Today, I’m going to let you off the hook. (Sort of.)
And just in time to shove a bunch of Halloween candy into your mouth. (Maybe.)
The holidays are coming up, and with them, a seemingly endless stream of parties. First it’s Halloween, then Thanksgiving, and then things really kick into gear with Christmas, Hanukkah, and the December holidays. Oh yeah, and don’t forget about ringing in the new year!
With these events coming one right after another, it can feel overwhelming. I mean, how many parties have you attended that were only serving 100% healthy food? I can’t think of one.
As a result, many of us start feeling stressed about what’s going to happen to our diet during these last ten weeks of the year. We start having conversations in our heads that aren’t exactly positive or productive:
- Am I going to eat the pumpkin pie? I really want the pumpkin pie, but if I eat it, I’m going to blow my diet. Oh, but I can’t stop thinking about it. I should just take a bite.
- I almost don’t even want to go to this party because I know I’m going to eat all the crappy food. I should just stay home and avoid everyone and not have any fun.
- Another party? And don’t I deserve a treat anyway? I like food! And my [insert relative here] will be mad if I don’t eat her signature dish. I’m just going to eat my way through to the new year.
Does any of that sound familiar? I know I’ve had those voices in my head. And one of my friends told me she’s already worried about how much of her daughter’s Halloween candy she’s going to eat on Friday night!
But is that what the holidays are ideally about? Anxiety, worry, and stress? How can you enjoy Halloween, much less the week preceding it, if you’re already worrying about the candy?
All of this worry doesn’t serve you at all. In fact, it sucks away your pleasure and creates a negative cycle. You eat the candy or pumpkin pie anyway, you feel like you blew your diet, and you feel guilty — so you eat another piece.
Isn’t there a better way to go through life?
Your Life Is Not Made of Halloween Candy
One of the players participating in the Whole Life Challenge, Eric Potruch, wrote this message to his team that got me thinking about how important it is to see the Whole Life Challenge not as a set of rules or as a temporary restriction, but as the catalyst for a lifestyle change:
“I have missed pizza — who hasn’t? — but when it gets bad enough I’ll eat it, sacrifice some points (or lean on my indulgence tokens!) and ENJOY myself. If I need rest, I’ll do an easy workout, or just a short, hard workout, or I won’t work out at all.
“What I’ve realized is that the WLC is teaching me that maintaining healthy eating habits and regularly exercising are not a short term fix to altering the appearance and/or well-being of my body. They are a lifetime commitment, a different way of living — well into my old age — that will make me feel better, younger, and make me lighter (and better looking without a shirt on!).”
It’s actually not about how many points you earn or how much weight you lose. It’s about awareness and intention. It’s about a commitment to living life the best way that you can. And it’s definitely not about perfection. There is no way to be perfect for the rest of your life — but there are plenty of ways to be healthy and happy.
If you make a commitment to a lifestyle, it doesn’t matter if you eat that piece of pie — or even if you binge on fourteen pieces of Halloween candy. This doesn’t define you. That’s not who you are.
You are not made of Halloween candy (no matter how much of it you eat).
Because tomorrow and the next day, and the next day, you are going to make different choices. Just like you did yesterday and the day before and the day before. When you are committed to living a healthy lifestyle, you look at the big picture. You decide you are in it for the long-haul, and you understand this means you are going to hit some detours and bumps along the way. And sometimes you’re going to intentionally choose to deviate from “the rules.”
And that’s okay — because a lifestyle change is one that perseveres well past Halloween. It perseveres past pumpkin pie and binge-fests. It perseveres into your old age, because that’s the point, right? Getting to “old age”?
So am I telling you to raid your kid’s Halloween bag and steal all the Snickers? No, not necessarily.
But I’m not telling you not to.
I’m telling you that what is so much more important than one day is that you persevere. That you choose to eat the candy on occassion, but you don’t eat it chronically. That more often than not you make the healthier choice, and you break from that with intention — not from frustration, exhaustion, stress, or pressure.
Consider the Bigger Picture of Your Life
When you’re faced with the pumpkin pie, the Halloween candy, the Hanukkah chocolates, and the Christmas cookies, stop to take inventory. Give yourself a moment before passing judgment on the food — or yourself.
- Consider the uniqueness of the experience. Is your grandmother in her nineties and this is her personal recipe that she makes just once a year? Or is this a box of cookies from the grocery store?
- Consider what you want your memories to look like. Is it important you go trick or treating with your children because that activity and memory will bond you? Twenty years from now will you remember if you ate five pieces of candy or ten?
- Consider if the food is married to the event. Maybe you can go to the haunted corn maze without drinking cider and bobbing for apples? Maybe you can trick or treat without eating the candy? (I know, that’s probably crazy.)
- Consider the big picture. How many parties are you attending this year? Do you have to splurge at all of them? Can you pick and choose when you’re going to enjoy yourself?
- Consider your health. Are you mostly making good choices so one treat is no big deal? Or is it important for you to stay consistent and avoid the treats because you are new to creating healthy habits?
- Consider whether you can truly let yourself off the hook. This one is a biggie. If you eat the candy, if you eat that caramel apple, if you binge on sugar cookies, can you let it mean nothing? Can you get up tomorrow and still know you are completely awesome in all the ways that matter?
The Whole Life Challenge is a game, a chance to experiment with what life could look like under a different set of “rules.” But you know what’s amazing? You can create whatever rules you want to any day of the week. You can start fresh, you can experiment, you can give yourself a “do-over.” So don’t see the holidays as a treacherous time. Remember the holidays are a time of celebration — and you get to decide what that celebration looks and feels like.
I’ll leave you with a quotation from Richard DeVos, the co-founder of Amway:
“If I had to select one quality, one personal characteristic that I regard as being most highly correlated with success, whatever the field, I would pick the trait of persistence. Determination. The will to endure to the end, to get knocked down seventy times and get up off the floor saying: ‘Here comes number seventy-one!’”
So this Halloween season wear your number 71 proudly. And be ready for numbers 72 and 73 before year’s end if that’s how things go and if that’s what you choose. But keep getting back up — because you and the life you’re creating deserve that.