Seven tips for using visualization to plan your holiday eating

j0428640 Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., C.N.S., author of Healthiest Meals on Earth: The Surprising, Unbiased Truth About What Meals to Eat and Why, has a marvelous idea to combat overindulging during the holidays – visualization.

Here are his seven tips on how to use visualization to help you with holiday eating:

1. Close your eyes and really picture the situation clearly.
2. Ask yourself whether what's being offered is going to be something that supports you in what you're doing or takes you off course.
3. Decide what you wish to allow yourself to indulge in — if anything — and when you decide to do it, indulge in it with gusto.
4. Make the choice and take the action.
5. Don't arrive hungry. A cup of soup or vegetable juice before arriving at a big event will help keep you in charge of your own actions.
6. Remember that stress leads to stress eating. Stress management is a critical part of managing weight gain during the holiday season.
7. If you do indulge, for goodness' sake enjoy it!

I like his philosophy behind indulging. If you do decide to indulge, do it consciously, guilt free, and make it worth your while. (Have a taste of a wonderful cheese or fine chocolate, not a Big Mac.)

Dr. Bowden goes into more detail about how to plan for holiday eating through visualization below.

Visualizing your holiday eating will help you stick to your weight loss plan

j0182834 Wonderful as holidays may be for everything else, they can be downright deadly for sticking to a weight loss plan.

Because holiday eating can mean so many things – family stuff, office parties, special desserts, and the inevitable boxes of cookies at the water cooler – it's hard to come up with one surefire strategy that will work for everyone in all situations. One strategy, however, will invariably make a difference no matter what the particulars of the situation: rehearsal.

Most of us know what we're going up against. For some it's the sight of the holiday table and relatives you haven't seen all year. For others, it's virtually everyone in the office bringing in their aunt's special Christmas cookies. For still others it's the stress eating associated with the mixed emotions of family reunions and juggling even more commitments than the usual overload. Even vacations can be stressful, and if they happen to involve airports at holiday time it's a no-contest. Add it up and you've got a potential disaster. In fact, forget the “potential” part. You're looking at emotional and physical overload, and what that means for your waistline (let alone your sense of well-being) is not good.

Rehearsing a problem situation in your mind before it happens helps you to arm yourself with strategies, visualize yourself doing them, and experience the positive results. That way you're not caught unprepared, and you can actually practice reading to a variety of dangerous situations.

That's what coaches do with their athletes; it's what boxing trainers do with their fighters. “When he throws that left hook, you step in under and throw a right to the body.” Studies have shown improvement in sports performance just through visualization exercises, in which, for example, basketball players mentally “practice” shooting baskets under various conditions. You can do the same thing with the holidays.

Of course, to do this effectively, you have to be clear on what you want to happen. That's why I like using a tool I call the “proactive food journal.” Here's how to do it: Pick a day, visualize what it's going to be like, where you're going to be, and with whom. Think about what food is likely available, when you're likely to be hungry, and what the circumstances are going to be. (Is your Aunt Tina going to be there insisting you try her special key lime pie? Are you going to be in a restaurant known for its crème brûlée and homemade breads? Are you going to be in a fast-food restaurant taking care of six kids? Is the sister whom you hate going to be there silently eyeing everything you eat?

Now write down what you're going to eat. Decide in advance, early in the day even the night before. Visualize the action. If there's temptation or anxiety, close your eyes and picture it. Hear in your mind's ear What people will say. See yourself responding in a way that would make you proud of yourself. That might be allowing yourself one or two bites of something “off your diet,” or it might mean being Spartan. The point here is not what you choose, but that you choose it. And that you then stick to it.

As Sondheim wrote, "The choice may have been mistaken. The choosing was not." The point here is to put you in charge of what happens, not the circumstances.

If you can accomplish that, you have begun a journey that will help you manage your weight, and one that will empower you in all areas of your life.

©2008 Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., C.N.S.

2 thoughts on “Seven tips for using visualization to plan your holiday eating

  1. Fitness Surfer

    I use visualization to help me get those last few reps in every set. Why not use it to help me make the best of my holiday eating and stay on track for my fitness goals. Thank you.


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