How to Get Through the Holidays Without Gaining Weight

Weight

I was recently asked by a friend how to avoid holiday weight gain. I can definitely empathize. This wouldn’t be so hard if the holidays were simply a day or two of feasting in November and then again in December. But the holiday season has become a 2 month food free-for-all, and getting through it without weight gain can require a full-blown strategic plan. So, today I’m sharing the game plan I use.

I focus on 3 important factors:

  1. The environment

Frequently we become surrounded by temptations at work. People bringing cakes and pastries to the office. Clients sending candy and popcorn buckets as thank you gifts. The workplace is full of food temptations that are hard to prevent. At home you may face fewer disruptive elements…until the neighbor brings over the tin of cookies.  

The only thing you can control during this time period is the same thing you control year-round: your response. And you can stay committed to yourself regardless of what other people do. In fact, studies of people who maintained their weight loss over time found they stuck to their typical diet year-round.

In reality, the mass market confections coming your way are really not special, they just come with an extra dose of cheer and friendship, which we’d all love to consume more of! So put the “treats” in perspective. Are they really what you want? Enjoy the warmth and generosity, and dispose of the foodstuffs. Say thank you and give them away or donate them. Think of the actual holiday meal and look forward to knowing you’ll enjoy it because you haven’t been blowing it all month long. 

Don’t stress your resolve unnecessarily!  Stay out of the break room. Don’t stop to admire the desserts in the bakery section. Stop working at the kitchen table. And if you are surrounded by other people enjoying sweets and feel left out, bake an alternative, lower-calorie or sugar-free treat you can enjoy so that you don’t feel deprived. You may even see some conversions by sharing it with them!

  1. The menu

You should employ some strategic planning for the day itself. By knowing which foods really define the holiday for you, you can stay on plan and still enjoy the holiday meal.  If you can’t live without Aunt Emily’s sausage stuffing, make that dish your splurge and skip the other starches. In fact, why eat crackers and cheese, dips and chips, dinner rolls, or mac and cheese at all? These aren’t special on any other day of the year! So stick to what makes it really feel like the holiday. Example: fill your plate with greens and protein and add a portion of that favorite stuffing.  Perhaps take home a helping of something else you want if it will prevent overeating on the spot. Stay conscious of not overdoing it, and you’ll still have room for a holiday dessert. And may I suggest you bring a sugar-free one or healthier version you made yourself? Way to do battle!

  1. Mindset

Don’t make the holiday season a food holiday. Stay on your plan. Remember that taking care of yourself is your top priority. You can prevent weight gain by reviewing and recommitting to your goals on a daily basis. Remind yourself of your reason for maintaining your weight, and keep this “why” at the front and center of your mind. 

Take time to think over how you have eaten during holidays past. Where do you need support, a time-out from family, or more structure to insure you eat appropriately? What will you plan to eat? Do you need to prepare/bring a couple dishes to make sure there are foods that are good for you on the table?

Don’t forget about family dynamics. These often present emotional triggers that lead to overeating. Coping strategies you might implement might include: setting up an accountability partner, having a friend call you to create a few moments of separation from the crowd, hanging mainly with the relatives you most enjoy, taking a break to deliver a gift to the neighbors, and/or playing with a pet. And remember, you do not need to call attention to your eating plan nor answer lots of questions about it if you don’t want to. Just say “Love all this food, it’s great!” and ask the other person how they are, what they’re up to…it’s often easy to change the subject when the new subject is them.

Personally, I plan time for a workout in the morning. I skip the appetizers entirely and I don’t drink alcohol. I fill my plate with greens, protein, and a portion of one holiday food which works for my personal dietary approach. I always make and enjoy a great sugar-free dessert option. And when the holiday is over, it’s over.

You can absolutely maintain your weight by staying on your diet throughout the season, and allowing for a thoughtful indulgence or two on the day that matters. Plan ahead and be strategic. Consider rounding everyone up for a walk after the meal, even if it’s chilly! This burns calories nicely and can remind us adults of nature and sensory experiences besides eating, which we don’t always make time for.

Remember, the holidays should be a time of connection and peace, and with some simple planning you can keep on track and focus on what really matters. Enjoy!

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