A special report from the teachers of The Lose Weight, Gain Money(SM) Program 

The holiday season is upon us. And with it comes the inevitable overspending and overeating, right? Inevitable? No! It’s up to you. 

The key to maintaining the fatness of your wallet and the slimness of your waistline is a willingness to break the rules. Which rules? The rules of your childhood, the rules of your family, the rules of fashion and the social rules that demand that you spend huge quantities of money on gifts, eat huge quantities of food and generally lose control in an effort “to have a good time,” no matter the cost.

There is a powerful bridge between gaining weight and losing money – during the holidays – and at any time. Both weight gain and money loss are due to:

  • Excessive consumption
  • Imbalance between what’s coming in and what’s going out
  • Loss of control (including disrupted energy and lack of self-discipline)
  • Comfort Seeking (including addictions, bingeing and self-medication)
  • Genetics and family patterns
  • Environmental influences, including peer pressure, fashion and trends
  • Faulty equations in which money = love and food = love

Because the holidays are a time of office parties, family dinners and social get-togethers, these influences are at their most powerful during this time. For example: To show our children that we love them, we feel obliged to buy them multiple, expensive presents, particularly if we are divorced or working parents. But wait a sec – money does not equal love. 

To show we are successful, we want to lavish expensive gifts on our loved ones … but wait a sec, are you going to regret this come January, when you open the credit card bill? Do you really need to keep up with the Jones’? Isn’t it more successful to spend within your means and show that you love your loved ones … by loving them?

Think back to your childhood. What are your most memorable experiences? Sure, there’s the time your uncle dipped his hand into his pocket and came up with a green bill. But don’t you also remember when Grandpa held your hand and took time to look into the puddle with you, searching for tadpoles? Or the time Mom and her sisters went into the kitchen to bake cookies and let you come in and help? Did you always receive an incredible amount of gifts? Were you always around people who over-indulged at holiday parties? 

Why not develop holiday rituals that don’t involve overeating or overspending. Something meaningful. Something that increases you self-esteem, self-respect or sense of accomplishment and improves your health and happiness. 

What rituals from your childhood can you revive and reinstate that don’t involve spending or eating? Lighting the channukah candles? Switching off all the lights in the house, and watching the lights on the Christmas tree? Which were the most meaningful? 

Let’s get our priorities straight. What are the holidays really about? And most important, what do you wish the holidays to be about for you and your family?

Three Steps to Stop You from Gaining Weight and Losing Money During the Holidays

1. Strategize 

You can avoid overspending and overeating by making a plan and following it.

Be realistic. How much can you afford to spend? How much can you afford to eat? Budget for gifts and budget for eating.

Set a limit and write it down. If it’s easy to spend using a credit card … don’t. Write yourself one check advance for your checking account and write checks. When the money’s gone, it’s gone. Keep track of how much you’re spending. Establish a gift dollar amount for each person on your list – and stick to it. Maintain a written list of what you’re buying for whom and a log of your purchases. Likewise with eating – write a list of the foods you want to avoid and a list of the foods you can safely eat – then keep a log of what you do eat, and even, to make your success visible, a list of what you successfully chose not to eat. Turn it into a game.

Don’t spend your anticipated bonus/money gifts in advance. In any case, we tend to spend that bonus multiple times, on various projects, before we actually get it!

No impulse buying. Plan your gift buying. Don’t go “looking for gifts.” You know what’s in the shops. Think about each person and what will be most meaningful to them. Show your love by showing that you listened! Each of your friends and family has their special interests and desires. A book about a personal interest, a gift voucher for the store that supplies their hobby, an article in a favorite color, an addition to a valued collection, a DVD of a favorite movie or a CD by a favorite musician is meaningful recognition and shows your care and support.

No impulse eating. Don’t go to the party hungry. Hunger erodes self-control. Eat healthy foods before the holiday party – and take healthy food with you, for you and everyone else. Even if they don’t say so, your family and friends will respect you and may even follow your example.

Manage your time. Time pressure causes impulse buying, guilt and overspending: ” I should have thought of this before … how can I prove that I care?” Time pressure causes you to rush into the supermarket and buy the easiest, saltiest, highest carb party food available. 

2. Trouble-Shooting 

Beware of resistance from family members. They may not be of the same mind as you about watching their waistline and their wallet over the holidays. Some may even feel angry that you don’t want to “join in the fun.” But is it really fun to eat too much, spend too much and pay the price in January? 

Which family member/friend is likely to support you? Speak to this person in advance. And, remember that your new habits are about you as an individual. Here are some ways to keep you out of trouble: 

Plan ahead. Set a certain date at which you will stop shopping. During quiet time, make a list of easy party foods that are healthy/low fat/low carb. Ask your friends for ideas.

At the party buffets, eat salads first to take the edge off your hunger. Use a plate. Don’t stand at the table and pick. Drink a full glass of water between alcoholic beverages.

Remember your goal – you are gift shopping for others right now. Avoid buying items for yourself (one for you, one for me) that you are tempted to buy while caught up “in the moment.” Distinguish between “need “and “want.”

Budget your money and budget your treats. If you love Aunt Betty’s pecan pie and can’t resist a slice … don’t. Budget for this and allow yourself the pleasure. But just because you’re going to have pecan pie, doesn’t mean you have to eat mashed sweet potatoes smothered in syrup and marshmallow, two helpings of stuffing and unlimited Hershey’s kisses. Don’t blow the bank and don’t blow the diet. Restrict sugar and carbohydrate intake even when you’re “treating” yourself.

Instead of buying gifts for every member of your family, suggest that everyone draw names out of a hat for gift giving (at least for the adults).

Left it too late for this year? Use this time to plan for next year – there is another holiday season coming up, next year and the year after … Use this year to listen, plan, think ahead. 

3. Identify Your Personal Triggers

Forewarned is forearmed. Being cognizant of your personal triggers will help you keep them at bay.

Do you overspend on gifts to assuage your own feelings of guilt? Think about the recipient. Receiving an overly lavish gift can make for an uncomfortable feeling. People want gifts that demonstrate that the giver knows who they are – not necessarily gifts that carry the highest prices tags.

Do you overeat at holiday gatherings so as not to hurt a family member’s feelings? If so, let them know ahead of the event, in private, that you are watching what you are eating and suggest what you prefer to eat. This will help you avoid disappointed feelings because you’re not indulging in lovingly prepared foods. 

Do you drink to make other people more interesting? Is alcohol a trigger that makes you eat more than you would like? Do you eat from boredom, or to alleviate tension?

Do you confuse being generous with being lavish? You can be generous with your heart, not your wallet. Be generous with your time, attention and support. 

The Lose Weight Gain Money Guide to Gifts

Rather than giving someone something they don’t want, make a contribution toward a truly desired item and write a card to say what you hope the money will be used toward.

Pass on an heirloom – something you love, but no longer use or need – to someone who will really appreciate the sentimental value. For example: a piece of jewelry

Seek out items with potentially life-changing value, rather than high price tags. Examples: an insightful book, a gift certificate for an “experience.” 

Match the gift to the recipient’s tastes. Some people love craft and homemade gifts, others prefer recognized brand names and gifts from well-known stores.

Gifts people seem to most appreciate include personalized items, such as calendars made with family photos, quotes done in calligraphy, a framed joke or cartoon in accordance with the recipient’s sense of humor.

New Ways to Celebrate

It is the holiday season. It is time to celebrate. It is time to relax and have a good time. Here are eight ideas for family time that don’t involve eating or spending: 

1. Turn off your cell phones and computers and spend uninterrupted time together.
2. Start that book or magazine you have been meaning to read
3. Get back to nature – take a hike or a bike ride in the woods 
4. Build a fire together and sit in front of it
5. Listen to music
6. Watch a favorite movie
7. Work together on hobbies or crafts projects
8. Play games, build a puzzle, tell each other stories. 

Above all, be realistic. If this is the first holiday season that you have picked to put your life in order, don’t expect to lose weight – be content to not gain any “winter pounds”. You don’t need to drastically slash your gift-giving budget to the bone – just be aware of what you are spending and when to quit shopping.

Are you going to drink too much, eat too much and bust your budget in grim determination to “have a good time” this holiday season, or are you going to be hold onto your self-respect, self-control and be yourself? Watch your waistline, your wallet and your waste-line, this holiday season. Wishing you a happy, healthy and prosperous new year. 

About the authors: Vivien Schapera has been working in private practice as an Alexander teacher and Energy Healer since 1983. Drew Logan retired from banking, at the age of 41. He currently consults and volunteers for non-profit organizations. How to Lose Weight and Gain Money A Program for Putting Your Life in Order (FourWinds Press, 2004) is available from your favorite bookstore. You can reach Vivien and Drew through http://www.loseweightgainmoney.com/ to find out more about the Lose Weight, Gain Money book and program