Managing the Holiday Eating Season Without Gaining Weight

Tips for Holiday Eating

It would be nice if the holidays were stress-free, wouldn’t it?

However, for a lot of people, the holidays are just inherently stressful. Although my family tries to keep the focus on the reason for the season or particular holiday, I also feel stressed during this time of year. The presents, the travel, the family obligations, the kid’s rehearsals and performances, and let’s not forget – the desire to stay at a healthy weight.

Sure I have been maintaining this weight loss for a long time, but it still takes work and deliberate effort.

If you are stressed about meeting your weight loss or weight maintenance goals, you are perfectly normal. In fact, a little stress can help you focus on your goals and avoid falling into the “holiday eating season” trap.

You know that trap I’m talking about. The one that so many of us step into quite willingly. The trap of buffet tables laden with meat, cheese, desserts, casseroles, and chips. The trap of family gatherings that end up being less about the family and more about how much food can be shoved into our mouths. The trap of children’s parties where cupcakes abound and vegetables do not. Or even the trap of doing holiday baking “for gifts” that actually end up being for us.

I fell into each of those traps willingly. (Not that they are really traps, but they certainly can catch us unaware.)

I baked to my heart’s content between October 15th and New Year’s. Some of the baked goods made it to their intended destinations, while a lot of them did not. I ate with abandon because it was the holiday. I never turned down second helpings of a cake or pie because it was the holiday.

No matter what the occasion, I was eating or preparing to eat.

The trap of eating and baking whatever I wanted during the holidays was hard to escape. I had tried to diet during the holiday seasons for years without success. However, the final time I lost weight it took me 14 months, and I had to make it through the holiday eating season without gaining weight. In fact, in order to lose that much weight in just 14 months, I had to lose weight over the holidays. And I did.

I lost about 30 pounds during the holidays that year and it wasn’t all that hard. You know why?

Because I wasn’t just dieting to lose pounds. I was changing my lifestyle one day at a time. And those days included holidays. Lots of them.

The “change your lifestyle” phrase is one we use a lot in the weight loss/weight maintenance circle. I don’t think it is overused because it is so true. Sure you can lose weight on a temporary, restrictive diet, but can you keep it up during the holidays? Can you keep the weight off once October rolls around? That’s the key.

Identifying the holiday eating traps that tend to catch you is a good addition to any weight loss plan. I’ve shared some of my traps and I’d encourage you to think of yours. They may be similar to mine or not, but I bet most of you have at least one.

Once you know the traps, it is time to develop a strategy to deal with them. One of my strategies were to stop baking like I was a pastry chef and reserve my baking for one special dessert per holiday. I also used the “rating my food” strategy to help me determine whether a food was worth the calories or not. And of course, I said a lot of “No, thank you’s,” when I was losing weight.

Before you head into this holiday season, identify your traps and come up with strategies to deal with them. That way, come January, you will be ahead of the game and ready to keep moving forward with your weight management goals.

What traps get you during the holidays? How do you plan on not getting caught? Diane

14 thoughts on “Managing the Holiday Eating Season Without Gaining Weight

  1. Tanvee says:

    Hi Diane,I am going to be on holiday for more 3 weeks, 3 weeks on gym…so I am working on a new plan for my exercise and food. I think overtime I have learned to say no and handle all the holiday treats well but 3 weeks without my training is going to be difficult I am just hoping I can create a workout plan that does not set me back after 3 weeks.
    Focusing on all the traps makes a lot of sense because you go in prepared so there are no surprises therefore no excuses 🙂

  2. Karen P says:

    I stick to my food template 99% of the time. My body keeps track and my emotional/binge eating does not go on vacation. I used to trigger myself starting at Halloween and not stop until January.

    I walk outside a lot, I cook in advance, I plan to bring my food if it’s ALL junk food (the host will recover, I will suffer too much with binge eating if I “eat to be polite”)

    The result is that my clothes fit going in, I stay healthy because I’m eating right, I feel great each night and wake up feeling great. I can focus on the family, friends. That’s the best gift ever!

  3. Marc says:

    There were a few years where my daughter and I would make about 10 pounds of chocolate marshmallow fudge. The recipe was on the Kraft Marshmallow crème jar. We would cut it up into squares after it cooled, and put it in small gift boxes along with cookies that were baked. The problem was that in the process I think I probably ate 3 pounds of fudge just by myself. Now I figure that if the holiday goodies aren’t healthy for me, then they aren’t healthy for other folks either, even as gifts.

  4. pj geek says:

    In the last couple of years, I’d have a goal to just ‘maintain’ at the holidays . That was really me giving me license to eat. When I lost the largest portion of weight in my loss phase, I had a goal to lose during the holidays and I lost 20 lbs. This year, My goal is to lose at least 5 pounds between now and January. I lost more weight in proportion to how heavy I was before. So, to lose 5 lbs is pretty significant. I ‘ve changed, added, and actively work at increasing my exercise. I’m pre planning more my foods and especially around any eating away from home or being out where I might be tempted to go to a Starbucks or be a friend’s home where they might be treats.

  5. Susan says:

    I actually do a two-fer. I cut down making all those casseroles and stick to the simple foods they come from (instead of sweet potato casserole, it’s just plain baked sweet potatoes). It helps limit my time in the kitchen AND my caloric intake.


  6. Pam says:

    I had just started my journey on Dec. 14, 2009, so right away I was faced with trying to get through Christmas. I started slowly, and did okay that first year. By the second year (my losing journey took about 16 months), I was much more disciplined, and following a stricter eating plan, so just decided not to do any holiday baking at all. This was quite a change from someone who in past years, had started making batches of Chex mix, as soon as it got cool (like Sept.) and continued making it well into the New Year. I also made lots of peanut brittle, fudge, cookies and various other sweet treats. Meals were a free-for-all, Thanksgiving and Christmas were days when I simply gorged myself. Now when I get that too full feeling, not only is it very rare, but it is so uncomfortable. How did I do that for so many years? I like to tell myself, it takes less food today, to get that “full” feeling too. I hope my appetite and stomach have shrunk.

    Every holiday season since then, (this will be the third holiday season I enjoy as a normal-sized person as I have been maintaining my 175-lb. loss), I have followed the same rule–no holiday baking. It is never easy to go to parties and be faced with the seasonal goodies, I really try to limit my sampling, and stick with the fresh veggies and other low-caloried options which are almost always available. At home, there simply is nothing available to tempt me. I don’t have little kids around anymore, so it’s nice not to have that excuse to bake, and I don’t have to feel guilty that I’m not celebrating properly either!

  7. Hope K says:

    I give myself “cheat meals” about once a week to twice a month, so Thanksgiving will be one of my cheats. But I will pick out the stuff that looks the best and most delicious to eat and will not gorge myself. I usually avoid parties and celebrations that revolve around food, but if I must go to one, I will eat my good food before I go and pick out the healthy foods offered and eat some of those. If anybody says anything to me about it or pressures me to eat, I will say, “My doctor has me on a very specific diet and he told me I can’t eat that.”

  8. Kyra says:

    I pick and choose which holidays/events I want to not worry about what I eat, and then behave myself on the others. For example, it doesn’t matter to me to skip the pie on a parent holiday gathering night with the school. But on Christmas day? Well, yes, I’m going to have a slice of pie. 🙂 I make it worth it to me, because of more than the food. The company, the time, and place – they all matter. And when they don’t? Well, then the food doesn’t matter either if I skip it.

  9. Joi @ Rx Fitness Lady says:

    This is an excellent and timely post! I love find the traps and get a strategy. I think for most, the baking and multiple entrees for the holidays are easy traps. I am not a fan of sweets and desserts but the different entrees are appealing to me. I usually only eat it for 1 maybe 2 more days after. I have a post coming up for the holidays, I’ll be sure to link back to this!

  10. JenB says:

    When I originally lost weight, I did it right before the holiday season. But I was able to easily maintain that year. Both of our families are close, so we don’t have to travel (which I think is helpful to food and fitness goals). December/January have generally (until this last year) been good times for me. The cold weather makes me want to work out more to warm up! For some reason the Spring is when I would tend to put on 5 pounds every year. My weight loss has really slowed, I had hoped to be at my goal by then. I’m not sure if I will be, but I’ll still be trying.

  11. Andrea@WellnessNotes says:

    I had to learn to make the holidays and the celebrations that come with them not about food. It took quite a bit of effort at first but now it feels normal.

    During the holidays we eat what we normally eat, which is heavily focused on vegetables. I bake only a few small batches of cookies and always freeze at least half the batch. When we go to gathering, I usually have a green smoothie before I leave and spend my time there socializing and not eating.

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