By Karl Ronn, First Mile Care CEO and Founder

‘Tis the season to overeat. We all do it even when we swear we won’t. But that’s OK. The First Mile Care Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) is not about dieting. It’s not about self-denial. It’s about making small, incremental changes to your lifestyle to become more healthy, and learning to maintain those new habits you form over the year-long span of the program.

Here’s one change that can make a big difference to your health, not only during the holiday season but year round.

You are not the garbage can

What is tough at this time of year is that food is the centerpiece of festivities and is often offered as a token of love and friendship and neighborliness. Or you may have a fridge bursting with leftovers after your guests depart.

Most of us were brought up to clean our plates and finish leftovers. We have a lot of guilt associated with food waste. One of our DPP participants said he felt guilty for throwing food into the trash bin, but he also felt guilty if he ate foods he knew weren’t healthy, simply because he didn’t want to waste them. Guilt associated with both choices! Finally he realized, “The food goes into the garbage can or it goes into me — and I am not the garbage can!” He now allows himself to say “no” to friends and family and to throw food away, guilt-free.

First Mile Care Coach Sandra Huskey likes to tell the story of when she went to a Houston-area summer festival with her mother. They bought a giant cupcake to share. They each took a couple of bites and it was delicious, but neither wanted to finish it. Sandra pointed to the trash can but her mother refused. It took a painful couple of minutes before she could bring herself to throw it away. In Sandra’s view, they each had derived their enjoyment and satisfied their sweet tooth. They’d gotten their money’s worth. But in her mom’s opinion, they had wasted good money if they threw away uneaten food.

I have learned to overcome my own guilt feelings at throwing away french fries. I love them but know I can’t eat all the fries and have the drink that comes as part of the meal. So when I fill my cup, I throw away half the fries, right then. I know if I take them to the table, I won’t be able to stop, so I eliminate the temptation. And in that way, I still get to enjoy tasty fries rather than turning them into a forbidden food.

Another First Mile Care participant has a similar practice. When she orders a restaurant meal, she immediately requests half to be put into a takeout container, so that she avoids the temptation to overeat.

Trial and error

It’s important to keep in mind that lifestyle change is a process that requires time and commitment. The DPP hinges on behavior modification through a full year of integrated advice and support along many vectors. You are guided in making a personal plan, trying it, and probably failing. For some people, finding time to be active is difficult. For others, what’s key is identifying stress triggers or learning to recognize a healthy portion of food. Then you make a new plan and iterate, learning what works for you. Because if you don’t like it, you’re not going to do it in the long term. The group reinforcement and professional coaching will help you to surmount your challenges and sustain you after the novelty wears off.

The holidays are a busy and stressful time for most people, even if they are also full of joy. Allow yourself a little slack. You will probably eat more and exercise less. Give yourself permission to fail. The important thing is to keep trying and not become discouraged.

Take it easy

A First Mile Care DPP graduate who is a self-professed perfectionist said, “One of the things I learned from Coach Karalyn Cass is to give yourself a bit of grace. I think that’s something I need to have in front of me all the time. It’s really been a wonderful lesson for me to remember from this class.”

So, during the holiday season, when you’re confronted with tempting foods and drinks, remember that the garbage can is your friend. If you can, take leftovers to the office or your church or otherwise give it away, but don’t feel guilty if it goes into the trash bin. You control what you eat and how much. And you are not the garbage can.

Check out other articles on the First Mile Care blog for helpful advice on coping with the challenges you may experience around the holiday season:

As you can read in our DPP participant testimonials, change may come slowly and incrementally and you may regress at times, but it IS possible if you persevere. Sustainable lifestyle change is within your grasp.

To learn more about how you can benefit from the First Mile Care Diabetes Prevention Program, take the prediabetes risk test and get started today!