If you’ve ever tried to hold yourself back from a table of hors d'oeuvres at a holiday party or eaten the entire tin of Christmas cookies someone gave you, you know how hard it is to avoid holiday weight gain.
The traditions don’t exactly set us up for success: making gingerbread houses, decorating sugar cookies, popping champagne, drinking eggnog, enjoying a Christmas feast, having peppermint bark and pumpkin pie, and drinking hot chocolate by the fire.
In a season of splurging and celebrating, it’s hard enough to stay within your boundaries and maintain your weight, let alone lose weight.
But it can happen. Over the years, I’ve walked alongside my clients through this challenging season by helping them create a game plan and healthy boundaries, among other tricks.
Don’t take it from me. I want you to hear tips to stay healthy over the holidays straight from these incredible women.
Here are their best tips to avoid holiday weight gain.
How to Navigate Holiday Parties
“I try to make a plan before any holiday meal. For example, I’ll have one small appetizer to be polite, one serving of food (no going back for seconds), small dessert and 1-2 glasses of wine max. If I have a plan I find that I won’t mindlessly graze or lose track of how many glasses of wine I’ve consumed." - Monica H.
“Grazing is my worst problem. I keep a distance from the snacks cause I tend to let my hand pick food up and eat if I’m near. I’ll also keep a drink in my hands while socializing so I actually can’t pick the food up. If we’re having appetizers before dinner I’ll avoid the appetizers and focus on dinner food to enjoy.” - Kathy S.
“Last year I worked on cutting back to wine or cocktails just one day a week. More mocktails or fizzy waters!” - Jess H.
“I try to eat healthy before parties so I’m not hungry at parties. I also set a limit for myself, i.e. one treat at the party. If I slip up, I try to incorporate more exercise to make up for that.” - Jen M.
“I limit liquid calories that are often found in holiday favorites like hot chocolate, pumpkin spice lattes, peppermint mochas...and stick to water!” - Leslie G.
Hosting Dinner Parties
“Be in charge of the menu. Get involved in planning it and contributing to the holiday table. That way you know there will be something healthy and delicious that you like there.” - Beth M.
“My husband and I are usually the hosts for a holiday get-together with our small family or with friends. This means I have lots of control over the menu and am able to make choices that are lower in butter, salt and calories. We gravitate toward grilled meats that do not need sauces, fresh vegetables and salads. Now when I make hors d’oeuvres, I always have non-bread choices – substituting Belgian endive or cucumbers in place of baguette slices as the carrier. When we go to our social bubble friends’ homes for dinner, I have a conversation with myself beforehand (thank you Kristin!) about mindful eating and drinking so I really watch how much of something I may eat, and try to pick the less caloric options if available and pass on dessert.” - Lisa L.
“When I cook, I make very conscious decisions like having sweet potatoes instead of white mash, having a colorful plate using green beans, and keeping the heavy things like stuffing to one tablespoon. I also use more herbs and less fat for flavor. I make a gluten free non dairy reduced sugar pumpkin pie that my gluten/dairy loving family actually requests each year. I blanch haricot vert and add toasted almonds instead of the soup that’s used for green bean casserole.” - Cindy D.
Adjusting Mindset and Routines to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain
“I start the holidays by deciding one of three things and then living it: 1. I’m going to lose weight. So you put a plan together and focus on your weight loss. 2. I’m going to maintain my current weight. Same about planning, and this means a treat here or there, but you’re still careful. 3. You are going to eat whatever you want and just enjoy the time without worrying about weight at all. If you choose that, you really have to be okay with whatever happens and know that after the holidays, you jump back onto the wagon really happy that you enjoyed it without guilt or worry. I pick one of these every year!" - Mary Lee S.
“Have a strong routine going into the holidays and a game plan if you won’t be in that routine, like if you travel. I make a game plan for exercise and nutrition (by meal planning) and sleep ahead of time. I bring healthy go-to snacks if I’m traveling and think about where I'll be going and what my schedule will look like. Then, I figure out how/where to fit in exercise (look at running routes, for example). It also helps to do some goal setting for things like sugar intake or alcohol consumption." - Elie B.
“Don’t plan everything around food. Plan events around hiking and games. Meal planning can also be less traditional to be healthy. Commit to a new exercise class specifically over the holidays.” - Laura E.
“Putting myself at the top of my to do list everyday and the rest falls into place. Practicing HALT before indulging: am I Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. Having fun healthy snacks. Taking a walk even if it’s cold; fresh air helps reset me.” - Rachel F.
Holiday weight gain doesn’t have to be a given. With intentionality and a little planning, it can be both a joyful time of year and a time when you stay true to your goals.