The holidays can pose a real challenge to your weight-loss plan. But you can stay on track and still celebrate in style!
Enjoy the holidays and still stay fit!
For many families, the holidays mean food! Thanksgiving stuffing, latkes, and Christmas cookies make their appearance at this time of year. It can be hard to stick to your eating habits around the holidays since so many events are focused on food. You may feel pressured to eat more or to try some of everything.
As the holidays approach, you may be tempted to ease up a bit on your weight-loss efforts. People tend to eat more during the holidays and most gain a bit of weight. Overweight people tend to gain more weight and have a harder time losing it when the holidays have passed. If you let your good habits slide too far, you may have a hard time getting back on track. So it is important to stay on guard this time of year, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy yourself. If you’re consistent in your good habits, you could have room to enjoy your favorite holiday treats.
Plan ahead and stay on track
Snack smart. Try not to let yourself get too hungry–you may overeat. You could have a small, high-fiber snack before a big meal; an apple or a cup of vegetable soup can help ease your hunger before a meal. If you know you will be busy with holiday errands, you could pack a healthy snack so you won’t get too hungry before your next meal. You could try a small serving of dried fruit and a few nuts, or an apple and low-fat string cheese. Nonperishable foods can also be kept at hand when you need them; you could keep some dried fruit in the glove compartment of your car so you won’t be tempted to stop for fast food instead. If you have a healthy snack nearby, it can help you make good choices on the go and save you time and money.
Plan ahead. Perhaps on the weekend, you’ll go to your cousin’s tree-trimming party. If you know you love her amazing cranberry cheesecake, plan ahead! Watch what you eat in the course of the week; if you’re careful, you may “save” some calories for the weekend. You may have a sensible portion of the cheesecake and still stay on track with your weight-loss program.
If there are several choices on the table, take a look at what’s offered before you choose. If it’s the roast you really want, and it fits with your healthcare provider-approved meal plan, have some; but try to skip other high-calorie foods you might not enjoy as much. In their place, you could try some roasted vegetables or a salad with low-fat dressing. If you plan to go to a party where there might not be healthy options, ask the host if you can help by bringing something that is part of your diet; perhaps a salad or some veggie sticks and a low-fat dip.
Be polite but firm when you say no. You may not want to turn down your aunt’s famous pecan pie or your brother’s prize-winning bacon dip. You might fear that it will hurt their feelings or it will ruin everyone else’s fun if you don’t indulge. It’s OK to say no!
Think of situations where you’ll feel pressured to eat more. Practice how you might say “No, thank you” in that setting. Perhaps your aunt always pushes you to have one more slice of her pecan pie. You might say, “Your pie is so good, I look forward to a slice every year! But one slice is enough for me, thank you.” If you make it clear how much you enjoy her pie, you can make sure she feels appreciated and still stand firm in your decision to have just one slice.
If you need more help saying no, review our ideas for resisting the pressure to eat. Or you may have a friend or a relative who wants to help but doesn’t know how. Try sharing some of tips for how they can help without meddling.
Watch what you drink. Food may not be the only holiday hazard. The holidays are also a time when many people like to drink. If your healthcare provider approves, it’s OK to have a drink now and then. But be careful: the calories in beer and wine can add up to a lot in the course of an evening; some mixed drinks can push the calories through the roof. What’s more, when you drink, it can affect your self-control, making it harder to watch what you eat and stay on track. Enjoy yourself, but try to drink in moderation.
Use a food planner and tracker. A food planner and tracker can help you stay on track. It’s always important to record everything you eat, but be extra vigilant during the holidays! Studies have shown that when you are aware of challenges and stay true to your self-monitoring rituals, you can keep losing weight even on holidays. In fact, people who’ve kept weight off for 6 years or longer are likely to be more careful on holidays than they are the rest of the year.
Stay active. It can be hard to stay active around the holidays. Often, the weather is cold, and rain or snow may make an outdoor walk unpleasant. At the same time, you may be busier than normal—but remember, each bit of activity counts!
It may be cold outside, but you can still take part in outdoor activities. For example, you could dress in lightweight layers that breathe; this can keep you warm on your walks. Boots with good traction can help you keep your footing on icy sidewalks. Most sporting goods stores have clothes that can keep you warm in cold weather, and some fabrics draw the sweat away so you stay dry, too. For more tips on how to dress for comfort when you walk, see our article on how to make walking fun.
You could also add more physical activity into the things you already do. For instance, you could park farther from the mall when holiday shopping; or walk up the escalator instead of just standing. For other ideas, see our article about increasing everyday activity.
There are also many ways you can be active with your family. You could try a quick game of catch or touch-football during halftime of the Thanksgiving game. Or, instead of buying a tree off a lot, you could take a trip to a tree farm and maybe cut one down yourself. This may be the year you could start new holiday traditions, like a family bike ride after Thanksgiving dinner or meeting up with friends to walk through the neighborhood and view Christmas light displays!
You can do lots of things with your loved ones that don’t focus on food. Some help you keep active, others just help you have fun together without eating. For more suggestions, see our article on leisure activities to enjoy with family and friends.
You can enjoy the holidays and still lose weight. Spend time with your friends and family, but eat your favorite holiday foods in moderation. A little planning and a good strategy can go a long way to help you face your toughest challenges!