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Reframe Your Thinking for a Successful Holiday Season

By Marni Sumbal

reframeWhen was the last time you beat yourself up for “cheating” on a diet, overeating or missing a workout? Multisport athletes are typically determined, passionate and hard working, and when a triathlete has a goal, no obstacle is too large. Because of this natural tendency to “want it all” it’s easy to question discipline with a black-and-white mentality and be hard on yourself when it comes to fitness and your eating habits during the holidays and offseason.  

How do you perceive yourself and the world around you throughout the holidays? Do you feel as if change is not possible no matter how hard you try? With 365 days in a year, there’s no reason to be extreme with your habits when it comes to the holiday season. Whether you fear a loss of fitness or a change in body composition, all you need is a little reframing to help shift your mind out of the negative place where you may find yourself stuck, so you can enjoy yourself.
According to Molly Kellogg, RD, LCSW, and author of Counseling Tips for Nutrition Therapists, “Reframing a problem involves placing it in a different context (or frame) and thereby changing its meaning. Often, this means taking something seen as bad (problem) and shifting either its content or its context so it can be seen as useful rather than bad. The new perspective leads either to acceptance or to creativity about what to do differently.”

For example, instead of saying “I can’t believe I ate so much today,” say, “I’m grateful to have access to enough food to keep my body healthy.” Or, instead of saying, “I’m so tired from my workout yesterday,” say to yourself, “I’m thankful to be alive and well today.”

Holidays present an opportunity to enjoy different foods you likely would not consume on a daily basis. To many, this is an overwhelming time, especially if you desire behaviors of discipline and restriction in order to prevent the anticipated holiday weight gain. We should be enjoying the holidays to treat ourselves to a few occasional indulgences, but an individual who is unable to reframe a situation will feel like a failure, well before the actual date of the holiday.

How many times have you desired quick weight loss before or after the holidays? People who spend all their energy on weight are stuck with a rigid frame to work with. Because the holidays are a time to share love and create memories with others, the most powerful thing you can do for your body is to explore your boundaries as to how food will enhance your life at the present moment and in the future. The holidays are not about a number on a scale or workout in order to eat.

If you do desire to improve health before the New Year, identify the outcomes for your desire to change body composition and the diet in order to make your lifestyle a more enjoyable journey. When it comes to practicing new behaviors for diet and exercise, discover the key behaviors that will bring you closer to short- and long-term goals. A sense of control with food while at a family reunion with enough food to feed an army can be a bit daunting at first. However, stepping away from your rigid frame and getting a little creative with your state of mind at food-related functions and holidays will generate behaviors that will last a lifetime. 

Instead of saying, “I can’t believe I am going to eat so much bad food. I’m going to feel so out of control,” say, “I can’t wait to use my new habits of recognizing how food makes me feel when I eat it. I want to feel better after I eat than before.”

Without even realizing it, most of us have enjoyed the life-changing journey that comes with calling yourself a triathlete. We have likely reframed countless situations in racing, in order to reach the finish line.  In a quest to improve health or performance, don’t let the holidays stop you from continuing to use food for fuel and for nourishment and for loving your lifestyle of swim-bike-run.

This is a great quote from Molly Kellogg you may want to keep in mind as we approach the holiday season: "It takes courage to demand time for yourself. At first glance, it may seem to be the ultimate in selfishness, a real slap in the face to those who love and depend on you. It's not. It means you care enough to want to see the best in yourself and give only the best to others."

Marni Sumbal, MS, RD, is a Certified Sports Nutritionist (CISSN) and holds a certification by the American Dietetic Association in Adult Weight Management. She is a USA Triathlon Level I Certified Coach, Ironman finisher and an Oakley Women ambassador, and she has contributed articles to a number of triathlon organizations, such as Lava Magazine, Triathlete Magazine, and To contact Marni, email, visit or become a fan of TriMarni Coaching and Nutrition on Facebook.

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and not necessarily the practices of USA Triathlon. Before starting any new diet or exercise program, you should check with your physician and/or coach.