Holiday Survival 101


It’s that time of year again – along with fun, the holidays come with a lot of social gatherings and stress.  For most Americans, that equates to holiday weight gain.  Most importantly, according to the National Institutes of Health, most Americans don’t lose that weight after the New Year.  Those annual extra pounds add up and are an important contributor to adult obesity.  

More importantly, eating less mindfully over the holidays can negatively effect our physical and mental wellness.  If you're looking to truly enjoy the holidays and come through them feeling great, here are a few key areas where a smart approach will help this year:

General strategies

  • Have a plan in place. For instance, eating four to six small meals per day helps to keep binges at bay.  Start the day with a general plan for what you will eat, and avoid keeping treats around the house that you don’t wish to include.
  • Speak up.  If you’re working on a health goal, be vocal about your plans.  This allows others to help you reach your goal (rather than sabotaging it with a gift of gingerbread cookies).  You never know who you’ll inspire to join you!
  • Stay hydrated – aim to drink at least half your fluids as plain water, and drink before you get thirsty.
  • Be selective: for each holiday pick your favorite treat – maybe it’s a certain candy, mom’s pumpkin pie or a special Christmas cookie.  Plan to have your treat on the day of the holiday, and don’t start indulging weeks before. 
  • Give yourself grace. If you eat an unknown number of sugar cookies, or dig into your children’s party candy, commit to get back on track the next meal, instead of giving up. 

At Parties

  • Stay hydrated the day of, and eat a snack that is mostly protein and fat before you leave for the party. 
  • Hold an innocent but festive drink to keep your hands busy – sparking water with a splash of cranberry juice is an example.
  • If you decide to drink alcohol, try to space it out and stick to ancestral options – sip red wine or a paleo-approved liquor such as tequila on ice (or in a NorCal Margarita).  Have a glass of water in-between alcoholic drinks to stay hydrated and slow you down. 
  • Use a small plate. Fill it with the healthiest options – non-starchy veggies (1/2 plate), meat (1/4 plate) and starchy veggies and/or fruit (1/4 plate). 
  • When it comes to of sentimental foods (i.e. stuffing, rolls, dairy-based casserole, desserts), often a couple of bites is enough to satisfy a craving.  Try waiting until after you finish your first plate to see if you need any, or just get a little bit once your plate is already full, so that it ends up like a garnish.
  • Have meaningful conversations; be present. Focus on others around you, rather than feasting on the buffet of appetizers.
  • Offer to bring a side or desert, so that you know a healthy option will be available.
  • If you’re hosting – put appetizers/meals/deserts away once everyone has had a chance to eat.  This helps everyone to stop eating when full, and re-focus on each other.

At Work

  • Keep real-food snacks on hand (i.e. fruit with nut butter, coconut yogurt, hard-boiled eggs, unsweetened coconut chips, etc), so that it’s easier to pass on that leftover Christmas fudge in the break room.
  • Make a swap. Fill the candy jar with whole fruit or individual serving-sized packets of raw nuts
  • Take a walk.  Pass right by the break room and get outdoors; even 10-15 minutes reduces cravings and is beneficial to your overall health.
  • Find places to socialize away from the leftover buffet of baked goods. 

At Home

  • Watch that pantry. Having “trigger” foods on hand can make staying on track challenging.  Save special holiday indulgences for the big day, rather than making it a month-long binge.
  • Ramp it up. Get outdoors when you can. Rake leaves, take a walk, jog, or go for a bike ride, especially on the morning of a party.  You are much more likely to eat well if you go in feeling energized and healthy.
  • Get Crafty. Instead of baking holiday goodies as gifts (and getting tempted by the leftovers), try a hand-made ornament or a photo album for friends and family.  Check out Pinterest for great ideas.
  • Re-think your traditions. Go caroling, volunteer at a soup kitchen, or run a 5k as a part of your family’s healthy holiday celebrations.  These memories often long out-last those of holiday treats. 

Finally, remember not to get discouraged if you slip up.  After all, the holidays are a time to enjoy the company of others and celebrate the season.  It’s not what happens at a few parties that matters for your ultimate health – it’s the everyday habits. 

If you’re looking for a way to kick-off 2016 right, don’t forget to check out Fat Loss 40!  The plan includes 40 days of weight loss plans, support, and tips.  It’s on sale through Christmas, and you can get more details here.   

What did I miss?  I'd love to hear your holiday survival tip in the comments section.  Also feel free to share this post using the "Share" button below, or follow Real Nutrition RX using these social links.  Happy Holidays!