that for a lot of people this time of year can pose a lot of difficulties. It is, for many, a time where a lot of emotions are really brought to the surface. A time where any relationship issues between friends and family members are perpetuated. Emotions are high. Financially it can be a great struggle for many also.
In a lot of cases the above can lead to a lot of self sabotage for someone who is actively trying to lose weight. Many of us automatically choose food as a remedy for feelings we don’t enjoy. We eat to fill a void that is otherwise being occupied by pain or hurt. It is unbelievably common for people to comfort eat as a means to temporarily feeling better.
On top of this there is the blatant fact that this genuinely is just once a year. A time of year where all of your favourite foods and people are plentiful. If there ever was a time of year to absolutely forget about healthier eating habits and just enjoy what you fancy, it’s Christmas.
Like many of you I simply adore the food that is associated with this time of year. I adore the cheese boards and the mince pies. I can’t get enough of the fancy crisps and the fluffy white bread with real butter. The festive coffees and pastries are heavan on earth while the party food and platters are mouth wateringly good. I want it all. And the reality is, I can have it all. It’s my choice. I am an adult and not a single soul on this earth can tell me otherwise. And they wouldn’t either.
For many years December was the reason why I felt as though I couldn’t continue my journey of trying to lose weight. It felt like a mountain too great for me to climb. There was too much temptation. Too much to enjoy. Losing weight just wasn’t a priority. “There is more to life that dieting”. And so I’d spent a solid month absolutely shoveling the food in to me. It would have been absolutely normal to have Christmas pudding and whipped cream 2-3 times a day. I could finish a six pack of crisps like it was an Olympic Sport and every time I passed a tin of Roses I simply had to eat a couple. These are the December’s where I gained 12-14 pounds in a few short weeks. An easy thing to do.
Because it was a time in my life where I felt so crap anyway, I never really worried about it. I did the deed and then spent January feeling slightly worse than I usually did. I’d do a crash diet, lose a bit of weight and return to the comfort eating that I took so much joy from. The secret eating that gave me a little high. My addiction.
When I joined Slimming World in August 2015 something really clicked for me. I suppose the penny dropped in terms of social events and holidays. They would come and go throughout the year and if I could find a way to manage them then I would have really cracked the code. If I didn’t let them massively get in my way of losing weight then for the first time in my life I would actually be making some progress. The approach I usually took was to enjoy the ocassion, accept the gain and get back on plan as soon as I possibly could after the event. Sometimes it was the very next day and other times it was the minute I got on the plane to come home from a trip. The main thing was that it didn’t continue in to other days. I knew all too well that days turned in to weeks and weeks turned in to months. It was the very reason why I had never managed to lose weight in the past. Something always got in my way. An event always came along and “ruined” things. But soon as I realized that it didn’t have to I really started to see the magic happen. I promised myself that no matter what happened I would always go to group. I would weigh in, face the music and simply move on. Going to my Slimming World group is what gave me the tools to move on and make a plan for a fresh week. 90% of the time I could lose the gain before the next weigh-in. I had finally found a way of enjoying life and the events that come with it and still see a weightloss most weeks.
By the time I had lost a couple of stone my life had really changed in so many ways. I had an entirely new relationship with the world. With food. With how I saw myself. I didn’t dread social ocassions and outfit planning. I was seeing the world through brand new eyes and I loved how it felt. Feeling comfortable in my skin was unfamiliar territory and I never wanted to leave it.
However even at this time I managed to slip back in to old habits over Christmas. Instead of finding a balance and enjoying myself within reason, I went off the rails and gained a stone. At the time I wrote a blog post branding it “the 12 pounds of Christmas”. I managed to lose it relatively quickly but I really didn’t like how it felt. It was a scary time for me because I realized that those habits will always be there. Buried inside me ready to erupt at any time and requiring very little encouragement to do so. I realized then that I will always be someone who attends Slimming World. I need the support. I need to sit in a room with people who get it. I need to keep myself in check and keep the conversation alive. I need to continue to feel good about myself. For me though, it just takes one or two weeks “off plan” for things to completely fall apart. It’s a scary feeling when you can feel yourself falling in to an oblivion of chaos. One day turns in to two and before you know it the weeks are passing by. Day by day you start to feel a little bit worse and that feeling of helplessness prevails.
I am writing this because as a consultant this is something I am met with weekly at this time of year. For someone who is losing weight weekly or for someone who has lost a great deal of weight it can be a daunting time of year. It could be the “blip” that encourages them to run away. That makes them fear the scales so much that they simply don’t return. For many people this time of year can be the reason that their life-changing weightloss and healthier eating habits are dumped entirely. The burden of guilt can then lead to a viscious cycle of kicking yourself when you are down. You continue to eat badly, feel guilty and then punish yourself in so many ways. That makes you feel worse and then comfort eating kicks in as a remedy. You repeat this cycle and feel totally and utterly lost. An oblivion of panic with fleeting moments of ecstacy that the food brings.
Christmas can be different for you this year if you want it to be. I’m not suggesting that you don’t enjoy yourself. As I said at the beginning, the beautiful thing is that you have choices. This can be a truly wonderful time of year but I know that for many it is also a time of year where it simply wouldn’t be worth a massive gain. And for others it’s managed quite well. They may not be phased by a large gain. They may have reached a point in their Slimming journey where they know they will always come back and face the scales head on.
Here are my Top 10 Tips for Surviving (And Enjoying) Christmas As A Slimming World Member
- Continue to go to your group. This has got to be the most important thing. By giving myself permission to leave group for a couple of weeks I basically gave myself a hall pass to go nuts when it came to food. I lost the run of myself, was in total denial and gained a pound a day on average. It was not worth it. I needed that check-in and accountability. I needed to see a gain that was manageable for me to lose in a short space of time. Letting it build up caused me a lot of pain because old habits and behaviours became normal once again.
- Remember that every single on-plan meal makes a difference. You may feel as though an off plan meal has “ruined the day” but it really hasn’t. The good choices will always shine through. Making a plan for the before and after makes such a big difference. If you know you are having a meal out then why not enjoy two delicious Food Optimised meals alongside it that day.
- One day does not have to mean seven. Your work Christmas Party, Girly Lunch or Annual Office Bake Sale will come and go. If you choose to enjoy these events (and the many syns that go with them) then you might consider enjoying them and getting straight back on plan. If the majority of your week is good then it will show.
- Remember that alcohol is like eating liquid cream cakes. It’s high in calories because of the very high sugar content. Sometimes it’s not what we are eating but rather what we are drinking that causes us to gain weight.
- In light of number 4, prepare for hangovers. If you know that you are the kind of person that wakes up after a night out and requires a take away or something greasy to function then make a plan to allow for this. What about an on plan Nandos? Butterfly Chicken, Spicy Rice, Salad & A Large Diet Coke will only set you back 5 syns. You could pretty much drown it in the gorgeous table sauces and still be well under your syns too. If you’re getting a chinese then little changes like going for boiled rice above friend rice will make a difference. Opting for something veg-packed or the likes of Chicken Or Beef Blackbean is a way of filling up using less calories.
- Don’t forget vegetables. I know how delectable the deep fried party foods are. I also know how easy it is to get in to a “beige” funk and only want to eat things of that colour. Remember that eating vegetables will make you feel energised. It will also do wonders for your skin at a time where a lot of people notice that it suffers. You might go for a little of what you fancy and bulk it up with lots of vegetables. Try adding a little honey and some herbs and spices for a festive twist on your regular veggie favourites.
- Remember if you are buying it, you’ll make it your business to eat it. The multi-pack boxes of crisps and the jumbo bars of chocolate are tempting but just remember how many of these things you will be offered in other people’s houses and how they’ll end up replacing meals in your own.
- Don’t forget to stay hydrated. With all the festive food and drinkss around it can be easy to forget to drink water. Particularly if alcohol is being consumed and we are feeling dehydrated. We are also consuming a lot more salt when consuming more crisps, peanuts and snacks. In the colder weather it is important to keep a bottle of water to hand.
My plan this year is to enjoy the couple of festive days off plan. But not two weeks. I’ve made that mistake before. I’ll have what I fancy for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Stephens Day but other than that I will be food optimising. It’s a sense of balance for me and I’m really looking forward to it because I know now that the days I do go a bit mad I will really enjoy it.
I am officially 2.5 pounds to target with one weigh-in left before Christmas. Fingers Crossed I get it this week but if not I’ll still feel massively proud of myself and comfortable in my own skin this Christmas.
Thanks to all of you who follow my journey – it’s so nice to know that we can share this experience together.
Have a wonderful Christmas,