Merry Christmas! (An entirely appropriate greeting still since Christmas officially begins on Christmas Day! You know… the more you know and all that…) I hope you had a wonderful, and joyful day of celebration. And if you didn’t, even if nothing felt right, or went right, or the ghosts of people you miss were just too strong– I hope that Christmas sneaks up on you some time soon. “Christmas” doesn’t always happen on Christmas Day and that’s ok too.
I’ve had a great Christmas, filled with both lots of activity and enough quiet to keep my introverted self sane. The simple times laughing with family are always my favorite.
And I did exactly what I said to do: I feasted. I celebrated. I ate the food I wanted, without counting calories. I laid around and rested and in so doing, gave my body and my spirit what it needed. And as I said on a previous post, I didn’t do anything I’ll regret in the morning.
But I also recognize that strawberry pretzel salad (my absolute favorite), ice cream with creme de menthe, celery stuffed with cream cheese, ham and cheese pinwheels, gooey buns, and Christmas cookies are not my regular diet. While I admittedly feel a little cheerier for having celebrated with the foods that feel like Christmas, I also recognize that my pants don’t fit. And that my body doesn’t feel awesome. (I don’t do well when I eat too many carbs, and whoa woopie-daisy, I’ve eaten too many!) And that it’s time to get back on track before for I forget what I’m about. Because let’s face it. The food tasted great. The relaxed pace was really nice. It’s lovely to celebrate. I could get used to this life! Maybe though, that’s also part of how I wound up at 250lbs. That life was easier. And at least on the surface, a little more fun. (Crying in the dressing room because I hated my body, being too exhausted to carry my own body around, and generally feeling crappy… not so much fun!)
The first year I was living this new life and trying to get healthy, I invited my trainer for dinner. The whole family was there, and I cooked and cooked and made it a feast– you know, the kind where you look to see which utensil your neighbor is using for which course. The setting the fancy table thing is one of my secret loves. Really good cooking is another. My trainer came and ate and ate. There was nary (yes, nary) a word said about calories or about how much or what I should or should not eat. For those few hours, he was a regular person enjoying Christmas with friends. But then he did something that fully annoyed me. He hugged all of us, said his thanks for a great meal and fun time, and then told me he was going to the gym. I remember glaring at him, as if to say “Really? That’s all you can think about today? You can’t just eat and enjoy for one day out of the whole year?” He told me later that he sat on the bike pedaling for two hours. It was several months later when I brought it up (probably not for the first time–because, really, why just say it once when you can nag on repeat?) that he finally shed some light on the situation. He said “It was never about burning some calories– I couldn’t burn off enough calories to make up for what I ate anyway. I enjoyed the dinner, and didn’t worry about the calories.” This re-annoyed me. If it wasn’t about the calories, then what his malfunction? He went on, “It was about reminding myself what I was about. It was so I could remember who I am.” These days I know that he embodies the expression, “Do today what others won’t so tomorrow you can do what others can’t.” He’s 61 and he still has a body that people half his age envy and the same for his strength. He was a competitive body builder in his 20’s, but 40 years later, he still has the same mindset of pushing himself to excellence.
It took a long time before what he said made any sense to me, but now I get it completely. While losing 100lbs wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be in so many ways, it took a lot of work. It took discipline when I wanted to eat everything in sight. It meant digging up some motivation when I just wanted to sit on the couch instead of going to the gym. But as much effort as I put into getting where I am, I still see the attitudes that got me to 250lbs lurking just beneath the surface. It would be awfully easy to go back to where I was.
Wherever you are in your health journey, remember who you are! You have come too far to go back to where you were. Here’s how to get back on track:
- Start today: I know New Year’s Eve is coming in less than a week, and that the temptation to start clean on January 1 is strong, but don’t do that. Don’t throw away a whole week. You will feel crappy, and less motivated than you do now. Or worse, you’ll make a New Year’s Resolution, that because we’re accustomed to throwing them away just as soon as they try to take us out of our comfort zone, you will drop before the 12 days of Christmas are even over. Get back on your routine, including eating right and exercising. Then when the New Year comes, you’re already back in your groove. Stop grazing. Give away your leftovers. Do it today.
- Don’t Freak Out: No lie. If I wore clothes with buttons, they’d be popping off by now. It’s a crappy feeling, but I know it’s probably 98% water weight. As I’ve mentioned in other posts, for every gram of carbohydrate your body is storing, you’re storing 4 grams of water. Couple that with the extra sodium you’ve probably consumed and you’re feeling roughly like the kool-aid man. I can put on 7-10 pounds in 24 hours, but when my body is ready to release it, it does it almost as quickly.
- Don’t Beat Yourself Up: If you ate too much, so what? Dwelling on it is the worst thing you can do. Let go of the food guilt, and put your positivity pants back on. And get back to work!
- Drink extra water: You probably got busy and forgot to be diligent about staying hydrated. And there’s all that extra sodium I just mentioned. Either way, water can be your biggest ally in getting back on track. When you’re drinking enough, you’ll be too full to crave things you don’t need. Water also helps control your body’s temperature, so you’re less likely to get super cold and want to eat everything in sight to stay warm.
- Up your potassium intake: Potassium is part of your electrolytes and works opposite sodium– meaning that it will help flush excess sodium out of your body. You want a 3:1 potassium to sodium ratio, but under normal circumstances, most people eat the exact opposite of that. It’s worse with the holiday sauces, soups, chips, and eating out. A reasonable goal is 3500 mg per day, but getting even 1000 mg more than that when you’ve had extra sodium could help you feel less puffy. (Note: some medications are called “Potassium Sparing” which means your blood potassium levels will skyrocket. If you are in this category, follow your physician’s recommendations! Some blood pressure medicines–including Lisinipril– are in this category.)
- Remind yourself that you had your “Brain Vacation” and that this is a lifestyle for you. Don’t get suckered into thinking that the fun you’re having now is nearly as much fun as being comfortable in your skin, or as being healthy enough to enjoy your life for many, many years. Trust me when I say choosing what you want now is a lot less fun than choosing what you want most!
Remember who you are! You are strong and amazing– and not going to let anything stop you from achieving your goals.