soft serve ice cream cone

Summer eating: Let loose or stay strong? Yes.

             Earlier this summer, my partner and I were on vacation in Europe. Then I traveled for family. Then we had guests two weekends in a row. Next month we’re traveling to visit other family.  All that is to say that it’s summer; the season of being out of the normal routine.

            I’m basically a homebody; most often I’d rather tool around the house, tending to projects or the garden than be out-and-about. One of the primary advantages of staying close to home is the consistency of routine with — and control over — my eating choices. So, when traveling or having visitors week after week, the routine gets disrupted, making it harder to keep up with the eating practices that I know work for me and my sugar-minimal lifestyle.

            Routine and consistency are important for sustainable change, especially in the beginning. So then, what do you do when you’re faced with unhealthy options, special treats, unusual circumstances, and social situations? Decide in advance, and then reflect and assess.

            Deciding in advance what you’re going to do or eat is the best way to put the odds in your favor for making good in-the-moment decisions. “After dinner, when everyone wants to go for ice cream, I’m going to pass or just have a taste of my partners cone.” When you tell your brain in advance what you’re going to do, it increases the odds dramatically for actually doing it. Alternatively, if you say in advance, “I’ll just see how I feel when I get there,” you’re leaving lots of room for going off protocol.

            Making a decision in-the-moment can be a great way to honor your spontaneity and goal of becoming an intuitive eater. But it can also be like stepping into quicksand. What it is for you will largely depend on where you are on your journey to sugar freedom, as well as your beliefs about constraints (are they freeing or limiting) and holidays in general.

            In addition to deciding in advance how you are going to act in a given situation, how you reflect on your actions can be a catalyst or an anchor for your efforts. If you went off protocol, did you berate yourself or note it as an aberration and look forward to getting back to the routine?

            How we talk to ourselves, whether after a small indulgence or a significant binge, is all important. It effects how we feel in the moment, and about ourselves more generally, which is a primary indicator of how we will act in the future. (See the article, “How to Recover from a Binge,” on Medium for more detail on this.)

            Ultimately, however you approach holiday eating is up to you. I’m not going to say “cut yourself some slack” or “stay steady” because one or the other might be exactly what you need right now. Only you know what you need (just be careful of the sneaky rationalizations that can come from a dependency). The empowering part is deciding in advance what you will do, and building trust by following through with your decision.

            Last weekend, when family was visiting, getting creemees was on the agenda (maple creemees are Vermont’s special soft serve ice cream). It had been a year since I had one, so was curious what would happen. Would it be too sweet? Would it effect my energy or sleep? Would it send me into a spiral of needing more sweet treats? In the moment I thought it was delightful but couldn’t finish it. But a bit later I could feel it in my stomach and had some bloating to follow, so could feel that it’s not a great choice for me.

           This weekend, when the group stopped for ice cream after dinner, it was easy to pass.

Let me know how it goes!

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