Skinny Daily Post


It would be a bit fraudulent for me to write to you about developing yet another health-supportive, weight-controlling habit while I digest the remains of the pecan-maple sticky buns, full-fat cheeses, syrupy, buttery sweet potatoes, bread and butter, sausage and pork roast I’ve served to my family today. While I wrap the last of the jars of herb tea I prepared as gifts for friends, I quaff the coffee I’ve laced with half-and-half. While I advise friends on all the merits of daily exercise, I’m spending every spare minute on my fanny, finishing up hand-made gifts.

Ah, the holidays, when good habits go bad.

But I do have a plan. I’ve chosen a date on my calendar — Monday, December 27, Back to Basics Day. On that day, all holiday slacking stops. I purge my house of holiday treats that found their way past my sensors. I mark my exercise “meetings” on my calendar, I add another 30 minutes per day to my regular exercise routine until the holiday weight creep is resolved. And I return to counting calories for one whole month. Every day for 30 days.

The deal is, I don’t have to sweat the holidays. I don’t have to make holiday food my enemy. I’m not quite as strict as usual. I even bought a bag of brown sugar and one of flour, and used them to make the holiday treats my husband’s father made for him every year. He loved them. It’s a bit of backsliding, alright. At the moment, we’re trying to get more done than we did last year in what seems like half the time. If we were trying to enforce our new way of eating in the middle of this, we would become very cranky people, indeed, or make our family cranky. Or both.

So we’re just giving it a small rest for a couple of weeks. No more. And on Back to Basics Day, we begin again. No impossible resolutions, no drama, nothing but a rededication to the healthy habits we work so hard to instill all year long: More vegetable-based foods, no bad fats, avoiding added sugar and refined grains, daily exercise.

There’s a strange psychology at play for me during this time. By having a clear end date in sight, the sweet foods have lost some of their power (although I still find that eating sweet food makes me want to eat more sweet food, and so I don’t eat it on an empty stomach, but only after my veggies and protein). I find the foods that in years past have served as guilty pleasures, food I might have snuck, or eaten when nobody was looking, are easier to manage if I know I may eat them without guilt. I know these foods taste good. I see other people enjoying them. I know I can have them if I want them. Maybe because I’ve given myself permission, I rarely want them. Or, I want them only when I’m hungry.

Knowing that on Back to Basics Day I’ll be putting in even more time at the gym, I’m more inclined to sneak in a few pushups or calf raises so I don’t lose all muscle tone in these couple of weeks off (amazing how much ground you can lose in two short weeks). I can feel my body looking forward to the gym. I can enjoy the time off without guilt, without feeling like a loser for not getting in the time right now. I do what I can, taking extra steps, climbing the stairs twice when once will do, finding exuses to walk just about anywhere. But soon I’ll get all the exercise I need.

Having a clear date in mind strips the guilt out of this time when keeping fitness and food habits in line is just too hard. Are you beating yourself up for your own imperfections? Stop, please, and put a big red X on your calendar. Decide what your Back to Basics Day will look like. Will you go back to your WeightWatchers class? Sign up for a new Kung Fu class? Start training for that Spring bike race? Will you count calories, portions, or cut out sugar for awhile? Make a plan. Write it down. Look forward to it.

Between now and then, I’ll be enjoying the holidays. I very much hope you will too.

27 thoughts on “Back to Basics Day

  1. jappy says:

    Excellent, as usual!

    Giving ourselves permission, knowing there’s an end in sight, takes so much pressure off. By setting a date for back to basics the negative self-talk will not be there to defeat us. It’s a realistic method that doesn’t make us feel we’ve failed. I suspect people without eating issues probably handle the holidays & celebrations this way all the time.


  2. Quinn says:

    Whatever happened to the the tradition of food treats that we only have at holidays such as Xmas, Thanksgiving, whatever, but NOT the whole year ’round?

    ‘Holiday food,’ that’s what they used to call it. the rest of the year people ate food with little or no sweeteners (sugar was expensive) or spices (spices were WAY too much money) and they did fine.

    Maybe we need to go back to that.

  3. scott says:

    gosh i love this site.

  4. Jonathan says:

    This year I noticed by early November that my eating habits were already producing some winter weight gain, so I decided right then and there that the Monday after Thanksgiving would be my personal “New Year’s Day.” As I had the date fixed in my mind and on my calendar, by the time it rolled around, I had that same feeling of “renewed resolve” that mostly only happens on 1/1. As a result, I haven’t felt in the least tempted by this year’s December holiday offerings, as my heart and mind have been set on my eating and weight management goals for the last 30 days. Its amazing how the mind works!

    Happy Holidays/Happy New Years/Happy Back to Basics Day!

  5. pat says:

    I like this site.

  6. Polly says:

    I love a woman who thinks like me! January 3rd is my big day to quit pretending going to the gym once a week is sufficient.

    Happy Holidays!

  7. jonquil says:

    Whatever happened to holiday traditions that don’t revolve around a lot of greasy, sugary, heavy food? When I was a kid, the holidays were all about music and caroling, decorating with greens, dancing, writing out cards, going to the tree farm to cut your own tree, making ornaments, lights, going to church (several times), storytelling, sledding, skiing, ice skating, snowmen, bonfires, and –yes– giving and receiving presents!

    Even now, when I visit with relatives from other countries, they are mystified: for them, food just isn’t the absolute center of the holiday scene. It’s there, but it’s not getting all the attention. And yet in my current neighborhood, the local women seem to be completely taken up with constant cooking and eating– they don’t have time to play with their kids, tell stories, or have any fun themselves. At the same time, they’re always complaining about what hard work the holidays are, the stress and the expense. But when I suggested we all go caroling, which wouldn’t cost a thing and would get them all out of the house, I got a “Eeewwww, that’s so weird” look.

    Is it possible that American food fixations have simply taken over the holidays, as they seem to have done during the rest of the year? Are we shoving other traditions into the background, or even losing them altogether, just to eat and eat and eat?

  8. MaryAnn Arnold says:

    I’ve signed up for these newsletters. I think this chick has it on the ball!

  9. Mari says:

    That’s my birthday!

  10. rebeka says:

    I couldn’t have sait this any better. I have been feeling so apathetic and I think it is just because trying to avoid the holiday eating and drinking makes it sooo hard to feel motivated. Thanks so much for your wonderful insight!

  11. clover says:

    thanks! i have been thinking along the same lines. i’ve lost 120 pounds in the past two years and i gain weight so easily now. it sucks. giving myself permission to relax a little on the diet and exercise means i’ll gain some weight. it is truly fightening but i feel like this is the next step for me.

    just to say it out loud: i exercise to keep my appetite in check, not to burn calories. i look forward to working out harder so that i can get some relief from constantly feeling hungry. please god, let it work again. if i start working out a lot and still feel hungry all the time i don’t know what i’m going to do.

  12. JuJu says:

    Hi folks. Thanks for your comments. Clover, I hear you. It’s hard, feeling this way. Finding ways to manage the hunger is critical.

    For me, eating little bits of protein throughout the day really helps a lot. I start the day with a protein shake, and snack on anything that contains protein just to keep it under control.

    It’s got to be worth it, though. This new life.

  13. Steph says:

    This comes at the right time for me. I lost weight last month but this month I’ve done nothing but eat and I’m afraid to look at the scale. But I’m definitely gonna make an end date and get back on track.

  14. loving30 says:

    Sounds like a great plan to me and I look forward to time off at Christmas and New Years to fit in lots of treats and exercise.

  15. Diana says:

    Aahh! How remarkable, you think exactly as I do! I love starting things on significant dates: the fourth of July, my birthday, the Solstice, etc. So God help me, my Back-To-Basics day is New Year’s Day. Even over the holidays I’ve done fairly well; I’ve kept up my workouts and watched what I eat (somewhat). But next year, I’m going to be really watching *what* I eat: is it all sugar, or something nutritional? My goal for next year is to eat my veggies, as they say.

    I do love this site so much. Thanks so much for all of this. Happy Holidays!

  16. Quinn says:

    Is it possible that American food fixations have simply taken over the holidays, as they seem to have done during the rest of the year? Are we shoving other traditions into the background, or even losing them altogether, just to eat and eat and eat?

    We here in the U.S. seemed to have substituted consumption of goods (i.e. shopping and feeding) for a whole range of other activities.

  17. Sarah says:

    JuJu–Great essay. My little WW support group of friends have all set our back to basics days, our own personal holidays to do something nice for ourselves, to spend some time on inner reflection of why we are doing what we are doing and what we want to accomplish, and to refocus on our weight loss efforts. I set mine for Dec. 27, I am tired of feeling out of control and over loaded on foods that I love, but that dno’t love me back. I am ready to go back to simple, wholesome foods, feeling my inner weight loss fire burning up the calories again, and to be headed in the right direction. Thank you for your insights!

  18. Val says:

    I ate a lunch buffet yesterday and had 2 brownies and tiny slice of cheesecake. Then I ate a huge holiday meal last night and a slice of cake. Resolved to go to the gym nevertheless, I went at 9:00 after the meal, warmed up with 20 minutes of cardio, lifted about 10 sets and ran to the bathroom to throw up. (I don’t have any bulimia issues, it just was body saying, no way, abuse and exercise cannot co-exist.) I think I learned that lesson again. Moderation and exercise will see me through the holidays. As long as I keep sneaking in time for the gym, even if it is 9 to 11 at night, it will remind me not to abuse my body, but to cherish it with healthy food over the holidays (and if I sneak a treat, it will be one that won’t make me sick!) That’s really enjoying the holiday. 🙂 In a much more svelte way!

  19. Ashley says:


    Would you mind sharing your protein shake recipe that you enjoy in the am?

  20. Nneka says:

    I hereby proclaim January 3rd Nneka’s Back to Basics Day. I promise to be moderate in the mean time.

    Thanks for the relief Juju.

  21. JuJu says:

    Hi Ashley,

    Our protein shakes are not fancy. I use Designer Whey as a protein powder, buy the Vanilla in bulk. Then we blend a scoop of that with water and a half a cup of frozen fruit, usually blueberries or raspberries, sometimes peaches. We might add a half cup of low-fat yogurt. Maybe some psyllium powder too, if we drink it right away.

    It’s a different shake each day depending on mood and available groceries. Sometimes I just shake up the powder with water. It’s not delicious, but it tamps down my hunger pretty effectively. A good start for me.

  22. Diana says:

    I’m so proud of you and your wonderful insights…great stuff. I’m sure this is what “S.O.B.” would say if he could, “BZ” (Bravo Zulu)” love, D

  23. Jaimie says:

    In November, I joined a gym right near my office and in December vowed to start making morning gym visits a part of my routine. Once I adjusted to getting up a bit earlier and packing my bag the night before, it was relatively painless. I’ve been going to the gym three times a week all December and feel much the better for it.

    I’ve noticed that when I’m exercising, even if I weigh exactly the same, I feel I look better. I feel more in control of my body and my life. My third morning gym visit this week will be tomorrow, and then a break for the holidays.

  24. Ralph says:

    I have to disagree with you on this one – it’s a bad, bad idea to abandon your new eating and exercise habits during holidays and give yourself permission to overeat and underexercise. Study after study shows that weight gained over holidays is never lost and diets that are going to start some day in the future never happen. Who wants to have to lose the same weight over and over again? Much easier never to put it on in the first place.

  25. Judy says:

    Great Insight, as usual, Juju.

    Festive foods are a part of the holidays for me, too. Part of my recovery as a formerly obese person is to eat in moderation in front of others. As an obese person, I would NEVER eat “bad” foods in the presence of other people. (“I don’t know why I cannot lose this weight!”) If I passed up the goodies at parties, I would feel justified sneaking and over-doing the festive foods in the privacy of my home when I am alone.

    Balance is the key. Just moving towards balance in my life is all I ask.

    It is back to counting points tomorrow morning for me. I am ready.

  26. Margie says:

    Man sinks almost to the level of an animal when eating becomes his chief pleasure~~Ludwig Von Beethoven.

  27. NewJane says:

    I have to agree with Ralph, as most years I have lost my focus and gained weight over the holidays. This year I unrealistically thought I could continue to lose while fighting continual food temptations. I battled hard, and ended up eating enough chocolate and cookies that I was hungrier than usual because of the nutritious food they displaced. I was so relieved when the season was over and people stopped pushing the sweets. I didn’t change a pound, which meant I fell a month behind on my one pound a week weight loss goals, but at least I didn’t gain the 6 pound national average and put myself 2 1/2 months behind!

    Next year I plan to throw a caroling party, probably early in December before everyone’s schedules are so swamped. Not doing that this year was my only real regret this year. I will know better than buying any bagged small chocolates, so temptations will be limited to social situations. Since my own weight loss plan doesn’t prohibit sweets, there is no need to modify it just to avoid feeling deprived over the holidays. I have only made changes I can live with the rest of my life. I am not “on a diet,” I am training myself to become a NewJane.

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