Resisting Temptation at Holiday Parties. “How can I stay calm and controlled?”

You can handle holiday parties, resisting temptation and managing similar types of stress-inducing events with ease and mastery, if you plan in advance.

When you’re prepared, you’re calm and rational and can make good decisions.

For stressful situations like holiday buffets, “inoculate” yourself with the following “4-Step Method of Stress Inoculation”:

1. Prepare for the stressful situation:

  • Ask yourself, “What do I have to do to stick to the Pritikin Eating Plan?
  • Tell yourself, “I can make a plan to deal with this challenging situation.”
  • Develop the plan and write it down. For example, take an index card and write what you’ll eat during the cocktail hour, the main course, and at dessert time. Bring the card with you. Don’t make decisions at the party! Your decisions were already made at home, when you were calm, rational, and not experiencing the stress of unhealthy temptations that lead you away from your healthy goals.
  • Practice positive but rational self-talk: You might say to yourself:
    • “This could be a tough situation, but I have a plan and I can handle it.”
    • “I’m going to the party to celebrate the holidays with friends and family, and this, not food, is the reason for this party.
    • “I may be tempted, but that’s natural. I’ll just practice some relaxing breaths, and wait for the urge to pass.”

2. Confront the stressful situation:

You’re at the party! Reassure yourself that you can handle it. You have a plan and have been encouraging yourself with positive self-talk.

  • If you need to, escape for a mini-relaxation. Find an empty room, sit down, close your eyes, and take 10 deep long diaphragmatic (from the belly) breaths. This brief relaxation builds in a pause. A pause gives you time to take charge. Remember, urges will pass.
  • Use positive rational self-talk to increase your feelings of confidence and commitment:
    • “I can meet this challenge. I have a plan, and I’m in charge.”
    • “I’m here to celebrate a special occasion, not a special binge.”
    • “I’ll enjoy the people, and it will be a great evening.”

3. Cope with feelings of being overwhelmed:

If you’ve followed Steps # 1 and 2, there’s a good chance you won’t need to employ Step #3. If you do, that’s okay. If you start to lose control:

  • Have a back-up plan. For example, if you find your eating is out of control during the cocktail hour, promise to eat low-calorie-dense selections at dinner, like big green salads and roasted vegetables.
  • Stay focused on the present. Don’t “fortune-tell” (don’t predict that you’ll never get back on track with your eating plan.)
  • See strong temptations as a signal to problem-solve. If you see a waiter coming with your favorite hors d’oeuvres, look for someone you’d like to talk to who’s across the room. Or head for the bar for another tangy Virgin Mary. You can also silently review your reasons for eating healthfully (e.g., “I really want to keep my diabetes under control”).

4. Evaluate:

As soon as you have time, review the evening.

  • Think about what you learned that can help you do better next time.
  • Recognize even small successes. Perhaps you had dessert, but only tasted a few bites. That’s terrific!  Praise yourself for trying. Be proud that you’re conscious of your eating behavior, and working on improving it.
  • If you had a rough time, forgive yourself. Use positive, rational self-talk such as:
    • “It didn’t work. That’s okay. I’ll get better.”
    • “What did I learn? I can use that to make progress and problem solve.”
    • “Great. I got through it. I wanted three slices of cheesecake, but I ate just one. Next time, I’ll do even better.”
  • And if you scored a home run, enjoy it!
    • “I handled it well.”
    • “Wait till I tell my best friends and family.”

“Stress Inoculation can be used before any event that makes you anxious,” encourages Dr. Arvon. “Everything begins in the mind. Planning and rehearsing your behavior for challenging events is a sure way to increase your feelings of control and calm.”

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