1. Set Realistic Goals
Start by setting realistic expectations for yourself. If your wellness goals include weight loss, try to focus instead on weight maintenance. This can alleviate the pressure and allow you to enjoy the festivities without the fear of gaining excess weight. What is weight maintenance? It’s staying within a five-pound range of your current weight. Shifting your mindset from weight loss to weight management allows you to balance your goals with the festivities of the holiday season.
2. Prioritize Portion Control
One of the key contributors to holiday weight gain is overeating. To combat this, pay attention to portion sizes. If there are appetizers, fill your plate with single portions of the appetizers that appeal to you rather than eating directly from the plate or tray – this allows you to keep better track of your intake. The same technique applies to the main course! Use a small plate, take single portions, and go back for small second portions of the food that truly appeals to you. Enjoy the flavors without feeling compelled to pile your plate high!
3. Savor Mindfully
Mindful eating can be your secret weapon against holiday weight gain. Slow down, savor each bite, and pay attention to your body’s hunger and fullness cues. Drink water as a technique to increase your hydration (which always slips during the holidays!) and slow down as you’re eating. Take small bites and really taste your food! And throughout the night, check in with your hunger and fullness – if you are starting to feel full, then slowing down might be best. Nothing ruins a fun event like feeling overfull!
4. You Can Balanced Meals – Even During the Holidays!
When attending holiday gatherings, aim to still follow a balanced formula of protein, produce, whole grains as much as you can! This can help you feel satisfied and less likely to overindulge in less healthy options. Choosing proteins that are leaner (not fried or covered in a creamy sauce) and filling half your plate with produce (fruits and vegetables) can help with this!
5. Stay Hydrated
Dehydration can often be mistaken for hunger. Make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day to stay properly hydrated. Consider alternating alcoholic beverages with water to reduce overall calorie intake.
6. Choose Wisely at Social Events
When attending parties and gatherings, survey the food options before filling your plate and opt for healthier choices like vegetables, lean proteins, and salads before indulging in more calorie-dense items. Calorie-dense items are items that are fried, breaded, covered in creamy sauces, or high in sugar. We’re not saying to restrict these items – just prioritize the nutrient dense items first!
7. Be Mindful of Alcohol Consumption
Alcoholic beverages are often abundant during the holidays, and they can contribute to weight gain. Be mindful of your alcohol intake, and consider lighter options like wine spritzers or low-calorie cocktails. Remember that alcohol can lower inhibitions, making it easier to overeat. Aim for drinks that aren’t high in sugar and have a “drink number” in mind before the party starts (aka tonight I will stick to __ number of drinks!).
8. Stay Active
Maintaining an exercise routine is crucial during the holiday season. Regular physical activity can help you burn off extra calories and manage stress. Schedule workouts in advance, and consider incorporating fun, active traditions like family walks or group workouts.
9. Plan Healthy Alternatives
If you’re hosting a holiday gathering, consider offering healthier alternatives to traditional dishes. For example, replace heavy cream with Greek yogurt in recipes, offer vegetable-based appetizers, and provide fruit for dessert options.
10. Practice Self-Compassion
Lastly, remember that it’s okay to indulge occasionally during the holidays. Don’t beat yourself up if you enjoy a special treat. Remember, there is no “good” or “bad” with food – food is not connected to morality! Food is just food, and you can never do anything “wrong” by eating it. What’s important is finding balance and getting back on track with your healthy habits the next day.
Avoiding holiday weight gain doesn’t mean depriving yourself of the joys of the season. By setting realistic goals, practicing portion control, and making mindful choices, you can enjoy the festivities without compromising your health. The key is to strike a balance between savoring the holiday delights and maintaining your well-being. With these strategies in mind, you can navigate the holidays with confidence and start the new year feeling healthy and energized.
Joni Rampolla, MBA, RDN, LDN