Summer is hard.
Don’t get me wrong; I love the summer. I love being outside, having the windows open and eating my weight in watermelon and strawberries.
But I have found that it rivals the holiday season when it comes to challenging our intentions for staying on track with healthy eating and exercise.
In fact, as soon as we reach June, this is the #1 thing I get asked about: “How can I enjoy the BBQs, backyard parties and vacation time of summer while still making choices that I can be proud of?”
Well, here are my three top tips for making it to September without totally running off the rails:
1. HAVE A PLAN
The worst thing you can do is just go to the party, or on vacation, and hope for the best.
If this is your approach, then I can tell you right now that it will not end well for you.
Left it its own devices, your brain will interpret the fun and excitement of the party, combined with the absence of your normal food and routine as stress (aka potential danger). As a result, it will almost certainly end up quickly rationalizing not-so-healthy choices (to feel better about the stress) and you’ll leave feeling frustrated, unhappy and beating yourself up over how it all went down.
Instead, take some time BEFORE the event or before you leave on vacation to create a realistic and specific plan for exactly what you’ll do to set yourself up for success while you’re there.
- If it’s a BBQ or party, what healthy dish can you make to take with you and what are some food options that will very likely be there that you can decide ahead of time will be your “go-to”s?
- If it’s a vacation, spend some time researching the place you’re going and finding healthy restaurant options ahead of time, or (if you’ll be cooking your own meals there) make a meal plan for the week, the same way you would at home.
- Sure, incorporate some indulgences here and there, but be selective and deliberate about them. Don’t make these decisions in the moment. Decide, at least 24 hours in advance, what not-so-healthy foods you’re going to select and how much you’ll eat. Then do not deviate from that plan.
2. EAT MINDFULLY
A big part of the reason that we get so easily derailed at social events during the summer is that we’re simply not paying attention.
We’re connecting with friends and family, playing in the water and chasing around the kids or grandkids. We didn’t make a plan for what we’d eat or how much so while we’re completely distracted, we’re hoping that we’ll somehow end up choosing the raw veggies rather than the potato chips.
And how does that generally work out?
Instead, separate the act of eating from the talking, catching up, running around, swimming, boating, playing, dancing, etc. Do all of that stuff – have a blast – but when it’s time to eat, make a conscious decision to bring your focus and attention to the act of eating.
- Be deliberate and thoughtful about what you’re putting on your plate.
- Eat slowly and with as little distraction as possible. Just listen to the conversation rather than participating while you eat.
- Slow down and really savour the delicious food that you selected for your plate.
- Take small bites and chew more than you normally would.
3. BE OKAY WITH DISCOMFORT
Here’s the thing, what feels good and easy for your brain in the moment is to eat everything that strikes its fancy and eating more and more and more of it until you can’t eat any more.
Doing anything other than that is going to feel hard. And our brains are wired to resist things that feel hard so
But it’s okay to feel some discomfort.
It’s okay to see the bowl of potato chips on the patio table and want to eat them but not eat them and feel uncomfortable because of that friction.
It’s like when a small child wants a toy or a chocolate bar and you say “no.” They might throw a tantrum because they’re not getting what they want, but as the adult you know that the discomfort they’re feeling, while very real for them, will not hurt them and that eventually, no matter how hard it feels for them in that moment, they will forget about this and move on. The same thing is happening for your brain. It’s throwing a little tantrum because it wants something and it’s not getting it, but that’s okay.
- When you find yourself craving something that doesn’t line up with your plan, just allow the uncomfortable feeling to be there. It’s okay. There’s no need for panic. It’s just a feeling.
- Consider the fact that there is no growth, no transformation without discomfort. You cannot become the person you want to be from your comfort zone. Discomfort is the sign that you’re doing the work. It’s the evidence that you’re creating the life you want to live and being the person you want to be – on your terms!
- Remember: We can do hard things!
Comment below and tell me if this was useful and if you think you can put these three tools to work for you this summer!