Are You Mentally Prepared for the Holidays?

I’ve got a couple of good recipes coming your way next week, but rather you just throw caution to the wind over Thanksgiving and eat whatever you want to, or choose to transform some of your family favorites into lower calories choices, I wanted to encourage you in one area:

Mentally prepare yourself for the coming holiday season.

The truth is that having a recipe for mental preparation this time of year is critical in ensuring that you get through the holidays triumphantly. Now is no time to let your guard down!

Speaking from personal experience, the holidays aren’t always completely full of gladness and joy. For many of us, there are events from our past that cause us to have some sad and painful memories during the holidays. I think it’s important to mentally prepare yourself for all the aspects of the upcoming events, from the food to the emotions.

I failed to do this for many years, and instead, found myself sometimes feeling a bit down and on edge. (Not that I don’t feel that way occasionally at other times as well!) But during the holiday season, I expected myself to be happy, to be ready for any party, and to be constantly full of joy! But sometimes I wasn’t and it made me stressed.

Then, I’d turn to food for comfort.

Like many other people who struggle with obesity, emotional issues were a large part of the reason I weighed over 300 pounds. Learning how to handle some of the negative emotions that appeared during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays was an important part of my weight loss journey and eventual success.

I had to realize that I didn’t have to be “Happy, Happy, Happy” every second of the holiday, and that feeling some sadness over the past was not only okay, but was normal for me.

Nowadays, I never blame my obesity on anything other than my own choices, but I know there were past circumstances from my childhood that I allowed to affect my food choices once I became an adult.

For some reason, the holidays bring back a lot of those sad memories, and I had to make a conscious effort to acknowledge the memory or situation, but not allow those feelings to give me an excuse to eat in an out of control way.

It took a lot of effort to tell  myself, “No, I do not NEED to eat five or six chocolate cookies or spoonful after spoonful of pie right now. What I need is some time with John or to take a walk.” Each time I made a good choice and didn’t end up hiding in the pantry eating cookies while other people were watching football or worked in a kitchen was a victory.

On the opposite end of the spectrum from what I occasionally experienced, some people find the holidays so joyful and have so many wonderful memories of celebrating while surrounded with people close to them, they overeat because they are happy!

A sweet woman in a weight loss class I taught shared how she had such positive memories from her childhood that she ate too much simply because of the good feelings surrounding the holidays. Several other people expressed the same feelings, and I could see where those types of positive memories were equally important to be aware of.

We talk a lot in the weight loss world about planning and preparation in terms of recipes, food and menus. I wanted to encourage you to take the time to mentally prepare yourself in the same way that you physically prepare for holidays and social situations.

How well prepared are you emotionally for the upcoming season? Do you have a “recipe” for mental preparation that works, or is this not an issue for you? Either way, I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Diane

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  1. Not just with Holidays one need to mentally prepare yourself for but all the days you do this journey. Like yesterday, received 2 donuts at work and the icing was dripping from the donuts onto my fingers when I placed them onto plate for someone else. I then got this intense craving rolling all over me, to lick my fingers. I was like Speedy Consales and placed my fingers under the running water to wash it away before I lick the icing of my fingers. It’s a mental road always and harder when it’s the Holiday season.

  2. I totally agree with this and it reminds me of that old saying: “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”!

  3. Awesome topic, Diane. A lot of my planning involves turning down offers that are not important to me so I can either relax or make time to see friends instead ( not food focused visits)

    1. Go digital with Christmas cards to save time and not stress, less money to mail.
    2. Planned my food for thanksgiving holiday from a set template. I don’t deviate.
    3. Planned walks into my visit with the fam. I invite family members, but I go no matter what
    4. Turned down 1 cookie party, will turn down most others. Might go to the start of one party to see old friends, leave after visiting , before cookies are judged , passed out. Eat no cookies
    5. Turned down 1 major holiday party to do something less stressful , more meaningful, and no cost
    6. Planning some outdoor activities with Jr family members like ice skating ( I walk while they skate in a scenic area. )
    7. Planning non food gifts except for coffee. There is zero holiday baking at my house. None.
    8. Decided against a big trip and will do day trips instead. Less stress.

    I feel 100% confident on the plan and I have 100% confidence that I’ll go into and come out of the holiday season at my weight goal. I’ll make my one year weight maintnence goal on 2-3-13. Having a solid mental plan is a critical step. No holiday cookie can replace the feeling that I get that my clothes fit day in and day out.

    So true about eating when you are happy. I used to do that. Pretty much all holiday cookies and candy are triggers for me, so the moderation strategies didn’t work. I can say I look forward to time with friends and I’m more engaged. There’s a lot of joy in that. Great topic, as usual, Diane.

  4. I have a large collection of holiday related posts that I am running (I think they might be set for tomorrow) and I am going to add this one to it. Very good post.

  5. Absolutely not!! Somehow, I have gotten through them in the past, so the odds are with me this year :-)

  6. Hi Diane, and yes I think I have a mental recipe. It is called push-aways. You take a tablespoon of everything, sit down with the family and when your plate is empty, you push away from the table. Actually this year I have an entire table of food police, for better or worse. Can you eat that, I heard your dieting?

  7. There is always so much discussion about this topic around the holidays and it’s not always food related. The stress of the holiday season includes money issues, memories of loved ones who have passed on, relationship issues, and the pressure to conform and be a part of the ‘season’. My point is that we should not only be formulating a mental recipe for food but everything else that could ultimately trigger poor eating, no matter what we planned. For example, I have a plan for how I will deal with potentially difficult family members during the holidays because normally when incidents happen with them I turn to the bar or a fancy restaurant to go and pig out.

  8. My worst mental strategy is when I think, oh well I won’t worry about my weight till January. So I am trying to do the opposite of that this year, and be conscious of what food I put in my mouth and how much of it I put there over the holiday season.

  9. Holidays are always tough for people since the gatherings typically center around food…. as did mine when I was young & even older.

    I have just learned to plan… and I always know that I don’t have to eat all this stuff just because it is there. During the year, if I really want something, I can have it but I just can’t have it all the time… I typically just approach the holidays like I do every day of the year… :)

  10. This will be our first Thanksgiving in seven years, but it’s at my house so I have control over what will be available. I’ve already decided to go with traditional desserts that Mac and the kids love (pumpkin pie and pecan pie) and I literally can’t even stand to smell much less eat. My only temptation is going to be rolls which I am making, but I’ll solve that by only making enough for each person to have two (and then one of the boys will want one more and I’ll give him mine!)

  11. I want to thank you for posting this! I am 4.5 months out from weight loss surgery and have yet to come up against any major Holiday. Thanksgiving will be my first and we are having our usual traditional meal, only this time it is completely up to me to not eat anything except the low carb high protein items such as turkey or ham or the vegetables that do not have additional crap ingredients thrown into them, and to either not eat a dessert or make a low carb sugar free variation for myself (not in the financial cards at the moment).

    So it will be a challenge. I’m going to prepare myself this coming week by bringing up my protein intake and going back to a basic type of diet so that if I do make a bad move I will not lose out over it. But I am preparing myself to NOT make a bad choice, I just don’t want to be set back any if that makes sense. I just hope I can do a good job!

  12. I’d like to think that I’m mentally prepared, but I’m probably not. This is the first year that I’ve been at least semi-seriously trying to do something about my weight during this season. I don’t know if my recipe for mental preparation will work or not, but I’m going into the holiday knowing that I will allow myself small portions of any food I want. I’m aiming for not going back for seconds and not beating myself up if I don’t lose or even gain a pound or so during this week. I already know that I won’t be eating as much as I used to because I know my body cannot handle that much food anymore. After months of eating smaller meals, I’m satisfied with smaller meals now and become full much more quickly. I will also keep in mind that if I try to stuff too much food into this body, I will regret it.

  13. Mental strategies are important, as much as physical plans. I know mine involves bringing some food I can eat to share (creamed spinach, salad with homemade dressing) and a dish everyone wants but me (mashed potatoes) as well as the communal turkey. And knowing that, while I like pie and cranberry sauce, I don’t like it enough to bother with the sugar and calories! If it looks absolutely scrumptious I may take a small sliver, but I’m not a dessert person even on the best of days. Funny enough, because I do like sweets. But pies and sweet casseroles don’t do it for me.

    I have an ironclad will about what I want from this time of the year, just like I did around Halloween. It makes the whole thing easier to focus on my health and goals instead of what I can’t have (and didn’t much want, anyway!).

  14. I absolutely love how you address feelings around the holidays. Most people talk about how they are going to avoid eating too much or avoid gaining weight. For some of us, we should be talking about how we are going to deal with the feelings we feel during the holidays. I, too, was only going to concentrate on physical boundaries around food. Because of your post, I am reminded that I need a plan to deal with my feelings, too. Thank you, Diane!


  1. […] plan with regards to what I was going to eat. Then I read Diane Carbonell’s blog post, “Are You Mentally Prepared for the Holidays?” and realized I was not prepared at all!  From Diane’s blog post, “Speaking from […]