Then the holidays come and it gets ugly. Suddenly there's food everywhere and all of it is bad for you. Making good choices four or five times a day is tough enough. Making them 21 times a day can overwhelm the best of us.
And even worse, the food you encounter at this time of year comes with a lifetime's worth of emotionally plangent associations. It hurts to say no to a slice of Aunt Mary's Pecan Pie--your favorite since you were four. It's even worse not to be able to eat the cake you have baked every year since you had your own kids using your grandma's recipe--passed on from her own grandmother. The parties at work are full of things you used to love eating. The parties your friends give are full of once-a-year treats, too.
Everyone else can eat them, promising themselves they'll go on a diet in January. Not you. You know too well that indulging in six weeks of unrestrained eating will undo the very hard work you've done over the past year and possibly derail the good habits you've worked so hard to develop.
But avoiding it all can end up sending you into a deep depression, or fill you with rage at those people around you who are so carelessly damaging their bodies. Because food is so tightly linked with other emotions it is tough for most of us to turn away from food without paying a psychic cost.
So what to do?
The answer will be different for each of us, as our life histories and physiologies will also differ. But to help you out I've listed some strategies that have worked for myself and other people with diabetes over the years. Perhaps some of them will help you get through this stressful time of year.
1. Schedule Indulgence. Some of us do best if we build "safety valves" into our dietary regimens. If you know you can eat whatever you want on certain days (or hours) you might find it easier to say "no" to the food temptations that assail you the rest of the time. One day of high blood sugars every two weeks won't kill you and if you know you will eat freely at your Aunt Mary's traditional Christmas banquet--it's easier to say "no" to the packaged cookies, stale donuts, and mix-made brownies that assail you at work.
2. Keep the Foods that Really Tempt You OUT of the House One of the most helpful rules of dieting is this: If it isn't there you can't eat it. I have learned through dire experience that if there's a box of peppermint bark anywhere in the house, I'm in trouble. I do give myself permission to buy a small bar of the stuff and enjoy it, but when it's gone, it's gone. Family members, who agree I'm much cuter with all my toes, are respectful of my limits and do not fill the fridge with things that will make my life hard. Fortunately, there are plenty of holiday foods that don't appeal to me that they like, which are the ones they do bring home.
3. Fill the Fridge with Low Carb Treats. You can make Low carb cheesecake, pumpkin bread, rum flavored chocolate truffles, fudge and a host of other foods which are legal and will give you something to eat when the need to eat holiday junk becomes overwhelming. Buy yourself a wheel of Brie (sold this time of year at Whole Foods at a very reasonable price.) Pate is another holiday treat food which can be indulged in freely as are fancy sausages and ham.
4. Set a Reasonable Diet Goal. If you're in weight loss mode, it may be a lot easier to set as your holiday goal to end up at the same weight on January 2 as you were on November 24 rather than to lose weight during the holiday period. Everyone diets in January, which makes it much easier to get back on track then.
5. Learn About the Physiological Reasons Why Food Can Get Out of Control When You Indulge. If you've been controlling by keeping your carbs low, you may be taken aback at the ravenous hunger that may emerge when you indulge in high carb treats. Too many people take this as a personal failing which turns self-hatred into yet another factor making them eat even more. I have put up a web page that explains why this happens and how to get the best of it when it does: When You Crash Off Your Diet
6. Give Your Self Some Motivating Alternative Rewards. Set yourself goals and if you achieve them, reward yourself with some non-food gift to yourself that you wouldn't otherwise indulge in. Make it something you really want. If your finances are strapped ask your family or best friends to help you with this. If you know you'll get that piece of jewelry you've longed for, or a weekend away, in January, if you achieve your diet goals, it may be easier to achieve them.
7. Forgive Yourself. If despite your best efforts things don't work out as you'd have liked, admit you're human and move on. People with diabetes have enough to contend with without adding self-hatred into the mix. Do the best you can and if it isn't enough, start over--not next week or next year, but right now. When you start over, analyze what it was that derailed you this time, so you can come up with an alternate strategy that will work better with your own, unique personality.
What have you found most helpful in getting through this season of non-stop food orgies?