I’ve just returned from a Halloween trip to Salem, Massachusetts, with my daughters, and if you love Halloween as much as I do, you must put it on your list.
It was one of the most fun trips I’ve ever taken — in fact, it may have been too much fun. I’m definitely suffering the consequences right now.
But if you’ve read anything I’ve ever written, you know I’m not here judging myself for eating my kids’ French fries or having one too many glasses of Chardonnay while people watching.
I never intended to eat and drink as much as I did — and had actually planned to have a healthy three days away from home.
So, what happened?
It Started With a Missed Run
Everything started out the way I’d planned. I had a green juice and some avocado toast for breakfast before we left and didn’t eat anything until our late lunch in Salem — a Greek salad and a glass of white wine.
Dinner was pretty much the same: another Greek salad and another glass of wine. Not even one bite of Halloween candy.
So far so good, right?
Halloween morning, I had my coffee and was getting ready for a run through town, at which point I realized that I had packed everything but my jog bra.
Ugh. How could I be so stupid?
But then I figured, it’s no big deal. We’d be walking enough that day to make up for it.
So I went to the hotel restaurant for my free breakfast instead. There was no fruit, so I had some eggs and hash browns. Not my usual.
At lunch, I had a Greek salad — and then grabbed a handful (and another and another) of my daughter’s French fries. I’d already had hash browns . . . what difference would a few fries make?
In the afternoon, we stopped at a café for the girls to have something sweet. So, in addition to a glass of wine, I shared my daughter’s pumpkin cheesecake with her. It’s Halloween . . . pumpkin cheesecake should be part of it!
After all those holes in the dam, the floodgates opened.
I rounded out the day with eggplant parmesan, more wine, more fries, and more dessert. And later, to finish myself off, some Halloween candy.
Needless to say, our travel day home looked nothing like the first travel day. (Translation: a lot of crap food at the airport.)
The bad news was that I felt pretty gross when we got home. But the good news was that I knew exactly how all of it happened.
It’s the Weak Link in the Chain — Not You
What happened wasn’t that I was in vacation mode or that it was a holiday or that I have no willpower. (Or that I’m a total failure).
What happened was a chain reaction of events that took me from focused intention to “whatever.” Then I reached a tipping point and found myself in full-blown binge mode.
Fortunately, I’ve got enough experience with this to know how to deal with it when it happens.
How not to deal with it is to bash yourself for being weak and worthless. Because when you’re in shaming mode, you can’t see clearly.
But if you can put all the condemnation aside and do a little investigating, it’s easy to pinpoint the exact moment where things took a turn.
For me, it was a simple missed workout. I’m certain that if I’d taken my run that morning, I would have had no interest in the hash browns.
But once I’d had the hash browns, it seemed logical to continue with some French fries. Then the chain reaction continued with the pumpkin cheesecake — and so on.
Actually, what really happened was that my mindset shifted.
Once I had deviated from my usual routine of having a morning run, the “whatever” mindset took hold, and I gradually over the course of the day let the wheels come off my health bus, one by one.
The point I want to make is that it’s often one very small thing that starts a chain reaction that ends with you feeling like a total failure who has no willpower.
All you have to do is find the weak link in the chain that was the catalyst for the destruction of all your healthy intentions.
Recovering From a Binge
Here is my 5-step plan to recover when you go off the rails on vacation or over the holidays:
1. Don’t judge. I keep saying this, but shaming yourself is the worst possible thing you can do. Because when you’re in a place of shame, you lose all objectivity — and objectivity is required if you want to find solutions.
Plus, bashing yourself for your slip-ups is just adding insult to injury. It already happened — why feel bad about it? Your binge has nothing to do with who you are. It’s all circumstantial, and circumstances can be changed.
2. Investigate. Once you’re in a place of power, you can get clarity and figure out what actually happened.
Ask questions. What was the initial catalyst? (Just so you know, the catalyst is never that you don’t have enough willpower.)
Things like grabbing a few fries or having a few bites of cheesecake are always preceded by thoughts. What were you thinking just before you did that one small thing you hadn’t intended on doing?
Once you figure out what pushed you from your healthy mindset to the “whatever” mindset, you’ve taken the biggest step toward preventing it from happening the next time.
3. Find solutions. Once you’ve identified where it all went wrong, think of ways you could have prevented the downhill slide.
To use my example, after realizing that I wasn’t going to be able to run, I could have
- Done some pushups or taken a walk around the block
- Meditated for a few minutes and strengthened my intention
- Asked for a bowl of fruit or an orange at breakfast
Any one of these would have easily overcome the missed workout that ended up being the weak link in the chain. They would have helped me reinforce my healthy mindset and put me back on track.
4. Plan ahead. After you see what you could have done to recover, come up with some pre-emptive strikes for next time.
If you’re going on vacation, pack an extra set of workout clothes and some healthy snacks. Make a reservation at a fabulous healthy restaurant in your destination city. Map out a walking route to see the city and schedule it.
If it’s a holiday, bring your own dish. Have a glass of water before hitting the bar at the cocktail party. Have a great workout the morning of the festivities.
The best thing about planning ahead is that you’re acting from a place of intention and power and strengthening your take-charge mindset.
5. Keep going. Once you’ve done the first four steps, decide to move forward after things go wrong.
I repeat: Bashing yourself for your mistakes is keeping you stuck. You must decide to be a problem-solver rather than your own worst critic. You have a choice, so if you want to be the best you can be, make the right one.
Health Is a Mindset
Your health is a journey, not a destination (sorry for the pun).
Your health is also a mindset. Things can and will go wrong, but if you have the right outlook, you can stay the course.
Part of that outlook is understanding your tendency to binge and how it developed — because that’s how you prevent yourself from doing it in the future.
But it’s critical to know how to handle it when you do . . . because we all do sometimes.