Hi folks, in this edition of Ask a Health Coach, Erin helps out her fellow over-doers with strategies for managing the hustle mentality, overthinking calories, and enjoying the holidays guilt free. Got questions? Share them in the comments or in our MDA Facebook Group.
“I always burn the candle at both ends making sure everyone is happy this time of year, but I can already tell I’m burning myself out. How do I get through the holidays without needing a vacation afterward?
Overdoing it is kind of my specialty. At least it has been in the past, so I totally get where you’re coming from. If you’re like me, you have a long history of being highly productive — and wearing a huge badge of honor about it. The more hustle, the better. The less rest, the better. Even to the point of total burn out.
You might also be a bit of a people pleaser, which, by definition, suggests that you’ve got a deep emotional need to please others at the expense of your own needs.1 For many of my clients, the eagerness to please ties into their self-worth and the need for approval and external validation. And it always gets put to the test around the holidays. By ensuring that everyone’s dietary preferences are met at dinner or getting the decorations “just right,” they feel more worthy, likeable, and accepted.
Keep in mind that people pleasing isn’t the same as being a good host.
To others, it probably just looks like you’re being really gracious and accommodating — and I have no doubt in my mind that you are. But being helpful at the expense of your own health and happiness isn’t a good trade off if you ask me https://guilfordjournals.com/doi/abs/10.1521/jscp.2012.31.2.169.
If you’ve always felt compelled to put everyone else’s needs before your own, it’s hard to imagine it being different, since people-pleasing isn’t just what you do, it’s a big part of who you think you are.
Here’s the good news though. The fact that you’re aware you’re doing these things is a sign you’re open to change. So, here are a few strategies you can start putting into practice right away:
1. Understand what you are and aren’t responsible for. If you’re hosting, providing food and conversation is likely in your responsibility wheelhouse; however, taking on the burden of ensuring your guests are happy every second of their visit isn’t.
2. Determine your boundaries and be assertive about them. Are you really okay with making four kinds of potatoes or having people stay later than you wanted? Get clear on your boundaries and practice sticking to them. And remember, asserting yourself can be scary at first, but it’s worth it in the long run.
3. Know that everything will work out fine. If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that the world is a crazy, unpredictable place and no amount of planning and people-pleasing can possibly ensure a perfect outcome.
I think that you’ll find when you free yourself from the rigidity of hardcore hustling and people pleasing, you’ll begin to experience your own state of flow. Heck, you might even enjoy the holidays this year.
“I want to enjoy the holidays without feeling guilty about it. I’m sick of everyone posting healthy versions of desserts and drinks. Can I not just have the real thing without being shamed?”
I have a hunch you’re overthinking this a little. Yes, you absolutely can eat whatever you want. Who’s stopping you? There’s no keto police. And no one’s going to pull your paleo card if you indulge in some pecan pie and eggnog.
Eat it whatever you want, I don’t care. The problem is, I think you care. Maybe you care what other people think.2Or you care how it will affect your goals.
I’m not here to tell you to eat a whole sheet of sugar cookies or not, I’m just here to help you have a more effortless relationship with food. One where you have a solid understanding of how certain foods work or don’t work in your body. That way you’re free to make choices that support you — or don’t support you. Which is totally okay too, as long as you’re clear on the consequences, which might be anything from feeling sluggish and foggy to having pants that don’t fit.
It’s always your call.
That said, if someone is shaming you for your choices, that’s a totally different topic.3Food has become so controversial and everyone loves to point a finger at anyone who’s got a different health ideology than they do.
Here’s a note to all you shamers: if you’ve decided to eat more plants, more meat, less sugar, less carbs zero carbs, or all the carbs, remember that everyone is different, and your beliefs don’t need to be smeared all over someone else’s. Ok, rant over.
If you’re metabolically flexible, treating yourself to a few “real” goodies won’t be a huge deal. As you go through the holidays, keep the 80/20 framework for the Primal lifestyle in mind. While it isn’t meant to support cheat days, it is about navigating real life.
“I’m thinking about adding in a few more workouts a week so I can indulge in holiday treats without derailing my progress. What are your go-to exercises for burning extra calories?”
Diet culture has sure done something to us, hasn’t it? Weighing, calorie counting, macros tracking, step tracking, making sure you’ve torched more calories than you’ve consumed…it’s just too much. And don’t get me started on those calculators that tell you how many sit ups or jumping jacks or hours of cardio you need to do in order to burn off whatever it is that you ate.
I’m fed up with contrived nutrition and fitness messaging. It keeps us stuck in the pattern of deprivation and all the ways we’re not good enough — or worse yet, how *good* we’ll be when we reach a certain weight or pant size.4
So, no. I don’t have any go-to calorie burners. And I certainly don’t have any low-cal diet recipes. What I do have is advice on how to stoke your metabolism and how to stop caring about how you aesthetically show up in the world.
Sounds like a pretty great gift, right? Not caring? Not scheduling in extra workouts to accommodate the holidays? The diet mentality has been hard-wired into a lot of us and one of my goals as a health coach is to help people break free from it. And that starts with three key things:
1. Releasing judgement toward food. Food isn’t good or bad, it just has consequences. If you have a few treats, you might experience a sugar crash followed by more cravings. If you eat a protein rich meal, you might not have to white knuckle it past the candy dish.
2. Learn to listen to your body. Try tuning in to what your body is telling you https://www.marksdailyapple.com/whats-messing-with-your-appetite-three-possibilities/. Learn to recognize your body’s hunger and thirst cues and how to separate physical hunger from emotional needs like comfort and personal growth.
3. Check your stories and limiting beliefs. Think you’re only lovable at a certain weight? Or that “treating” yourself is a bad thing? Pay attention to the stories you tell yourself and see if you can shift them into a more positive light.
Do you have a habit of overdoing it? Got more questions? Share in the comments below.
Erin Power is an NBHWC board-certified health coach and the Coaching and Curriculum Director for Primal Health Coach Institute. She’s also the co-host of Health Coach Radio, the podcast by health coaches, for health coaches. Erin lives outside of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, on a hobby farm in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.