Every year the holidays approach and you swear you won’t succumb to the usual temptations—food, alcohol, and shopping. You tell yourself that this year will be different, and that you won’t overindulge, losing control. But come January, you’re 15 pounds heavier, your credit cards are maxed, and let’s just say that you don’t remember the last couple hours of your New Year’s Eve celebration.
As we head into November, it’s time to rethink your usual approach. I’m going to show you how to set holiday goals (and stick to them this time).
Simply telling yourself, “I am not going to eat/drink/spend so much this year,” is not enough to keep you to your promise. You’ve got to be specific. In fact, your best bet is to write down some goals and post them where you’ll see them again and again over the next two months. Go ahead, grab some paper.
The All-or-Nothing Approach
Some people do well with narrow targets and strict rules. If you know that one slice of pie will lead to the whole pie (or pie for breakfast, lunch, and dinner over the next weeks), you may need to set goals that keep you on track. Or if you know that holiday shopping for family results in holiday shopping for what seems like your whole workplace, you’ll want to rein that tendency in. Take a moment to recognize the areas you overindulge in.
What are the most common circumstances that lead to your overindulgence? If food is your weakness, you might set the goal to only indulge at holiday parties and never bring home leftovers (or enticing holiday treats from the market—is egg nog your weakness?). Of if spending is your downfall, set a budget, make a list of the people you want to buy gifts for, and determine how much you will spend on each person. Then, do not stray from that budget no matter what. When you lay it all out ahead of time, you set yourself up to make decisions that you won’t suffer for later. Stick to your plan, and you’ll be celebrating come 2018.
The Forgiving Approach
If you know that restricting your indulgences sounds good in theory but never actually happens in real life, you’ll need to give yourself some flexibility. You might be just fine with gaining 10 pounds over the holidays because you know that you’ll boost your exercise in January and work it off. Or maybe you want to stick to a holiday budget that’s smaller than you actually planned for (good for you!), so you know that if you find the perfect gift for your sister that’s spendier than you expected, you’re prepared for it.
You still want to set specific goals even if you’re the kind of person who needs a little breathing room. You don’t want 10 pounds to become 20, or a $30 gift to become a $200 gift. Maybe your goals look more like a number range (gain 8 to 10 pounds, or spend $400 to $500). Next, break your larger goal down into easy steps to help you stay on track: 8 to 10 pounds becomes no more than one pound per week; your holiday budget gets itemized; and you set a drink limit.
No matter which approach you take, be sure that your goals are realistic. If they aren’t, you’re not likely to follow them. Reflect on your usual behavior, consider your ideal outcome, and then compromise between the two. Then create the steps that will get you there. Good luck!