It’s that time of year when we all eat, drink and spend more than usual. It’s this weird kind of sanctioned excess we’ve all agreed upon in society. Think about it. At no other time of year can you say, “I just spent $700 at xyz store” and the person you’re speaking with won’t bat an eye. In fact, they might even be impressed at the bargains you got.
The same rule can apply with regards to food consumption. Few (if any) people are noticing how that’s your third heaping helping of everything and you’ve already got your eye on dessert.
We also tend to overschedule during the holidays. The month of December gets booked up quickly with family and friend gatherings, work parties, and other festive occasions. Before we know it, it’s January 1st and the only thing lean and trim is our wallet.
Stop the sleigh. I want to get off!
After the holidays, we spend the next several months (or perhaps the whole new year) trying to get ourselves back on track. We start saving money again, hoping to pay down those large credit card bills. We vow to eat healthier and exercise more. We may scale back on going out, etc.
Truth is we can spend 11 months paying for just 1 month of excess.
Why do we do that to ourselves each and every year? Are there ways to enjoy the holidays and have fun without becoming completely undone?
It’s much harder to stay on a budget and keep balanced when you have small children. I remember when my niece was little she couldn’t wait for the Toys-R-Us catalog to arrive. (This was pre-online shopping, or as I like to call it the good old days.) She would devour it whole, circling all the items she wanted. I often thought it’d be easier for her to just highlight what she didn’t want. It would have taken less time. She’d return the book (now covered in circles and stars and must have notations) and then we’d all use it as a reference guide for shopping. The beautiful part about my niece was she was always grateful. Whatever present she got, she appreciated. She was also eternally optimistic. She firmly believed one day she’d wake up and find the entire contents of the store under her tree. She’s a grown woman now with a great husband and two lovely daughters, but she’s still waiting. God bless her.
For those of us without young children, we should be able to be a bit more disciplined. But we’re not. As I mentioned earlier, it’s this sanctioned excess or collective conscious, hive-like mentality. Must. Buy. Lots. Of. Presents. Must. Go. To. Every. Party. Must. Eat. All. The. Food.
There are certain items I only bake for the holidays because if I made them more than once per year, we might all end up in diabetic comas. My nephew nicknamed one dessert crack candy. It’s actually cracker candy, but I get why he started calling it that. You can’t eat just one piece. Ugh.
I suppose I could stop baking some of the goodies, but they’ve become part of our family traditions. And perhaps therein lies part of the problem. So much of what we’re doing is geared toward traditions and building memories. What would the holidays look like or be without (insert your example of excess here)?
OK, so maybe we can’t eliminate, but can we moderate?
My mother loved the phrase “everything in moderation”. I would tweak it slightly because everything is far too broad a category and leaves room for trouble. But I agree with the general sentiment.
A little planning and preparation may spare you some pain and frustration.
If you’re like me, you’ve had weight issues for as long as you can remember. Regardless of whatever diet plan or program I was on, they all shared a common theme: plan and prepare. My Dad used to laugh at my sister-in-law and me as we’d sit around the table doing complicated math equations to determine how we could have one (or two) cocktails without going over our allotted intake for the day while ensuring those drinks weren’t the only things we ingested.
Having a plan or a strategy didn’t always work out. Sometimes we threw the playbook out the window and just indulged. But more often than not, we were able to have fun without completely ruining our progress. We felt so much better on those days.
Mindfulness may help reduce recklessness.
Simply taking time to acknowledge the potential for overindulgence in any situation is half the battle. Before you start shopping or go to the party or have that meal, think about it. What do I mean? For me, it’s imagining if I just eat whatever I want. I might feel fine (probably not). But I will definitely wake up the next day and not feel great. In the harsh light of morning, my decision to eat 17 Swedish meatballs the night before might not look the same. (Fun fact: I actually did this when I was a kid at my parents’ 25th wedding anniversary party. What can I say? Mom’s meatballs were amazing! But I digress.) My point is taking a few minutes in advance to consider if it’s worth it or not can be beneficial.
A classic example is food shopping when you’re hungry. This is something we should not do. Why? Maybe it’s because our cart fills up much more quickly when our stomach is leading the way. Next thing you know, you’ve spent $60 more than you wanted to spend. You were mindlessly shopping, driven by your hunger pangs.
My parents were big believers in making shopping lists whether for food stores, the mall, wherever. I often wish I emulated their structure more. It was never too rigid, but it did give boundaries and kept you focused. I have a tendency to wander up and down aisles. This is not an efficient strategy and often causes me to spend more than I intended. The worst part is I frequently leave the store without getting an essential item but with a dozen impulse buys in its place. Double ugh.
Think but don’t overthink.
Is this as much of a challenge for you as it is for me? I tend to overindulge in the thinking department, regardless of the reason or season. The struggle is real. I’m not suggesting going overboard and obsessing about all the possible what ifs. I’m merely suggesting a little advanced thought and preparation can help. Set a budget and do your best to stay within it. Set a limit of how much or how many of whatever.
Give yourself some grace and mercy if you still overindulge.
If you overdo it in an area, forgive yourself. Try not to repeat it again the next day, but don’t waste time beating yourself up over it. It happened. Forgive and move on. Learn from it and try not to duplicate the mistake. Let it be a one-time slip-up rather than a complete throwing in the towel moment.
You can do this! And because I can never leave you without receipts, check out the verse below. (Unless otherwise indicated, all verses are from biblegateway.com NIV, emphasis added.)
May he (the Lord) give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed. (Psalm 20:4)
Perhaps this year Santa won’t be the only one with a list and we’ll all be on the Nice side. Well, at least you guys still have a chance.
Until next time: stay happy, stay healthy, stay in the know.
Look forward to hearing from you,