Maintaining your weight through the holidays can be a tricky balance. Staying on track is a challenge when you’ve got endless tasty treats to tempt you and Grandma is pressuring you to have that second slice of her famous pumpkin pie.
On top of that, we often have emotional attachments to many holiday foods because we associate them with fond holiday memories. With all these obstacles, avoiding holiday weight gain probably sounds about as realistic as Santa squeezing his way down your chimney on Christmas Eve.
Of course, the holidays are absolutely a time of celebration, family, friends, and indulgence… in moderation! With all that in mind and the holidays rapidly approaching, here are some logical strategies to help you stay on track and dodge the pressure to overeat.
1. Define Your Why
Defining your reason for eating healthy and losing weight is a powerful motivator! Remembering why you decided to lose weight in the first place can help you stay on track throughout the holidays. It’s ok if you stray off the path a little bit but knowing your why will make it easier to get back on track quickly.
Most likely, you started eating healthier because you wanted a change. Change is never easy or comfortable. It’s hard work and often inconvenient.
That being said, you don’t have to eat perfectly all the time, but do try to be realistic and honest with yourself. You won’t achieve the results you want if you don’t make the changes required to get there.
2. Know Your Triggers
According to medical experts, “Stress around the holidays is one of the most common triggers for unhealthy eating and IBS symptoms.” If you struggle with tummy troubles and fatigue caused by IBS, following a low-FODMAP diet will help you manage those symptoms.
Finding healthy ways to manage stress will also be essential. Yoga and other forms of exercise are beneficial for reducing stress, as well as assisting with healthy weight management.
Alcohol can also lower your inhibitions and lead to unhealthy eating and lifestyle decisions that you might regret later on. If this sounds like you, we recommend having just one glass of wine with dinner or cutting yourself off after one pre-dinner cocktail.
Of course, desserts are another major trigger around the holidays. If you find it hard to indulge in moderation when there are tons of tasty treats to choose from, consider avoiding dessert at the party altogether. Instead, our experts suggest taking a moderate portion with you and enjoying it at home where you won’t be tempted to have seconds or thirds.
3. Eat Before You Start Celebrating
Have you ever skipped breakfast or lunch to “save your calories” for later? Unfortunately, this isn’t the best strategy for maintaining weight through the holidays… or at any other time. Opinions may vary on how important breakfast is, but there’s no denying that skipping meals can lead to binge eating later on.
If you head into a holiday celebration super hungry, you’re more likely to reach for unhealthy foods and you’ll have a much harder time resisting that second piece of pumpkin pie. Eating a healthy, high-protein meal earlier in the day helps to curb your appetite and reduce cravings.
So, what’s the best strategy? Have a reasonable breakfast or lunch that contains protein and healthy fats, so you feel satisfied longer and won’t be tempted to stuff yourself with fattening foods later.
4. Prioritize Protein
Just like eating protein earlier in the day, prioritizing protein during holiday meals can also help you maintain a healthy weight and avoid overeating. That’s because protein increases satiety and helps you feel fuller longer.
If you’re not into animal protein, that’s ok! Legumes and whole grains are fantastic sources of protein on a plant-based diet.
5. Bring Your Own
If you’re going to someone else’s home for a holiday meal, it’s hard to know if there will be any healthy food options available. Rather than probing the host or hostess about what they’ll be serving, consider bringing your own main dish, side dish, or healthy dessert to share.
You can still indulge in moderation but knowing that you have something healthy that you enjoy eating to fall back on will help you avoid binging on unhealthy food options. Not sure what to bring? Here are some healthy, festive recipes to try:
- Very Low-Calorie Lasagna
- Healthy Deviled Eggs
- Crustless Protein Pumpkin Pie
6. Try the Buddy System
Enlisting support from a friend or family member can be extremely valuable when you’re trying to make healthy changes. They can hold you accountable for exercising and following a healthy diet, advocate for your success, and offer support when you need it.
Ask your buddy to help you stay on track during holiday get-togethers where there will be lots of temptations present. They can distract you with conversation and other activities, so you enjoy the celebration without overindulging.
You can also hold yourself accountable and get support from a larger group of people by sharing your goals on social media.
Don’t try to get through the holidays with an all-or-nothing mentality. Cut yourself some slack and don’t beat yourself up if things don’t go as planned. The big picture is what really matters, so don’t sweat the small stuff.
If you have a slip-up, shake it off and get back on track the next day. One mistake isn’t going to offset all your hard work. Just be careful not to let it become a domino effect of poor eating decisions from Halloween through New Year’s.