From Hanukkah gelt to peppermint bark to reindeer cookies; you can’t toss a Santa hat three feet without it landing in a mountain of sweet, sugary treats this time of year.
The holidays also bring out two characters extremely challenging to dieters attempting to stay the course through the most difficult time of year. So, in the interest of peaceful family get-togethers and company parties, I provide advice on how to deal with the ever-present “Food Police” and “Food Pushers.”
One can tell when the former is within earshot because you’ll hear: “Is that on your diet?” or “Should you be eating that?” Unfortunately, no matter how carefully worded and lovingly delivered, it always comes across as (delivered in the tone of a schoolyard taunt), “Neener-neener-neener! I caught you cheating!”
First tip: Override the initial reaction to share what you are eating rather forcefully by shoving it in his face.
The sad truth is that will not make the situation better; worse yet, your next meal might be served through bars.
On the other extreme is the “Food Pusher,” who sings a different carol, attempting to stuff you with all manner of delights. One recognizes her by the guilt-inducing expressions, “I made it just for you” or “One bite won’t hurt.”
Although these personality types appear opposites —one at-tempts to keep you from what you want and the other is forcing on you what you don’t — they are actually related. Each person’s is really trying to help you be happier. The “cop” does this by attempting to keep you on the straight and narrow, while the other provides “permission” to relax and cut loose.
Once we understand that motivation, we can handle them — without violence — by utilizing the “3 Rs.”
Step 1: Recognize the intent of the person, not the action.
There is an old proverb, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Assuming the person offering the unwanted solicitation is someone with whom you can usually get along, job one is to slow down your reaction long enough to understand that he or she just wants to make sure you’re successful on your diet (from the view of the “cop”), or that you’re having a good time (from the view of the “pusher.”)
If we focus on those intentions, rather than the words or actions, we’re half way there. Therefore we could now respond with something such as, “Thank you for the suggestion” (to the “Cop”), or “That’s very nice of you to make this for me” (to the “pusher”). This alerts them that you appreciate their helpfulness.
Step 2: Reflect how you feel.
Next, we must — gently — school them so they comprehend how you feel about what the action so they don’t do it again. For example: (cop) “However, when you watch over me, I get defensive,” or (pusher) “I’m proud of my weight loss. When you offer me those cookies, I’m afraid I’ll go off track and I don’t want that to happen.” We don’t blame; we just state our feelings.
Step 3: Redirect the behavior.
Finally, since they are trying to help, let’s give them a constructive assignment. We do this by redirecting them; satisfying their good intentions. Again, an illustration might be, (cop) “What would really help me is if you’d go for a walk with me later.” To the “pusher” we might explain, “If you could cut up some fruit for me next time, that would be a treat I’d like.”
To stay successful this holiday season, without being a hermit, utilize the “Three Rs:” Recognize. Reflect. Redirect. It won’t always work. But when it does, it’s worth the minor effort it takes. Plus, it reduces family and workplace drama, and that’s a great gift all to its own.