It’s that time of year again! A season full of social occasion after social occasion that feels like an obstacle course of trouble for anyone worrying about their waistline. I myself have fallen victim to the dreaded holiday weight gain- sometimes putting on 15 pounds in just a couple of months! And we all know it takes way longer than a couple of months to get that weight back off.
So how do you maintain your weight, or even lose weight, this time of year without missing out on all of the occasions and holiday traditions it has to offer? It’s all about strategy, self-control, priorities and keeping your eye on the bigger picture.
While the other tools for success mentioned above are very important, the #1 factor to staying in control of your eating over the holidays is strategy. That means looking at your week to figure out when temptation is going to strike (i.e. a work party, a gathering with friends, or a family celebration) and knowing how to plan around that event. A good rule of thumb is to stick to one indulgence per week. That doesn’t mean one full day of indulgence, but one meal or time frame for indulgence. I like to call this your “treat meal” rather than a “cheat meal” because you’re not cheating on your diet/healthy lifestyle if it is a part of your weekly plan… but that’s another article for another day. This means that if you have two events during the week where you know temptation will strike, it’s best to stick to healthy eating/drinking at one and eat off-plan at the other. For instance, if you have dinner at a restaurant with friends on Wednesday and a big family celebration on Saturday, you could stick to healthy choices in-line with your normal diet at the restaurant and indulge in more carbs/fats/sweets/alcohol at the family event – or vice versa! However, if you feel that you are someone who has a lot of self-control and are not an “all or nothing” type of eater, you could also choose to indulge at both events during the week without going crazy at either. Think of it as having two half treat meals rather than one full one.
Another strategy is to be selective about the events you attend. Yes, there’s a desire and almost obligation to socialize like crazy during the holidays as the events seem to be never-ending, but that doesn’t mean you have to go to everything. Look at your calendar and decide which events you don’t think you’d regret missing and knock them off the list. And if there’s something that can be rescheduled until after the new year when there’s not so much going on – such as that dinner with friends – then move it to a week where it will be your only off-track day. Repeat after me: “It’s okay to not go to every event and to not schedule everything within the same few weeks even if that’s what others want.”
Now that we’ve accepted that socializing – however frequent – will be a part of our holiday season, let’s talk self-control. Just because there’s 3 different pastas, potatoes, bread, multiple fatty meats, dairy-doused vegetables, endless trays of desserts, and copious amounts of alcohol does NOT mean that you need to eat and drink all of it even if it is your treat meal. Oftentimes when we’re on a diet or simply sticking to a healthy way of eating, we have feelings of deprivation and lots of thoughts of “I can’t eat this. I can’t drink this. I can’t have this.” So many “I can’ts” make us go crazy on food when we finally say “I can”. So when you do socialize and decide to let loose, remind yourself that you can have those foods whenever you want. It is your CHOICE not to have them on a regular basis but you are always ALLOWED to have them. Taking away that restrictive mindset will help you to have more self-control when you are around foods that you don’t normally eat.
Finally, let’s talk priorities and keeping the bigger picture in mind. If strategizing and self-control seem to be failing you, ask yourself what is more important to you: what you are about to eat/drink or your health. Sometimes we are just so darn hangry that the answer is going to be the food in front of us and we won’t care about those last 10 pounds on the scale in that moment. But oftentimes by asking yourself that question you’ll be able to keep your bigger picture in mind and know that those few cookies that will be eaten within a matter of moments really aren’t worth it. Sure, you’ll enjoy eating them, but how will you feel 5 minutes later? An hour later? The next day? Probably not very good. Now, I’m not saying don’t have any cookies or pasta or alcohol. I’m saying that if it wasn’t what you *planned* to have as part of your strategy for the week and self-control seems to be fleeting, focus on the bigger picture to help you stay strong and committed to your health goals.
And if you do gain weight, don’t beat yourself up. The holiday season is a field of temptation landmines that gets the best of us. But as long as you stay focused on your bigger goals and committed to your health, any setback on the scale will be minor and easily fixed. So go out there and have a happy and healthy holiday season – with a few extra indulgences 😉 You got this!
Best Wishes for a Happy and Healthy You,