Thursday, December 23, 2010

Recovering from Holiday Slips: Practical Strategies for Moving On.

Garrison confections: Impossible to resist! Central Falls, RI

Last Sunday after a lovely afternoon out, I returned home to find an entire box of expensive artisan chocolates devoured. Well, almost the whole box. He left the apricot-filled piece after biting into it and deciding it wasn’t worth eating. Eleven of the twelve chocolates, gone.

Binging is totally out of character for him, although, like me, he’s always been fond of chocolate. He’s always been a grazer, eating when he’s hungry, and stopping when he’d had just enough. He always knew he could eat anytime.

I was angry and upset. He would never eat this way in front of me. I’m certain. No, he had to sneak those chocolates. Did he think I wouldn’t permit it? Did he even think about it at all?

After some time, my initial shock passed. And with some insights from my husband, it all made sense. I realized he must have been starving. He’s never been one to take his own food, to fend for himself. No, not him. So when our return Sunday was a bit delayed, I’m sure he was feeling it. Those chocolates were the easiest and quickest thing to grab.

Besides, if I was intending to give that box as a gift, I shouldn’t have tempted him by displaying it on the kitchen counter. I’m sure the trigger of smelling these freshly made delights was just too tempting.

He knew I was upset. But given the circumstances, I bet he’d do it all over again.

Yes, Mica, my dog ate an entire box of chocolates. And there’s a lot we humans can learn from this situation, particularly in this holiday season. With less structure to our days, and more exposure to challenging eating situations, consider these tips during the holiday season:

• Try to prevent your self from feeling too vulnerable. No matter what you know about healthy eating behaviors, they will be impossible to adhere to if you are starving. You’ll be looking to meet some basic needs, like raising a low blood sugar, and raising it quickly. You’ll eat fast and mindlessly. So prevention is key.

• Plug in some stress management strategies. Check out Nourishing the Soul for some guidance and great resources. Be sure to view and fantasize about being in the lovely photos!

• Cut yourself some slack. Don’t beat your self up for having a slip. But don’t ignore it either. Try to understand it, to learn from it, in order to prevent it from happening again. Did you go too long without eating? Was the visual stimulus, seeing the yummy stuff on the counter too suggestive and tempting? Yelling at my dog, after the fact, would have been meaningless for him. Yelling at your self after overeating is similarly useless. So have some compassion. And rethink your old patterns of reacting.

• Remember that normal people (and dogs) eat foods that look, smell and ultimately taste good, when available and visible on the kitchen counter. Yes, even if you weren’t depriving yourself. So take control of your environment. Take foods out of eye’s view. Wrap them up and store them in the freezer, to have when you are ready to eat them mindfully.
• Tomorrow is another day, even if it isn’t a Monday or January 1st. And if you say “I’ll wait until Monday to address my eating”, ask yourself if you are truly ready for change.


  1. Those chocs look so amazing! But I'll see your garrison's and raise you a haigh's (

    I love your idea of putitng the goodies in the freezer to slow yourself down - the one about reminding yourself that it is not your last chance to have something is a good one too, especially in the holidays when you tend to break out all the special treats (like the haighs!!)

    Happy holidays Lori...catch you again in 2011

  2. At first you had me fooled...never could have guessed the culprit was your dog. Unfortunately sounds all too familiar of a situation that could very well be something in my own life...

    I guess the key is remembering that the holiday food is just food after all, which in this day and age is certainly of no shortage and is readily available. My goal for this holiday is to enjoy the family and social aspects and the time, rather than using restricting, overexercising, or the temptation to binge on treats all through these special days.

    Happy holidays- all the best to you.

  3. My opinion is this: special holidays are except from any type of food curbing. Seriously. Feast to your hearts content. Eat whatever you want on these special days. After all, the average person only gains about 2 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Years. Get in some regular exercise and don’t worry about food during the Holidays. Since I am feasting a lot more right now, I make sure that what I do eat is worth it: no processed junk, no fast food. I want real, honest, good food at my holiday parties and on my holiday table, and you should, too!

  4. I fully support choosing what you really enjoy eating, anytime, not just on holidays. Our work needs to be on eating an amount that matches our need. And for those times when it's excessive, being able to let go of our pattern of negative thinking that takes over, sabotaging our recovery.

  5. But, if we do eat more than we would normally, is it okay to exercise more to compensate? Isn't this a sensible way of preventing weight gain at these times? I'm struggling to understand how to just sit calmly by when I feel full and think 'oh it's okay, I won't gain any weight' (you have talked before about how many extra calories are needed for weight gain, but that doesn't seem to hold true for me. It seems anything I eat without exercising causes weight gain).

  6. I agree with Plain Jane. What is wrong with adding a little extra exercise if it makes us feel more in control and less panicky during the holidays? Wouldn't it be a more healthy choice than to resort to restricting? Or bingeing and purging? What if it's the only way one feels they can manage extra eating at the holidays? I feel like it is a more healthy route than the restricting and/or purging.

  7. Anonymous,
    Please read next post for my full response!

  8. Anonymous:

    Why must you do anything? If you’re eating until your satisfied and full, but no more, then why do you feel the need to exercise more? Why do many women (and it’s mostly women) totally panic around food? It’s just food. The world isn’t going to collapse, and you’re body will not explode, if you have a piece of cake for dessert, or if you just have cake for dinner. Think about this: is it about food or is about being in total control of your body? Unfortunately, most American women have very Puritanical views about their body, which causes them to make food a battle ground, when it shouldn’t be.

    The only person who cares if you gain a few pounds over the holidays is you. Trust me, nobody else notices.

    For me, I care less about the number on any scale (I don’t even own one. Never have and never will), and more about how I physically feel and my health numbers. A number on a scale doesn’t mean anything in terms of health and being in good health.

  9. Roxanne - you ask an interesting question(why must you do anything?). But unfortunately you over-simplify the answer. Happily, it is an answer which works for you, which is great. But you are under the mistaken impression that other people simply choose to panic around food, and therefore should simply choose not to.

    I guarantee you I don't choose it. I certainly don't choose to starve myself until I faint. I don't choose to exercise with a stress fracture. And I don't choose to do the other compulsive behaviours I won't bore you with here.

    If overcoming compulsions was simply a matter of choice, there would be no anorexia. No bulmia. And no obesity for that matter.

    You are absolutely right though; it is not about the food. What it is about is different for every single person reading this blog. And ever single person reading this blog does long for good health. Which is why we are here.
    And well done to us for taking this first step.

  10. Well stated Plain Jane.

  11. Please tell me your dog was okay afterward... depending on the cocoa alkaloids (so dark chocolate is worse) and the size of your dog, it's pretty toxic to eat chocolate!

  12. Thanks for asking! He somehow has survived more than one episode of dark chocolate binge eating! He also survived biting into my son's albuterol inhaler, although he did so with the help of meds!

  13. I love the suggestion that was reinforced when I spoke with you today about taking food out of mind's way (to control your environment)!! I will be putting those girl scout cookies in the freezer and eating them, mindfully! Not depriving myself of! I smiled at the "legalize cookies". I think your suggestions are so helpful because they deal with being human and trying to live in the real world.... where food and temptation abounds! I can't seem to do something with too many don'ts or restrictions. I've tried and failed! I am feeling hopeful that these new ways of looking at things CAN WORK! Thank you so much!

    P.S. If your dog ate the pictured chocolates, I'm jealous! Those looked really good! (I did have two pieces from the "Whitman's Sampler" the boss left on the kitchen table today!)

  14. Yes, he enjoyed every one from box except the fruit filled! How ironic!

  15. SO glad pup is OK! Thanks for your writing! Just found you Christmas. C/