7 Unique Ways To Stay on Track With Your Weight Loss Goals During the Holidays
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Written By: Melissa Fiorenza
This time of year, it’s ridiculously tempting to toss your diet goals into the crackling fire and gorge on pecan pie and sweet potatoes and sugar cookies like your life depends on it. But if you’ve been on a weight loss journey like me, we have got to stay strong. Will power, mind over matter, and all that jazz.
To do that, let’s arm ourselves with tactics and tricks that’ll both enable us to indulge just a bit but also stay on track enough so that come the new year, we’re not starting from scratch and ruing the day we consume up to 4,500 calories at one meal. (The Calorie Control Council estimates Americans take in 3,000 to 4,500 calories at their Thanksgiving feasts. Yikes!)
I asked a few pros for their best tips for staying on track with your weight loss goals during the holidays. Here are my personal favorites.
1. Create your own “Thanks. But no thanks.”
One of the easiest ways to get derailed from your goals is to give in to peer pressure from your family and friends. “Aunt Susan. Grandma Jane. Everyone has at least one food pusher in their life,” says Julie Upton, RD, a registered dietitian and co-founder of Appetite for Health. “The family member or friend who is always encouraging you to taste this or that, you know, because you deserve to.” Before the encounter with your known pusher(s), she says, create your go-to statement to politely decline so that you have a plan for when you see them. The line Upton uses often: "I ate just recently, so I need to save room for ____ (fill in the blank).”
2. Lose the booze.
Party-goers often rely on alcohol to put them in a festive mood, says Upton, but you can trick out your non-alcoholic drinks with glassware and garnishes that give you the special, feel-good feelings minus all the boozy calories. “Alcohol is like a triple-threat for your waistline: it's high in calories, stimulates your appetite, and decreases your inhibitions so you're more likely to dig into those rich desserts that you'd normally shy away from.” (How about a pina colada smoothie?)
3. Eat a snack that satisfies.
This may seem counterintuitive, but Upton advises eating the right snack before heading to your holiday party—it can help you stay the course rather than give in to every crowd-pleasing treat on the buffet table. “The most satisfying snacks have protein, fiber, or both to help keep blood sugar levels in check. Some great choices include a hard-boiled egg with a piece of fruit, a handful of nuts, or an apple or pear with nut butter,” she adds.
4. Be strategic about your spot.
This makes total sense, but it had never occurred to me before. Where you sit or stand has an impact on what you eat, says Dr. Daryl Gioffre, celebrity nutritionist and author of Get Off Your Acid. “Try sitting next to people who eat healthy,” he suggests. “This will help you to remember to make better choices and you will be less likely to go for seconds if those around you don’t.” Also, he adds, pick a seat away from buffet tables and snacks. “Close proximity to food makes it easier to overindulge or go back for seconds (or thirds).”
5. Pass on the passed food.
If you’re at a party where those magical doors to the kitchen swing open and out come trays of hors d'oeuvre, this tip is for you. Avoid them! “When food is not on a plate, it is difficult to determine the portion size and quantity of food you are eating and often leads to eating much more than you think,” says Dr. Gioffre. “Also, most passed food contains highly acidic ingredients such as gluten, dairy, processed meats, high sodium, and sugar. My motto is moderation not deprivation.” At a party, he says, you might want to have a treat, and that’s okay as long as the other 80% of what you eat (and drink) is alkaline foods. Bottom line: With passed food, it is hard to determine how much you actually ate.
6. Know what you won’t compromise on.
During this busy holiday season, there are probably going to be some compromises—whether it pertains to your food, your fitness, or your sleep. Rather than striving for perfection (“I will always get to sleep by 9:00 or the night is a fail”) set up your mental ‘bumpers,’ says Meghan Lyle, MPH, Registered Dietitian, Nutritionist and Arivale Coach. “In bowling, when the going gets tough you can pull out the bumpers to help ensure at least a few of the pins get knocked down. It might be that you stick with a regular bedtime through weekdays but allow for a two hour ‘float’ on the weekend,” she explains. “Maybe you’ll make sure to have a balanced breakfast every morning when there’s an evening event likely to have packed tables of tempting treats. Think of the one or two small things that will most effectively set you up for success, knowing what you do about yourself and your own sleep patterns, nutrition, and exercise routine.”
7. Be specific about how you’ll respond to an anticipated challenge.
We all have our special dishes—the ones we look forward to every year, like the homemade sauce or the passed down chocolate cake recipe. Lyle says that some research has shown that you can be more successful with a goal, such as a healthy routine, when you strategize specifics. “As an example, if you’ve been trying to limit desserts and you anticipate lots of temptations at a holiday party, propose a scenario that feels realistic: If there are lots of desserts to choose from, I’ll fill up on veggies and lean proteins, and choose one dessert to enjoy at the end of the meal.’” Or, she says, if you know you’ll be tired after the work day and want to keep exercise in the routine, make this your rule: “When I get home from work, I won’t leave for the party until I’ve changed into gym clothes and completed a ten-minute exercise routine.” “Set your strategy for implementation in advance.”