How to Do 4th of July "Damage Control"

We’ve all been there, for real.

Feeling guilty about our food choices, whether that simply means breaking your healthy eating streak by eating some items “off plan,” or entirely throwing caution to the wind and not looking back.

This is particularly easy to do on the 4th when food is everywhere and alcohol abounds, and there’s that largely unspoken belief that holidays = indulgence.

I’ll raise my hand and say I remember a 4th of July several years back – when I was still a restrictive eater coming off my Figure competing days – when I decided it was a complete eff-it day and along with one of my best friends, polished off… 3 pints of ice cream.

The guilt was overwhelming. That feeling where you want to please please please just escape yourself.

(It’s important to say here: while the food = guilt, I did actually have a lot of fun at points throughout that day… I mention that because in popular culture we look at food issues in such a clinical, reductive sense. It’s totally possible to be fun-loving and open in certain areas and to struggle in this other area. We are all beautifully complex.)

And as is so seemingly logical and certainly tempting, my response was to try and “undo the damage” by pulling my diet in even tighter and program the heck out of my workouts the next day and in the weeks to come. I think many of you will be able to relate to that, on some level.

This inevitably created a cycle of misery, because the restriction caused the overindulgence, and the overindulgence made me want to restrict. I could never actually arrive at my destination because it was inevitably 10 steps ahead, perpetually out of grasp.

That’s where the 4th of July “damage control” plan comes in. I will say, this isn’t “damage control” in the typical sense for 2 reasons:

  1. The term “damage control” implies that you did something wrong, which is a judgment. Judgment is the place we can be in the habit of letting our mind gravitate to, but it's counterproductive here. Going forward, it's helpful to practice replacing judgment with curiosity, which is neutral… curiosity about what this experience can teach you, what there is to glean here. (So, one might call this a post-4th of July eating “approach” or “philosophy.”) Curiosity opens up the space to gain insight and therefore break patterns.

  2. We will be focusing more on post-holiday eating mindset vs. what to tactically eat. The change many of us are seeking with food/body will and must happen in the mind first. This is unsexy, it doesn’t get instantaneous results, and it does not appeal to our ego sides (we all have ‘em, of course.) But I can’t sit here and pretend that the real answer is just to cut calories or select a 21-day jumpstart as the way out. Mindpower is what creates our lives, both with food/fitness and otherwise.

So, before I jump into the post 4th of July approach/philosophy, what’s implied by the above and important to say is this…

The work that it takes to eat healthy every day of the year but not stress out after the aberrations when you don’t happens moment-to-moment, during the day in and day out. Not only post-holiday when the challenge is pronounced.

That said, here are 5 ways to do post-July 4th “Damage Control”:

  1. Accept where you are. This is a step that we often don’t even think of, but is necessary and actually easier than it sounds. All it means is: take note of where you are, SEE IT, and accept that it’s the reality before trying to change anything. We can’t actually find a real solution(s) until we get real with our starting place, our baseline. Plus… accepting where we are in itself is a huge relief and opens up the space to create new, more nourishing patterns and habits. The How: Aside from taking a minute or two to process this mentally, you can also journal about it.

  2. Instead of opting into a diet regimen (outside-in approach), use your body as the ultimate source of wisdom as to what you should eat today and in the days ahead (inside-out approach). This is an ongoing journey for sure, and a scary one at that, because it requires deep trust. But what we often forget is that our body is designed to crave ingredients that maintain life (i.e. whole, unprocessed foods that support energy and vitality, and promote stable blood sugar.) Translation? If you listen to your body, you will naturally gravitate towards ingredients that will help you de-bloat, detox, get healthier, and lose body fat. The How: Really slow down today and when you find yourself hungry, ask yourself: What does my body feel like eating right now? What would nourish me? Then go eat that. For many of you, this will likely be water and lots of greens today. And remember, this is a practice that will become more effortless with time.

  3. Ask yourself: “What’s the lesson(s) here?” Life is always teaching us something, and as we all know, our struggles are our greatest teachers. Get down and dirty with tapping into your wisdom and finding the lesson beneath the food… journaling is, in my opinion, the most powerful way to do so (it forces you to sift through competing ideas and hone in on what's true.) This is The How. Today is actually a huge opportunity to learn so you can then apply that knowledge going forward and create deep, lasting changes.

Hope everyone had a fun weekend. If you have any questions or reflections about this, leave them in the comments – I'd love to hear 'em!

Love and light,
Valerie