Monday, December 15, 2014

Why You Should NOT use Willpower During the Holidays

Houses are glistening, everyone is celebrating and treats are EH-vry-where… great for your taste buds… not so great for your jean size.

The holiday season is a time of year where you either give yourself permission to overindulge, thinking you’ll just start the New Year out with a bang (aka a stricter diet or perhaps a cleanse).  Well, you know how that goes!  Or you head into the season powered up thinking you can just use willpower and resist your temptations.  Unfortunately, neither seems to work.  So what does work?  Read on for the top 4 strategies that will kickstart your holiday season. 

Strategy 1: Do NOT Skip Meals  

First, be sure to not head off to any event or party feeling starved or having skipped a meal. 

Has this happened to you before?  You get in the mind set that since you are going to be eating treats and such later in the day, you better cut back earlier in the day? If so, you know that this turns into a dis-AS-ter and your plan backfires.  A ravenous appetite leads to overeating in the long run and more consumed then you ever intended.

Even if you have more treats in the house, make sure you are on a regular eating schedule.  This way you can tune into your hunger and still allow yourself to enjoy the yummy foods that accompany the holiday season without overdoing it. 

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 “If you skip meals, you will overindulge.  Happens EVERY time and there’s just no way around it.”
~Siona Sammartino, MS, RDN, CN  

Strategy 2: DECIDE which treats are worth it and ENJOY them

That’s right, my friend!  You get to choose what you put in your body.  And you get to choose to have some treats too.  And magic happens (actually it’s science) when you choose to enjoy your food.  Why?  When you slow down, taste your food and enjoy it this happens:

1.   You digest your food better
2.    You put your body into a relaxation response instead of a stress response (meaning your metabolism works for you, not against you)
3.    You’re able to feel your hunger and tune into satiety
4.    Your body is able to utilize the nutrients you eat more effectively
5.    You no longer feel like you're deprived and like this is the “last” chance to have the treat.  So you avoid the “last supper” effect. (More on this below)

The result? You end up eating less and having more personal power (not to be confused with willpower) and body awareness.

So take a long deep breath (start right now. Go ahead, take one), chew that cookie that you intentionally decided to eat and enjoy every.bite.   

Now on to the business of willpower…

Strategy 3: Find Your Personal Power & Let Go Of “Willpower”

If you head into the holidays making a promise to yourself that you are not going to eat the candy, cookies and special treats (fill in the blank) you’re setting yourself up for failure!  Why, you ask?  Three reasons: 

#1 It’s in the Psychology

First off, we create resistance and feelings of deprivation.  From a psychological standpoint, this makes us want the food MORE. 

Oh you’ve been there before.  You’ve told yourself you’re not going to have x, y, z and all of a sudden you’re at the party and everyone is eating, drinking, chatting and happy and ALL you can think about is that dang cookie.  The one you’ve been so desperately trying to avoid.  Oh but that gooey chocolate chip peppermint cookie is sitting so comfortably on the table…it looks lonely…it’s calling your name.  It’s practically begging you to eat it. 

Two voices go around in your head.  The one that tells you that you made a promise to yourself and the other that says, “just this one time.”  And then you take a bite and an explosion of flavors go off as if it just melts right into your mouth.  And you can’t resist having a few more because who knows when the next time you’ll allow yourself to have it again.  And you say to yourself, “well I’ll just skip dinner” or “tomorrow night, I’ll be sure to have a fresh start.” 

This is the power of deprivation, my friend!

So here’s the alternative.  Choose strategy #2.  You SHIFT the promise you made to yourself.  Instead of promising to not have treats, instead make a promise to SLOW DOWN, SAVOR and ENJOY every.bite of the ones you decide to eat.

Move out of deprivation mode and actually give yourself permission to have some treats during the holidays.  I’m not saying to go crazy and ditch your health goals.  But I am saying to allow enjoyment to be present this holiday season. 

If the thought of this frightens you… see for yourself.  Watch what happens when you give yourself permission, feel the tension and resistance melt away and find yourself more cued in to your hunger, satisfaction and personal power. 

#2 Black & White Thinking Leads to Failure
Deciding all treats will be entirely off limits is a form of “black and white” thinking.  The “all or nothing” mindset is not only challenging to conquer, but once you do “fail” or give in, you then go crazy all in.  And then you get lost down the rabbit hole.

This is NOT the last supper.  You will have plenty of other opportunities to eat the foods that you once considered entirely off limits. Doing so will take the power AWAY from the holiday treat foods.  Meaning you get to decide what feels good in your body and you ultimately gain back your personal power.  

#3 The Guilt Cycle
Lastly, when you do give into your desires after you’ve decided not to, you tend to beat yourself up and get caught in a cycle of negative self-talk.  And this starts the whole cycle all over again.  And you think to yourself, “if only I had enough willpower.”

Believe me, sticking to your dietary goals is NOT about willpower.  A choice and decision yes, but your hunger (don’t’ forget, a wise sage once told you to not skip any meals), hormones, psychology and stimuli from your environment will either work in your favor or against you.     

Repeat after me and share this with the masses

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“Healthy eating is NOT about willpower, it’s about strategy.” 
~Siona Sammartino, MS, RDN, CN

Strategy 4: Make Alternative Treats that are Packed with Nutrition

Believe it or not, chocolate has minerals like magnesium and powerful bioactive compounds that are good for your health.  Suh-weet!  Nuts are great too.  They are a source of healthy fats and fat-soluble vitamins like the good ole vitamin E. 

Boosting the nutrition profile of your treats will help you feel satiated and not leave you feeling like you just need more and more and more. 

And, when you start to choose healthier treats, you create new memories with new foods.  Before you know it, you’ll start to crave these more than the foods that don’t serve your body as much. 

Check out these mouth-watering ideas. 

The Bottom Line
If you eat a little more one night, forgive yourself and start over tomorrow.  Life is always about second, third and even fourth chances.
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“You are not perfect and setbacks can be our greatest opportunities, if we choose to not see ourselves as a failure.” 
~Siona Sammartino, MS, RDN, CN

If you’ve tried these strategies before and are still struggling, there may be something deeper going on in your body or for you emotionally.  In which case you’ll want to get some support one-on-one.

Remember, while there is NOTHING wrong with enjoying holiday treats and all of the yummy foods that accompany the season, heading into the holidays with a strategy that considers your physiological and psychological needs will help you approach the season in a fresh, calm, new way.

Now it’s time for YOU to TAKE ACTION.  Share below which of these 4 strategies you plan to try.  And keep me posted on how it goes. 

With Love and Gratitude,

Siona Sammartino 

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