…that time where we seem to use “f!ck it!” as our staple answer to everything. As we dive head first into the family sized tin of celebrations whilst eyeing up the fairy cakes on the next desk whilst thinking about what’s for tea and wondering if it’s acceptable to have Prosecco every night because… it’s nearly Christmas!
I myself was to be found eyeing up the Sherry bottle last night, with a chocolate liquor already in my mouth and another one in my hand ready to go.
But as you may know I would never, ever deny any client a choccie, a slice o’ cake or a good guzzle of Prosecco, because every single one of these things can be included into a healthy, balanced and flexible diet. In fact you are more likely to see long term success in health, vitality and weight management if you DO include your naughty-list foods every now and again, than if you attempt to abstain completely. But please, for the sake of your future self, please, please don’t be bamboozled by the voice. The one inside your mind that is using the “I’ll just start in January” bargaining argument right about now.
I’m asking you this because after seventeen years as a coach witnessing this cycle over and over and over again, I know what it will lead to…
January 2nd will soon come around (we don’t think about the 1st because on the 1st there is still left over party food to be had). So, let me hop into your mind for just a second, I can pretty much guess what the voice will be saying. As you look ahead to that day – Jan 2nd – the day that marks the start of another new year, you’ll be imagining yourself waking up bright eyed bushy tailed, pinging out of bed, rushing downstairs to prepare and neck a kale & spinach smoothie from the ‘eat clean get lean’ book you got for Christmas, bounding and bouncing with full pelt straight into feeling fresh, vitalised and eager.
That’s what you are imaging right, when you say to yourself “I’ll just start in January….it’ll be a new me!”
I know that you’ll also be planning to maintain that invigorated, hungry-for-green-stuff feeling for longer this time, right the way through January and into February and maybe even the rest of the year. You foresee your nothing but will-power and determination because, well, it’s a new year!
Back in the room, back to the present day. See this thought process has become your bargaining tool to be used freely from now until January 2nd. It is this confidence and assuredness directed towards this future date that is currently letting you off the hook in your own mind. It’s keeping you safe during the days of indulgences, it’s haggling with your logical brain and winning each trading transaction with the sounds-legit reasoning of “I’m going to get healthy in the new year, soon as January hits that will be it so I might as well enjoy this now!”
This silent-but-powerful mental trade off floods your body with relief as you’ve been given permission to get stuck in to the offerings in front of you.
But lo and behold, time flies and January soon comes spinning around the corner on two wheels, slapping you around the face telling you to WAKE UP! GET UP! It’s TIME!
Only it doesn’t seem to feel like you imagined it would.
The kale and spinach smoothie makes you gag and you feel wiped out, stressed and down in the dumps. That revitalised feeling is no-where to be seen. The eagerness to ‘get healthy’ doesn’t materialise.
I’ve had conversation after conversation about this cycle and no matter how many times folks say they won’t do it again next year, it happens – every single time. But it’s really not surprising because this is the way the diet industry cycles itself, and everywhere you look this pattern is actively encouraged.
But it doesn’t mean it is right, and in my opinion we have got it totally and completely backwards. To want to head into a new year feeling fresh, revitalised and happy-in-your-skin is a wonderful goal to have, but this isn’t going to be achieved by crawling your way over the threshold of a new year whilst trying to figure out the best way to punish, cajole and force your body back into a state of reverse, attempting to suck back in all of the Christmas indulgence.
If you didn’t enter December feeling fresh, revitalised and happy then chances are you won’t leave December feeling that way either. The feelings you crave are also not going to be achieved via a temporary, and frankly depressing, January ‘health kick’.
January doesn’t need to be the month of juice fasts, kale overdoses or taste abstinence. Just like February doesn’t have to, or March, or any month, ever. This is only ever the case if you are used to working within the “I’m either ‘on a diet’ or ‘off a diet’” yo-yo cycle.
And I promise you, this cycle a healthy you does not make.
While the rest of the health and fitness community is out there right now encouraging you to enter into January with a punishment mindset of “I must redeem myself from all the eating”, I challenge you to enter January with a different mindset.
Start 2017 with the mindset of “I am and always will be, enough”.
Because you cannot live a positive life with a negative mind.
Even if you put a kg on, or two or even ten. Who the f!ck cares? You know why it happened, you are intelligent enough to know it was because you just ate a bit more than usual. You are old enough to own your decisions, so take it on the chin.
There is no time for regret so don’t even think about it, that excess kg you’ll be weeping about in January is also representative of the fact that you had a great Christmas, you let loose, you had fun, you smiled, you laughed, you spent time with those you love, you relaxed, you chilled, you got merry, you ate breakfast in bed, you switched off my fitness pal, you dumped your gawd-damn Fitbit for a while.
All those fun times you are getting ready for right now….a Christmas party? A night out with the girls? Opening advent calendars with the kids? Enjoying your mulled wine as you wrap presents?
None of this makes you a bad person, therefore you do not need to spend the first month of your brand new year punishing yourself for enjoying it.
Throw caution to the wind, be daring and waltz into January like you’ve never done so before, experience a January where you don’t spend it thinking about your next diet.
Health isn’t just for new year, it should instead be prioritised all year around.. and if you do this – with a consistent, balanced and flexible mindset– then you won’t have to repeat this cycle every time.
During the course of January it’s natural to want to make some changes. But utilise changes that will see your body naturally drop the excess you gained, but for f!ck sake don’t call it a diet, it isn’t a diet, this is just the ebb and flow of what we call LIFE.
..and funnily enough, just the simple fact that you won’t be having multiple full roast dinners a week, or nibbling on chocolate tree ornaments or drinking Bucks Fizz for breakfast will mean that your body will drop back to where it started pretty easily.
So when I say make some changes, I don’t mean you need to go down the route of swapping your spaghetti to strands of courgette (unless you really love courgette spaghetti) or making flour free pancakes (but still piling in a gazillion tonnes of coconut oil and raw cacao) or doing a ridiculous detox plans, because quite honestly these things make no sense.
I know, I know, you’ve been promising yourself that this will be the year that you lose more than just the Christmas excess. I know that you desperately do want to do so, but if you’ve been saying this since 1996 then I have to be the one to ask, when will this end? What needs to change in this picture?
Perhaps the goal of 2017 should be to begin to love and appreciate your body a little more. Perhaps it should be the year when you ban trying to force your body into a state of change from a place of hate, and instead treat it with love and compassion. Eat nourishing food because you like it, eat well because you care about yourself, exercise because it makes you feel invigorated, do more of what makes you happy – truly happy, not just surface happy.
Make a new year’s resolution to treat yourself with more respect, say NO more often to the things you don’t want to do, so that you can say YES more often to the things you do want to do.
If the last ten years of starting each new year with a mindset of self-hate has only left you with even more self-hate, then it’s time to change your tack.
Often it is a change of mindset that is needed, not a new diet. So set peace of mind as your new year’s goal and do what you have to do in order to organise your life around it.
Some ideas to think about as you head towards January:
- NOT feeling guilty when you do have an indulgent evening, instead of guilt, focus on the fun that went with it. Overeating one evening doesn’t have one single thing to do with your morality, it doesn’t mean you have been “bad” or “good” and it shouldn’t be something that you have to suffer for. Just eat a little less the next day, there is absolutely no need for it to fall into a full on “I must be PUNISHED!” 24-hour kale-juice marathon.The next 24 hours. Eat. A. Little. Less.
No extremes needed.
- Accepting that a short term January ‘health kick’ probably isn’t going to get you what you want – which I am guessing is a healthy, happy you – because if it did, it would have happened the very first time you did it, and if that was the case you certainly wouldn’t be back here doing it all over again after two, ten or even twenty years of this cycle.
- Remember that you are an intelligent being and that you most definitely aren’t insane, so therefore you should really know better than to be contemplating about going back that horrific bootcamp you started last year, or going back to that gym that you once had a membership for. Just because it’s January again doesn’t mean that you’ll morph into a different person who suddenly awakens each morning itching to go train in the rain. You are still you – if you hated it last time you’ll hate it this time. If you want to increase your movement, do so in a way you enjoy. Seriously, anything. Walk. Hike. Ride. Dance. Stretch. Just move in a way that makes you smile.
- Eat well. Not in any specific way, not with or without any specific things. Again, you are intelligent enough to know there or thereabouts which foods are more nutritious and which are less so. Bin the books that tell you to ban all sugar, switch off the channels that are talking about how to cut out carbs and ignore the gurus who try to tell you that going gluten free is a must (unless you are Celiac, but again, intelligence, common sense…. you get my drift).
- View any food you choose to eat (and recognise that it is always a choice) with positivity and pleasure, there is truth in the idea that if you believe that a food is going to be awful for you it will affect you in a different way than if you believe it will nourish you.
View it as you would your bank balance. So you spent a bit more on a pair of shoes last week, naturally you don’t go out and buy another expensive pair this week. You manage it. You view it with logic. You certainly don’t burst into tears, prod the shoes and complain that they’ve ruined everything and that you now have to live on coupons for the rest of the month.
Moderation and flexibility are not sexy, we know this and this is why it doesn’t sell. But let me tell you a secret, between total and utter life controlling restriction (aka. Orthorexia) and binge, binge, binge eat ALLL the food, lies a huge, vast grey area called balance. Living, and eating, with balance means that you can eat 85% ‘natural’ and wholesome foods in the week but still enjoy a fresh bread, bacon buttie with ketchup on a Sunday morning.
If you struggle to maintain that flexibly without it leading to a binge, then it’s time to recognise that potentially food itself isn’t the problem, but your behaviour around food is, and it’s imperative to understand that there is a huge difference between the two.
The best thing you can offer yourself right now as you head towards the festivities is the acknowledgement that the January diets, ‘detoxes’, temporary exercise plans or juice fasts you’re currently using to bargain your way through Christmas, are not going to bring you what you are hoping for.
Make a pact with yourself: January 2017 will not be greeted with a punishment and restriction mindset, start the year as you mean to go on with a consistent, steady and unwavering attitude of balance, flexibility and empowerment.
A positive vision of how you see yourself – and food – will see you right all the way through to this time next year, when you will be able to spend Christmas 2017 feeling free, excited and comfortable in your ability to moderate yourself enough to let go and enjoy it all, without the looming diet phase that usually follows it.
So give yourself the gift of cutting through all of the BS this year!
Because you deserve better.