Holiday Weight Loss Survival Guide

It’s that time again – the beginning of a three-month indulgence that starts innocently enough with “fun size” chocolate candy bars at Halloween, moves onward to turkey feasts and homemade pies, and culminates with super-sized snacking in front of the TV at your neighbor’s Super Bowl party. The holidays are a special time of the year when we remember the important things in life, but we often forget our weight loss goals as we spread good tiding and cheer.

Thankfully, help is here. Hidden amidst the dessert dishes, family dinners and buffets are ways to indulge yourself while making realistic choices that won’t send you into a dietary abyss or derail your health and fitness goals. So forget about the all-or-nothing approach. Here are seven weight loss tips to help you enjoy plenty of tasty holiday fare without added pounds.

Don’t wait until the New Year to set your weight loss goals. Now, more than ever, plan for the stresses, challenges, upset routines, and delicious temptations of the holiday season. Decide ahead of time how you will handle the vast amounts of food involved with the holiday season. Remind yourself to remember the importance of your personal goals and the purpose behind your goals. Determine if this season it is more realistic to prevent holiday weight gain, or to continue with your efforts to lose weight. Either way, write down your decision and devise a plan to reach your objective. Make sure your action plan includes small, specific, and achievable steps that you can take today and every day.

Even for the most diligent, there will be times during the holidays when you eat more than you need to. When this happens, instead of throwing in the towel and reaching for a tin of holiday baked goods, allow yourself to develop a supportive “get back on track plan.” For example, decide that when you have a day of unhealthy eating, you will create balance by making the next day a semi-vegetarian day. In advance, write out an enjoyable and doable one full day semi-vegetarian menu that includes primarily vegetables, fruits, whole grains, a little lean protein like egg whites, tofu, or fish. Another way to take back your control is to tell yourself that for every meal that is “off” your next two meals will be light, balanced, and healthy. Don’t wait until you overeat to decide what those two meals will look like. Right now, while you feel motivated and inspired, write down those two meal choices. Then go grocery shopping so that you will already have the ingredients in your pantry when you need them most.

When you walk into a holiday event, eat only the best of what there is, not all of what there is. Choose foods that are worthy of your taste buds and your goals. Select your favorite foods, the most exciting and appealing foods, then sit down and really enjoy them. This means eating your favorites while keeping in touch with your body’s limits. Notice when you are full, or when the food you are eating stops tasting as good as it did. And if the food doesn’t meet your expectations at all, walk away.

It can be difficult to squeeze in time for a workout, but the more you move, the easier it is to balance your weight loss goals with holiday fun. Remember, just 15 to 20 minutes a day devoted to walking, running, swimming, or any other exercise can be the difference between your current clothing size and the one you promised yourself you would never move up to.

Feeling irritable, tense, overwhelmed, or losing sleep, are signs that you need to bust through some holiday stress. Stress is an emotional reaction to circumstances that you feel are beyond your control. Instead of using food to cope with stress, take some time out and acknowledge your feelings. Let yourself rant and rave, cry, talk things out, or write down your feelings. Get it all out in the open. Then, notice what is stressing you out, and look for alternatives to minimize or prevent it. Do you need to get more sleep, organize your time more effectively, prioritize your activities, eat a diet that works for you, schedule time for physical movement, use less caffeine, or carve out time to relax more? Be careful not to over commit, and don’t take on more than you can comfortably handle. Take action and whatever steps you can to reduce your feelings of helplessness and provide a sense of control over the problem.

The holidays are supposed to be a time of good cheer, but it is not uncommon to feel unhappy or depressed during the holiday season. Unrealistic expectations, social pressures, painful memories, recent divorce or separation, the death of a loved one, or other life events can make it seem like you are missing out on all the fun. It can be easy to turn to food to soothe feelings of sadness, depression, or loss. If you are feeling emotional decide to turn to people for comfort instead of food. Be proactive and talk to a friend, family member, or professional counselor who can help you gain new perspective about what is bothering you. In addition, remember the reason for the season and celebrate in a way that is authentically meaningful to you this year.

Weighing yourself is one way to track your success, but don’t limit yourself! There are many other ways to measure your success, keep you focused on your objective, and keep your motivation going strong. Devise a simple plan to document every effort and action you invest toward achieving your desired outcome, no matter how small. Measure each time you say, “no, thanks.” Write down each time you eat only two cookies instead of four. Recognize your effort when you cook a healthy meal for yourself. Notice how good you feel when you give yourself a little push and then go outside for a walk. By tracking your efforts and successes, you show yourself that you do have the will to make decisions, the determination to follow through, and the love to allow yourself to feel good and confident about yourself! Now that is a sign of success!

Small changes in holiday eating can make a big difference when you are on a path to weight loss. Use the above tips to find a balance between sticking to your goals and enjoying the fun of the season. Enjoy a great holiday season and the New Year ahead!