It’s common for people to dread the holidays, because of all the boundary violations that come with the season. I don't mean relatives who say things like "I'm going to let you go to the grocery store for me," as if you've been begging. I mean the unwanted food being pressed on us by well-meaning relatives.
Except, some of us suspect, they don’t really mean well. They’re really trying to sabotage us … maybe because …
- they couldn’t handle it if we were to succeed at losing some weight
- they’re afraid we’re changing too much, and they don’t want us to get too far away from the family
- they need company in their own overeating or weight class
Or may they’re not trying to sabotage us. Maybe they’re just trying to make sure we still love them, and they don’t recognize love when it comes at them in the form of hugs and kisses and gift-wrapped Uggs. They only see love if it looks like eating their food until you can't stand any more, right?
Tcha! NO. While it’s true there are many badly behaved relatives in this world, and the holidays can provoke even the best-behaved, other people’s experiments with our boundaries are never the main problem.
The problem - and this is actually good news - is us. Specifically, our failure to say No and mean it. Not to others, but to ourselves. If Aunt Hazel’s self-respect is riding on how many of her red-and-green sprinkled cookies you eat, she’s gonna make you multiple offers. And if you’re wobbly about what and how much you’ll be eating this holiday, she will unerringly sense this, and sweeten her deal until you take it.
I have witnessed this over and over: a firm boundary does not get tested more than once. And by firm I don’t mean enforced with anger or belligerence. I just mean unambiguous. No one’s confused what No means, including you. If you say No, and mean it, Hazel will find another way to feel good, guaranteed.
But last week we talked about how one or two holiday meals are not a disaster, unless we don’t go back to normal the next day. It’s when we say, Oh NOW I’ve blown it, screw it, it doesn’t matter, I guess Grandma was right when she said I’ll always be fat, and we continue our bingey way until April, except for a short break around January 1. That's the disaster: Not the holiday, but the post-holiday boundary breakdown.
So watch out for that "screw it" thinking, because it’s very pervasive and very sneaky, and its undoing requires a bit of grit on your part.
And keep this in mind: A boundary is not a diet. You might actually decide to eat a cookie to please the lady. Cookie eating is an act you are free to decriminalize any time you want to. We’re just talking about a few days out of the year.
Unless we’re not. Unless we’re talking about most days out of the year. If the real problem is that we don’t have boundaries and guidelines that we practice 90% of the time, then it’s no good flipping out on Hazel.
She’s not the problem.
Stop bingeing and overeating. Immediately.
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