How do I handle holidays and possible deviations?

The thing about holidays is that they come around fairly regularly—some once a year, some more often (like Shabbat). Meanwhile, the holy grail (so to speak) of successful weight loss is that it must be LONG TERM. Plenty of people lose 100 pounds, only to regain it again over the next few years. The trick is to lose ALL your excess weight and keep it off FOREVER—a feat so difficult that fewer than 1% of people who try actually manage to succeed.

I think a big reason for this is how we handle holidays. The strong temptation is to make exceptions. And if we build in exceptions, they may work. This year. And maybe next year. Perhaps the year after that. But at some point, a time is likely to come when the perfect storm of life circumstances (a recent death of a loved one, a frustrating chronic illness, or some other major life stressor) coincides with that holiday, and suddenly the flour or sugar on our tongue sends us reeling, back into the food, and we start the mad climb of weight gain again. It can be subtle. It can be overt. It can be halfway in between. But the trigger is there, just waiting.

I don’t want to regain my weight again. I’ve done it so many times. Once a year might seem innocuous from a ground’s-eye view, but from a bird’s-eye view, if we expect to live a while longer, we may have dozens of these occasions ahead of us, and certainly if you combine all the holidays and special occasions together, the sum total of them is really quite large.

Thus, I encourage a careful assessment of the risks and rewards involved in re-engaging with these foods. The brain never forgets how to overeat them, and cravings come back with a swiftness that can be stunning.

I’ve experienced a pretty lovely retooling of major holidays so that I engage with them for the people, the sentiment, the spiritual meaning, and the tradition or practice involved. At first, it felt like not eating those foods ruined the holiday and made it a torture to be endured. But over time, all the warmth and goodness of the holiday has come back full force, and now I love the holiday just as powerfully as I ever used to. In my experience, it’s worth recalibrating my schema of what the holiday involves and what’s good about it, in a way that’s compatible with my long-term goals and vision for my highest self.