The Christmas period is always a particularly challenging one for people trying to watch their waistlines.
With family dinners, parties and festive drinks lined up, temptations seem to pop up every which way you turn, but does it have to be a case of all or nothing?
Life coach and author Michele Connolly, believes there is a way to lose weight and still indulge in your favourite treats – and the secret is in just that, honing in on your favourite treats.
Michele, who wrote How to be thin in a world of chocolate, tells Be that when you allow yourself free reign of your favourite treat – in her case chocolate – at the exclusion of all other naughty eats, you actually end up indulging less.
She believes that when you’re dieting, you lose touch with what foods you really want and really enjoy eating.
The theory is that when you’re constantly depriving yourself of treats, you want to eat whatever is out of bounds. Whereas if you indulge in the treat you love the most - and eat healthily the rest of the time - you don’t feel as though you’re missing out, meaning you’re less likely to go on a killer binge.
“I like to think of your body as an exclusive club and you’re the bouncer and all the food that you can choose from are the people lining up to get in,” she says in an interesting analogy.
“If it’s healthy food, it goes in because that’s really great business, but when it comes to the more naughty foods, you have to just stop and ask, ‘do I want to let this inside my club?’
“If it’s something that you love and is going to stop you from feeling deprived, then yes, when you really want it, you should let yourself.
“But if you’re really just eating stuff because it’s there or because you’ve been denying yourself for so long, then you really have to start asking if its worthy of lifting the red velvet rope.”
Michele’s theory hinges on the concept of mindless eating, where you end up eating more than you think, and emotional eating, when you seek comfort in food and eat to keep negative feelings at bay.
She therefore says that being kind to yourself is a great place to start.
“If we start thinking of ourselves as deserving pleasure, instead of making ourselves feel miserable for wanting pleasure, then we can just be bit kinder to ourselves and let ourselves feel good when we have treats,” she says.
Rethinking your relationship with your dieting self, and changing it from a parent-child relationship where one is rebelling and the other is constantly punishing and hating, is also key to this.
The diet all comes from Michele’s own experience as a self-confessed mindless eater who would find herself breaking her diet with an enormous binge, and being left with nothing but guilt.
“I tried different exercise programs, I did a few 12 week challenges, but I found that whenever I was trying to go against my natural preferences it never worked,” Michele explains.
“The only way I was able to lose weight was to work out what I really love – and for me that’s chocolate – and when I started allowing myself to have the chocolate when I really felt like it, I found that I could say no to other things that weren’t my favourite.
“So I got in touch with the fact that I don’t really like cake!”
After approaching her own self-study from a scientific perspective, Michele says she found research into mindless eating that backed up her experience.
“One of the things [researchers into mindless eating] found, is that the more variety you have with naughty foods, the more you over eat, because the brain likes variety,” she says.
“But if you limit yourself to your favourites you kind of get bored! You win so much when you get in touch with your own pleasure.”
So Michele recommends that if you’re going to splurge over the holiday period, do it strategically, not mindlessly. She’s dropped four dress sizes by changing her approach to dieting and proudly says it’s her permanent lifestyle, not a quick fix.
“The irony is everyone’s looking for a quick fix, but we chase the quick fixes for so long that if we actually took the slow fix we’d get there and could forget about it!”
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