AIM: Kickoff to the Eating Season

aim logoFall is a bittersweet season for me. On the one hand, there’s the beautiful foliage and the break from oppressive summer heat. There’s football and tailgating, county fairs and fall festivals, Halloween and Thanksgiving. This year we also have the rare Thanksgivukkah, in which Thanksgiving and the first day of Hanukkah collide. (Sweet potato latkes and pumpkin-filled donuts, anyone? Yes, please, says this Protestant.)

pumpkins of all colorsIf there’s downside to fall besides fewer daylight hours, it’s that there seems to be food-food-food every time you turn around! Of all the seasons, fall has the most food-centric focus, which makes a lot of sense considering the abundance of foods harvested at this time of year.

Apples, pears, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, dates, squash, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, pomegranates, and a variety of root vegetables are all harvested in the fall. We, of course, turn that healthy bounty into caramel apples, sweet potato casserole, pumpkin pie, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin-shaped candy, etc. and then groan about the temptations of the season. (I know it’s not just me!)

Despite all these manufactured temptations, I somehow managed to lose weight and mostly keep it off through the past five fall seasons, and to be honest, it’s really not all that hard for me. Well, no harder than your average Tuesday. (Now, Christmas–well, that’s another story and another post entirely.)

It wasn’t always that way, of course. In the past, I started eating Halloween candy and pumpkin-shaped everything from the time it hit the shelves, through the holiday itself, up until the clearance candy I bought ran out, which was usually just in time for Thanksgiving and its 4-day food celebration. I wasn’t gorging myself every waking hour, but when added to my poor diet in those days, it’s not difficult to see where 100 extra pounds came from.

But that was then and this is now. I’ve made changes over the past few years that enable me to enjoy the season in moderation.

Instead of indulging throughout the season, I put boundaries around the celebratory times and foods. If I’m going to a regional fair, I pick one thing to enjoy. (For me, it would be a corn dog/pronto pup.) For Halloween, I might have one or two chocolate pumpkins, instead of one or two packages. For Thanksgiving, I’ll enjoy whatever I want during the meal and go right back to my normal way of eating afterward. Establishing these mental boundaries help me enjoy the celebration without going overboard.

Regular readers know that my approach is one of moderation. I eat foods from all food groups, with an emphasis on the healthier side of the equation. I don’t rule any food out completely, but the less nutritious foods are enjoyed less frequently and in smaller portions. For me, this sets a proper mental place for these kinds of foods, so that when they show up in abundance during this season, there’s no built-up rush to overeat them. I might not be explaining it sensibly, but it makes sense to me. :)

While I don’t usually keep a detailed food and exercise diary these days, I do have a running tally in mind throughout the day–not the nitty gritty nutritional numbers, but a general idea of total calories and servings of specific food groups. This is mostly a leftover habit of my weight loss phase and not an unwelcome one. I like being aware of what’s going on with my eating. Not being aware is what got me in trouble in the first place.

That’s my approach to the “eating season”. It’s worked for me so far, and I’m sure hoping it works this year, too! I’ll certainly let you know if I find a need to adjust. As of today, though, bring it on! :)

If you haven’t done so already, be sure to check out the other AIM bloggers’ thoughts on “the eating season”:
Lynn @ Lynn’s Weigh
Lori @ Finding Radiance
Debby @ Debby Weighs In
Shelley @ My Journey to Fit

logo: Adventures in Maintenance with photos

AIM: Adventures in Maintenance is Lynn, Lori, Debby, Shelley, and Cammy, former weight-loss bloggers who now write about life in maintenance. We formed AIM to work together to turn up the volume on the issues facing people in weight maintenance. We publish a post on the same topic on the first Monday of each month. Let us know if there is a topic you’d like us to address!

17 thoughts on “AIM: Kickoff to the Eating Season

  1. I like your tip of boundaries around the eating.
    There was some “””diet””” back in the day where they suggested treat meals last only an hour.
    Im not a diet person :-) but that concept really really helped clients of mine.

    • When I was in losing mode, I set the boundary of time spent at the table. When I got up, the splurge was done. No stretching it out for the whole evening. :)

  2. Ah…awareness. Lately (as you’ll read in my post), I’ve been quite aware of what goes in my mouth, and yet I do it anyway. I call it “aware with a side of guilt” LOL

    And you’re spot on about the abundance of the harvest this time of year and how we bastardize (my word) so many of those wonderfully healthy foods! Today, though, I’m going to make either sweet potato soup or butternut squash soup, rather than smother either in butter and brown sugar :)

  3. The way you balance your food is admirable. No wonder you do so well during the Eating Season – you don’t seem to fall for the hype!

  4. Great Post, Cami. Boundaries, balance and mindfulness are a powerful combination, during any season, especially “The Eating Season.”

    Fall is my favorite time of year. And its the season I finally kicked the diet habit forever.

    Several years ago, I walked back into a Weight Watchers Meeting in September at goal, instead of in January with excess pounds to shed, once again.

    With that one action, everything shifted.

    By early November I was transplanted to Florida, where my Dad had been admitted to hospice. I spent more than a month mostly in his room, conveniently located right across from the kitchen, where sweet treats and snacks were available 24/7. If there ever was an excuse to eat for comfort this was it!

    Somehow, the commitment I had made just a few weeks earlier, was able to sustain me through one of the most tumultuous Eating Seasons of my life. My dad made his transition in early December. (The last food I remember him enjoying was banana pudding on Thanksgiving day.) And I returned to WW in January in maintenance mode.

    I love your new Adventures in Maintenance Group. So much is written about weight loss and so little about maintenance. I was always pretty good at weight loss (once I set my mind to it). But, learning to maintain is the real secret to weight loss success!

    I look forward to reading and following along with your adventures :-)

    • Thank you for your comments, Martha, and for sharing your story. It’s hard to manage weight loss amidst everyday stresses; I can’t even imagine how difficult it was to manage weight under the dual pressures of stress and grief. Although now that I’m thinking about it, when my mother was diagnosed with epilepsy and in the ICU after a seizure, I was able to stick to my plan fairly easily. I remember thinking at one time, “I might not be able to make my mother any better, but I can by golly stay out of the snack machine.” LOL (I did eventually cave and get a package of peanut butter crackers. :))

  5. ALL of my past successful weight loss efforts have begun on or around October 1. Wasn’t planned that way – just coincidence, but since I know I can do it (if I need to), I certainly can’t ever use the eating season for an excuse.

    • Once you’ve successfully navigated the holidays or vacation or any other food-centric event, you can’t really play the excuse card anymore, can you? Shoot. Wish someone had explained that to me before. :)

  6. I loved your list of all the bounteous fruits and veggies of fall. I am very thankful for all of those foods. Its interesting, if you think about it, all of those things seem to be very intensely flavored foods, don’t they?

  7. Like you, I do the boundaries as you call them. Sometimes I bump pretty hard on them, but at least they are there.

  8. Great plan to have boundaries to help navigate the holiday eating. Everyone has to find the way that works for them and it sounds like you have a tried and true way for you!

  9. Love this Cammy & sorry for delay! I knew I wanted more time with this post so waited till I had time to read it slowly vs. in a rush! :) I am with you here! I pretty much eat the same all year round & that allows me to decide which treats I want to eat & I eat healthy the rest of the time.. it is all about choices & what works for us. With time, I learned to enjoy every week with treats so it is not like I have to go bat crazy at the holidays.. like you – boundaries & what I really want to eat. I also am like you with this: I do have a running tally in mind throughout the day–not the nitty gritty nutritional numbers, but a general idea of total calories and servings of specific food groups. :)

  10. Great tips on moderation. I love all the fall foods but I need to remember I love them just as well without all the sugar and butter. I am referring to sweet potatoes.

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