Unsurprisingly, this time of year I see fewer clients for weight reduction than I do in January and February. It’s as though the minute Bonfire Night is out of the way, the nation breathes a huge sigh of relief and collective gluttony sets in.
I’m not exactly sure when the festive season started to begin in November, but I certainly don’t remember it from my childhood. Then, the festive season started on Christmas Eve when we’d put our tree up and indulge in a chocolate feast. While I remember gorging myself, in reality the feast consisted of a box of Matchmakers and very, very small box of Quality Street.
Now we feast not just for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day, we also feast for most of November and the rest of December, sometimes if the hangover is bad enough on January 1st as well, starting our New Year purge on the 2nd or sometimes even the 3rd - which means the Christmas binge lasts nearly 20% of the year!
I blame the giant tins of sweets, well not the sweets themselves of course, but the fact they are so unbelievably cheap. On my last visit to the supermarket I saw a massive tin was only £4.50 - that’s cheaper than a bottle of wine. Consequently, visitors tend to bring them on any and every occasion. And now it’s just part of things, it’s expected.
And the gluttonous goodwill has spread beyond the sweet tin. Beautiful, extremely chocolatey biscuits or a luxury, brandy-laced mince pie are offered with every cup of tea. The coffee shops promote their Christmas ‘coffees’ which are really just an excuse to sell you sugar and fat in a seasonal cup. I think we can all assume that an eggnog or toffee nut latte is not going to be light on calories (in fact a large one of those has 579 or 444 calories respectively). And I haven’t even mentioned the endless (albeit fun) work/social occasions.
Research shows that it takes about 66 days to make a habit (see my blog from 8 November: Creating Healthy Habits) and of course if we start regularly and habitually including snacks as part of our diet oh, just one because it’s Christmas’ from the beginning of November, by Christmas this very unhealthy habit is well and truly cemented. And once it’s cemented, it’s a habit that becomes hard to kick.
And it’s hard to say no. We get caught up in a national psyche whereby on the food front anything goes because it’s Christmas. While I agree with that when it is Christmas (i.e. Christmas Eve, Day and Boxing Day), I think it’s stretching the point in November - don’t you?
And I guess this is the important thing: how do you extract yourself from this national gluttony and say ‘NO’ - both to yourself and to those around you who are trying to coerce you into excessive eating. I’m not saying it will be easy, but here are seven tips that might help...
1. Avoid the gigantic tins - certainly don’t buy one and if someone gives one to you, thank them graciously, but don’t open it there and then. Ideally give it away: school raffle, old people’s home etc, etc.
2. Practise saying ‘no thank you’ and meaning it.
3. Pretend you are allergic to chocolate and if you have the tiniest nibble you will come out in hives all over your body.
4. Imagine there’s a pubic hair in that bowl of nuts.
5. Keep that image of the slim you in your mind, know what you really want is that and not a mince pie.
6. Do some research online so you can be informed and make good judgements about what you eat. It’s much less appetising when you know a mince pie is about 365 Calories (without double cream) and you’d have to run about four miles to burn that off!
7. Remember a Christmas season that starts in November is created by manufacturers and marketers to sell you stuff, they want you to eat and eat and eat because then you buy and buy and buy. It’s in their interest. So make it your choice not theirs about when you eat and what you eat.
And while I don’t want to end on a totally sombre note, I write this on the day that all the news channels and papers are reporting a cancer research study that shows being overweight may well be worse for us than we thought. Being overweight is the biggest risk factor for a woman contracting cancer apart from smoking. It’s a bigger risk than too much sun, alcohol, viruses (eg HPV) and not eating enough fruit and veg. Now, that really is enough to put you off pigging out.
Iʼm Claire Benson, a hypnotherapist based in South London. My clients see me for help with weight management, fertility & birth and confidence.
This blog is about what happens in my practice, and the techniques I encourage my clients to use that help them to achieve their goals.See my profile