"I lost weight during the holidays!" exclaimed Joanie.
Joanie should be excited. It's not easy to lose weight in general in our modern society, let alone during the holidays. However, Joanie shouldn't be too surprised that she lost weight during the most difficult time of the year to do so. Why? Because, as she put it, "I did all the things that I've learned I need to do for successful weight management, and I made sure to do them even if it was the holidays."
When I asked for details, Joanie enthusiastically shared the following:
• "To begin with, I decided to decorate for the holidays based only on what I wanted to do so that I could enjoy the process. I told myself that there would be no rules about how or how much I decorated. The objective was just to have fun. The signal for when to stop decorating was simply when it no longer felt like fun, instead of when everything I previously thought 'should' be done was done. Thereafter, I just enjoyed what I had joyously created."
• "Then I decided on a couple of holiday treats that I really wanted to make. I made sure that I had a plan about who I wanted to share them with and made only enough for those people. I saved a couple of small servings for me and gave the treats as gifts in pretty holiday containers. By doing this, I was able to enjoy making the treats, savored a normal amount and felt the joy of sharing. None of the treats I made were left lying around the kitchen to distract me from my health goals."
• "My husband and I chose the people that we really wanted to see during the holidays and found a way to visit with them and still be active. We invited a couple of family members to join us for a walk at a nearby nature preserve. Another day, we hosted some of my husband's co-workers by taking them to experience the downtown Tampa Riverwalk, then took a trolley ride to Ybor City for a stroll. On Christmas Day, we invited an old friend, who was alone on the holidays, to take a 5-mile hike along the Withlacoochee River on the Florida Trail. In each case, our companions were pleased, as were we, and we were all healthier for it."
• "I was very selective about the parties I went to instead of feeling obligated to accept each invitation. I made sure I wasn't hungry when I got to the parties and then took my time choosing the things I really wanted to eat. I didn't deprive myself, but I also chose not to eat anything mediocre. If I was going to eat something, it had to be worth it."
• "The biggest surprise to me was that I didn't weigh myself the entire time, and I still lost weight. My clothes went from comfortable to loose instead of comfortable to tight, which is what usually happens during a typical holiday season."
Joanie had saved the best for last. "I'm so proud of myself. I really feel like doing all the things I did during the holidays made a huge impact on my lifestyle. ... These are concepts I can use the rest of my life. I get it now. It's a great feeling getting to January without the mental burden that I have to buckle down to fix the proverbial weight gain and overeating that happen during the holidays. I have nothing to do now but carry on with being healthy."
Joanie really did get it this time. She let go of her old ways and embraced a new perspective. She put the focus where it needed to be, relaxed and enjoyed the ride.
Don't be too discouraged if you didn't do what Joanie did this holiday season. In reality, those days in December were no different than the days ahead. Get a new lease on life now and you'll be way ahead of the game come December 2016. Don't look back. Look ahead with a compassionate and wise mind, and it will show you the way. And when you feel yourself losing the gentle grip, take a deep breath and nudge yourself forward again in an encouraging manner. You won't lose anything other than what you actually needed to lose, like excess weight and stress.
Dr. Lavinia Rodriguez is a Tampa psychologist and expert in weight management. She is the author of "Mind Over Fat Matters: Conquering Psychological Barriers to Weight Management." Contact her at email@example.com.