Around the holidays, there seems to be ample opportunities to ingest a nickel size version of your favorite candy. Bite size candy bars, we call them. We grab one and say, I will have just one. I am, after all, trying to eat healthy. Then, while we are talking to Jim form HR, we have 3 or 4 more. What the heck, they are just bite sized candies, and Jim is rambling. I need to keep my energy up for this conversation. I am doing this for Jim! Somehow we get to number 19, and feel it would be terribly bad luck to end on an odd number. Like that, 20 bite size candies are gone. Somehow, we have skipped the unhealthy route of eating an entire chocolate bar by consuming the equivalent of 4 or 5.
The holidays are filled with many great things. Dressing up. Seeing family. Having excuses to be around home cooked meals and warm conversations. They also set us up to ingest a crazy amount of calories that we probably don’t need and will later complain about. It’s not the end of the world. No one has died from ingesting too many bite-sized candies to my knowledge, but our goals remain the same. We try to accept and minimize suffering, and we try to maximize well-being and self-compassion.
Here are some tricks to avoiding consuming too many of our bite-sized friends:
· First, if you can’t eat just one, save this snacking for a cheat day at the end of the week, so that it serves as a reward for doing good things for your body and limits the number you will consume.
· Second, Do not keep them around to consume all day. Take it from an expert. I have never let a bag of bite sized candies escape from my office alive!
· Third, if you want a couple a day; just bring a couple with you and consume them later in the day for a pick me up. When we consume sugar, our body will develop a craving for it. So, if you begin your candy eating at the beginning of the day, chances are that you will be searching for your next fix throughout the day.
· Fourth, leave the bag with someone else who does not have the same relationship to candy as you or simply leave the bag at home. Studies have shown the farther you have to go to access something, the less likely you are to access it.
· Fifth, stick to dark chocolate, it has fewer calories and magnesium that will help with stress.
· Sixth, use the candy bag compassionately, dispersing its contents among your coworkers only leaving a couple for yourself. Then, you get the double rewards of altruism and delicious candy.
· Seventh, whatever the result, be kind to yourself. Sometimes the candy is so good that we can’t help ourselves and even contemplate eating the bag!
Like my mother, I love sweet things so much that I cannot eat just one of anything. So like her, I do not keep candy in my house because my daily candy fix would look more like a candy meal. In the middle of my postdoctoral training, I forgot this grain of wisdom, and began to buy 1 and 2 pound bags of Twizzlers as a way to reward myself after a long day. Of course, I expected them to last all week, but on many days they lasted just one day. I was a Twizzler maniac! The problem was not the amazing Twizzler goodness. It was that I would crash afterwards, and with this low energy try to workout. If you have ever seen a video of a sloth crossing the road, I looked like that except less agile and slower.
After many sugar crashes, frustrating workouts, and pants that felt more like a tight seat belt than professional wear, I realized that I was using Twizzlers as a band aid rather than an effective outlet for my need to recover from a long day of work. Slowly, I changed my eating habits to provide myself with more vitality at the end of the day, and before going to the store I would do my self-compassion meditation.
The self-compassion meditation revitalized me, and I was off to do a good workout. I also used my understanding of psychology to cheat a little bit. It turns out that action movies increase adrenalin, so I would cue up a feel good action movie, which gave me the same boost as the Twizzlers, but with no crash. I snuck in some working out while the movie was going on, whether it was on my stationary bike in front of the television or on one of the many cardio machines at the gym while using my Ipad or phone. Then voila, suddenly I had friendlier fitting pants, and more energy during the day. Even my sleep was better. Although, I did have considerably more action oriented dreams, which was great, but sometimes disappointing to wake up and realize that you can’t fly or shoot lasers out of your eyes. Hey, work commutes are long and canned tuna is hard to open! A little flying to work and laser can opener skills would have come in handy.
Well-being and rewards are available to all people, but we want the kind that lasts. The self-compassionate way is about skipping the band-aid and finding the outlet that nourishes and revitalizes you in the moment and into the future; giving us what it takes even after work to pursue a full life.
When you find yourself in a rut of feeling exhausted or stressed with short-term fixes that eventually leave you feeling more stress, appeal to your self-compassionate resources. Acknowledge the stress. Name it. Make space for it. Bring compassion to your experience. Then ask yourself, how you can most kindly respond to this dilemma.
Don’t fear the bite sized candies, just take bigger bites into a self-compassionate life. Your results will be sweeter and your body’s rewards greater. In my experience, even your pants will feel friendlier.
365 Days of Kindness. Self-Compassion. Day 37. In the Books.