Holiday Eating and Weight Loss: 4 Lessons Learned

I made a big discovery in the land of permanent weight loss. Even after maintaining my weight loss for five years (which signals "permanent weight loss" in the medical community), I still struggled at holidays. And, in my coaching practice, clients bring their struggles into their coaching sessions and holidays are often a very tough time for them when they are addressing their excess weight.

Now, however, after more than 12 years into maintaining weight loss, this holiday season is remarkably different.

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Instead of forecasting and planning, which I once felt helped me "combat" the abundance of food so prevalent this time of year, I feel a complete absence of worry.

Certain foods used to "hum" or "buzz" around me. They captured my attention, called my name, or, it seemed, stalked me! When I was heavily (very heavily!) invested in dieting, holidays meant binging and regretting for weeks. It meant fighting and struggling and denying and it was damned painful.

I didn't live near my family and my trips home were fraught with fear, which poisoned or wiped out the good feelings of a visit people I was truly looking forward to seeing. Everyone wanted to see me and, in my family, "seeing me" meant feeding me.

During my Diet Days, food had power because I couldn't resist it. I wasn't at choice when I was near it.

Holiday "buzz" food included all my favorites, usually from old family recipes. Ah! the power of traditions! I could not imagine a holiday without these treats. Deep down, as I later uncovered, I nurtured a deep feeling that I'd never, ever be able to overcome the irresistible allure of food.

Because I equated losing weight with being deprived all the "buzzy" foods I loved, I developed a love/hate desire/resistance relationship and, with those opposites pulling at me, my excess weight wasn't going anywhere. It was sticking around, enjoying the utter lack of progress.

But, when I stopped dieting and started listening to my body, I discovered some interesting things.

1. Many of the foods I had categorized as "delicious" or "one of my favorites" didn't even taste good anymore. Why did I once love that Christmas candy my mother made which actually, if I stopped eating from memory, tasted like mouthwash? And the fudge she made? Overwhelmingly sweet.

2. Food promised, but never delivered, a feeling of love, family, connection, meaning and belonging. Conversely, when I feel love, family, connection, meaning or belonging, I could care less about food. It was just the promise that lingered out there, never delivered.

3. As I lost weight, I actually became pickier about what I ate, but everything tasted better. I enjoyed food more. I respected its power to energize my body.

4. I became less attached. I let go mentally of all the power I'd attributed to food. I didn't prescribe meanings or blanket statements like: "I can't eat that" (which actually meant "I don't deserve (fill in the blank).") I didn't try to make myself into the "good girl" or the "weight loss saint" by indulging in the drama of denial.

With my body making the decision about hunger, satisfaction and stopping, I ceased to judge and value food in the way I did when I was gaining weight.

Ultimately, I've come to this day, this year, this holiday season. I feel a freedom I've never felt before. Even though I was scared I would have to give up the foods I loved, the "buzzy" foods, I have given them up, and feel no resentment, no lacking, no void.

I am not interested in them anymore.

It's an irony that they disappeared, when I so feared that happening. But they didn't disappear because I forced them, or plotted against them, or guilted them away. The path was different than a battle.

They do not have the same meaning, or power. I was making that up. What do you make up around food and the holidays?

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