Holidays like Thanksgiving stir up warm feelings around food and I’m lucky to be in a family that knows how to throw down at holidays. But, over the last year or so, I’ve had some pretty heavy taps on the shoulder, signaling that my body can no longer deal with my food choices the way it used to. So, last January, I decided to join my sister’s New Year’s detox challenge (30 days with no booze, sugar, gluten and all those other things that clog up the workings of your body). I knew that my biggest problem was sugar so I focused on that exclusively and managed to make it through that month with only a handful of bobbles. Heartened by this change, I decided to revisit my old friend, Weight Watchers. Logging food in their program has always kept me on track and with the apps that replaced all the pen and paper recording, things were considerably easier. In three months I lost 10 pounds and felt pretty damned good. More importantly, I looked at how my relationship with sugar had changed so that I turned to fruit more, bringing along vegetables since I could eat as much of that as I wanted on the program.  I knew real changes were happening with my choices and was agog when they started happening in my life away from home.

Starbucks has certainly seen a lot of me since their humble beginnings. When I worked in the city years ago, a generous slice of their iced lemon loaf was a part of my day every day for many, many years. It was a deeply ingrained routine. So, when I walked into my local Starbucks this past Spring, I did what always did: I went straight for the pastry case and searched the crowd until I found my beloved iced lemon loaf. But, this time, the color of the cake looked a little too yellow. The icing looked a bit hard and unwelcoming. I scanned the counter until I spotted a bunch of bananas. This was not the place where I usually saw myself picking up a banana but before I knew it, there was one in my hand. And, when I walked out the door five minutes later, I had a grande coffee in one hand and that banana in the other. I could barely believe it. I think I actually waved that banana at people as I crossed the street and was tempted to yell, “Look, Oprah! LOOK!” Since then, I’ve repeated this scenario several times even though I wasn’t on Weight Watchers any more and now this is what I automatically get when I go into Starbucks. It may sound like a small victory. But, if you can get enough of these small victories to stick, they become bigger victories.

I stopped the program during the month of July while I was abroad in France. Having my act together with sugar would only go so far there when there were breads, cheeses, and wonderful home cooking to contend with. Funny enough, I got truly derailed once I returned to Boston. It started with a car accident that totaled my car and then kept going until this past week which brings me to my personal Thanksgiving Day victory. Another tap on my shoulder earlier that week reminded me how remiss I had been in my eating so I decided to renew my efforts from earlier this year. Since we were so close to the holiday, I knew that things were not going to be as straightforward as my Starbucks victory. So, I thought back to my earlier years with Weight Watchers and brought forward what I had learned about staying on track during the holidays: I bypassed the alcohol. I ate everything I wanted but in much smaller portions. I made the effort to chew a little longer then I normally would. It was still a great meal. I just didn’t do it the way I usually did and still enjoyed it a lot. The weight loss on the scale the next day let me know that I did good and it felt good.

Thanksgiving is only the beginning of the holiday season so I’m hoping to get a lot of practice to cement in what I hope is a new habit for all big gatherings. And, in an effort to turn things around once and for all, I’m going to try and switch out one long-term habit each month for a year starting in December. Do you want to come join me? Let’s go build a victory together!