By VANESSA HAMPTON
We made it to the New Year! The holidays were great. We ate. We drank. We celebrated. We ate some more. We drank some more…and now we are staring at our naked reflection in the mirror and maybe feeling a bit panicked. You know the feeling I am talking about. That deep fear that wells up in the pit of your stomach when you are looking at the extra dimples of cellulite or feeling your jeans entirely too snug around your middle. It happens to most of us at some point or other and, often times, at many points in our lives.
My own post-holiday body has sent me into a tail spin many times in the past. I used to do it every year. I would delight in all the sugary treats during the holidays. I would indulge in all the rich foods during family gatherings or at office Christmas parties. It seemed like the celebrations and excess indulgences went on forever, but I couldn’t resist when the food was there. I would watch the mirror closely every time I was getting into the shower to see how much damage I had done. Turn to the side…. Look to see how much my gut is hanging out. Turn to the back… try to measure how much bigger my butt was looking. All of this in an effort to find some confirmation that it wasn’t as bad as my brain was telling me. When that effort failed, I would then decide to step on the scale looking for that little piece of plastic to confirm that I had not ruined my life.
Of course, the scale never told me what I wanted. It always made my anxiety that much worse because the number was up. Then my mind would start racing. I would dread putting on my jeans because, even if they weren’t that much different, my mind was now telling me that I looked awful. So, I would compensate with loose fitting shirts, all while fighting back tears of fear and defeat. Then, once I left the house, I would try to determine if everyone was noticing how much heavier I must have appeared.
This line of thinking may sound like a woman who has gone off the deep end. I know. However, while I used to think I was the only one who suffered this private, self-inflicted hell, I have learned that there are SO MANY OF US that go through the same thing regularly. It’s not a fun mental space to be in so, if you are here, I want to offer some perspective to help you past this point.
First, step away from the scale and go back to the mirror. Stand up straight. Take a deep breath and repeat after me. “I am OK.” Understand that a lot of what you may be seeing is water weight. If you read my article “Our Toxic Relationship With The Scale (https://stylehomepage.com/body-balance-with-v-our-toxic-relationship-with-the-scale/), then you remember how I talked about all of the factors that go into the number you see when you step on the scale. One of the biggest factors being water.
During the holidays, we tend to eat foods that contain a lot more sodium than what we normally consume, and this will cause our body to hold more water. We also may be consuming more carbs (such as breads, pastas, and sweets) which will also cause our bodies to retain more water than usual. The good thing is that we can shed the extra water. One way to help our body begin to shed the extra fluid is to drink more water. While drinking more water to get rid of water may seem counter-intuitive, it works. Another way to help speed up eliminating the extra fluid is to eat more potassium rich, whole foods in the form of fruits and vegetables. So, if you are feeling like a walking water balloon, grab your water bottle, eat your salad, and breathe.
Water may not be the only contributing factor to the higher number on the scale. Maybe you have put on a couple of real pounds. The extra food and desserts would definitely contribute to this, but extra alcohol may also be the culprit. We had more parties to attend and more celebrations over the holidays, which can lead to drinking more than normal. Alcoholic drinks alone will add excess calories during the holidays. Though it’s usually not the first thing we think about, according to verywell.com, 1 can of beer can contain 135-145 calories and one glass of red wine 120 calories or more. * Even if liquor is your preference, they are often mixed with sugary drinks which can add up those excess calories quickly over an evening. Alcohol will also lower your inhibitions and spark the appetite. When you are feeling good and your guard is down, it’s very easy to throw caution to the wind and over eat even more. One evening of this is not detrimental. Several celebrations over multiple weeks is when we can get into trouble and end up in front of the mirror with a panic attack. Just like with the extra water, however, your body will thank you when you eliminate the extra alcohol and the number on the scale will begin to cooperate.
My panic over my post-holiday body used to lead to extremes in an effort to reverse what I had done…like RIGHT NOW. That does not work for the long term, and I learned that lesson many times over. There is no magic exercise or perfect eating plan. There are plenty of those advice articles out there that promise this, but none of those strategies work if you don’t get your mind right. Kick starts, in the form of a regimented eating or exercise plan, are great but it can’t be in the form of starving yourself or working out 7 days a week, twice a day. The key is to get back to healthy eating or start making strides towards it today. Get back to your workout routine or decide to make exercise a part of your lifestyle. Your body is designed to adjust, and it will do just that if you do it in a way that is right for you and practice patience.
As for the extra pounds, quit beating yourself up. Remember this is your temporary if you choose to make it that and YOU control what happens next. You DO have a choice about taking the necessary steps to be more comfortable in your skin, and you DO have a choice about the conversations you allow to go on in your head when you look in the mirror. Ignore the voice that is telling you that you have failed and don’t allow fear to negate the beautiful things in your life that, I hope, you enjoyed during this holiday season.
Today is a new day. Full of new opportunities to choose a better you. Remember, healthy living…mind, body, and spirit… is a journey. Not a destination.
Vanessa Hampton, owner of Body Balance with V, is a personal trainer, yoga instructor, and CrossFit coach (CrossFit Cool Springs, Brentwood). Follow her on Facebook or Instagram @bodybalancewithv or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.