The holidays always bring a mixed bag of emotions. We love them because it is a time to celebrate and be with friends and family. But the holidays also come with a lot of guilt around food and worrying about the weight gain from all of the holiday goodies that are everywhere.
Why is it so hard to control ourselves when it comes to these goodies?
Here’s a little known secret. That ‘lack of control’ you feel every time you give in to one of those holiday goodies is NOT because you are weak and have no will power. Certain foods (sugar and simple carbs are two big ones) have addictive attributes. That’s part of it. But, even after we have removed what I call the “physical addiction” to certain foods, what is left behind is what I call a “residual addiction” to food. Namely a habit (or craving). And, these show up a lot during the holidays.
Every habit (or craving) has 3 parts: a trigger, a behavior and a reward. The trigger could be a physical addiction, which leads you to a certain behavior. Maybe you’re craving sugar, so you grab the first cookie you see. You can also have emotional triggers. Like whenever you have a bad day, you grab a pint of ice cream on the way home. Even the time of day can trigger a behavior – say your morning coffee. And, of course, the holidays can be a trigger for all kinds of eating or drinking habits.
The trick is to begin to recognize your triggers, behaviors and rewards so you can begin to replace them with new ones that support the lifestyle you want.
The holidays provide a perfect opportunity to reshape your cravings. Here’s a perfect exercise to practice this month that will help you conquer those holiday cravings once and for all.
Awareness – When you have an urge to eat something bad, ask yourself – “Why do I want this?” Is it because my body needs the fuel and nutrients or is it because of a habit that has been created in my brain? At this point, you have a decision to make. You can eat the item or you can chose to not eat it. Being aware of why we are eating something is the first step.
Recode your brain – If you consciously choose to eat the item, that’s okay. You now have an opportunity to recode your brain. About 20 minutes after you’ve eaten it, ask yourself how your body feels. Not your head…your body. Your brain will say “Woohoo that was great,” but your body will be telling you something much different. Maybe it feels bloated or sluggish. This practice will help you learn to listen to your body, which actually is a stronger drive than your mind – once you learn to listen to it.
For the next 4 weeks, repeat these 2 steps every time you find yourself in a situation with food – good and bad. It’s a powerful habit and after doing this for 4 weeks, you will find yourself starting the new year with a habit that will eventually recode your bad eating habits forever. Try it!