It’s the most wonderful time of the year…except for your weight loss goal, am I right? Navigating the holiday parties, festive foods, and endless sweet treats almost always ends in disaster, and then all of a sudden, it’s January and you’re up 10 pounds. Fudge.
Not this year though! As a metabolism expert and realistic dietitian, I can confidently tell you that you can absolutely enjoy your holiday season without restricting yourself and without any crazy weight fluctuations. In fact, you can actually be really successful with weight loss EVEN during the holidays if you have the right mindset and strategy.
Let me give you my top 5 tips in order to make this happen!
#1: prioritize protein
Protein is incredibly helpful at keeping you satisfied and your blood sugar levels steady. Not only is this great for a weight loss goal but it’s also very handy for navigating holiday events. Making sure you’re focusing on protein first will help prevent you from being overly hungry and being unable to stop yourself at the dessert table.
Prioritizing protein around the holidays could look like making sure you have enough ham or turkey on your plate (around the size of your palm) to ensure you’ll be full for at least 3-4 hours. It could mean choosing the meatballs in the crockpot that Aunt Susan always brings. It could mean choosing the meats from the charcuterie board to still make yourself a balanced snack plate.
If you forget about protein, you’re going to hangry and grazing all day and you’re very likely to overeat and ride the blood sugar roller coaster. If you don’t remember anything else, remember protein!
#2: pick your must-have fun food!
When you’re staring at a buffet full of amazing foods at your family party, don’t think about what you should avoid. Think about what you absolutely want to enjoy! What’s the one food you would be really missing if you told yourself you “shouldn’t” have it? And maybe it’s a few things.
For me, I definitely would want to have some cornbread and mac and cheese at Thanksgiving to be fully satisfied. That means I’m going to have a serving of those and enjoy them. I’m not going to play a game where I say I shouldn’t but then eventually give in and find myself overeating because I “fell off the wagon.”
I’m also going to fill my plate with other things that help me feel good too like also adding some good protein and some fiber if possible! That could look like some turkey and roasted carrots.
You can also think of this like choosing what you want and then adding what you need. There is no benefit in having a restrictive mindset because it always backfires. Find a balance instead!
#3: you’re allowed to say no
While there are a lot of foods you will want to enjoy and say yes to, you are always allowed to say no to foods you truly do not want to have.
Whenever there are eating experiences around other people (especially loved ones), there can be a sense of pressure to eat certain foods. This often comes up when someone really wants you to try something or you feel like you would be judged if you didn’t eat it.
Whatever the situation is, just remember that you do not have to be pressured to eat in a certain way. You are in control and you get to decide how you want to fuel your body, even on a holiday!
Some phrases you might find helpful:
“These look so good! I’m going to save one for later.”
“Wow, you’re such a good cook! I might come back for some of this!”
“That sounds amazing, but I’m too full right now.”
“I feel better when I eat this way, I know it looks a little different.”
#4: don’t save your calories
When you have indulgent holiday parties, it might be tempting to “save up your calories” for later, but let me tell you why this is a bad idea.
You might start your day with a light breakfast: maybe a banana and coffee. You get in your workout and then you keep lunch pretty light too, maybe a salad with some chicken. Nothing too heavy. Afternoon rolls around and you’re pretty hungry but you know you’re going to eat a lot later at the party so you hold off. Maybe you nibble on some cucumber slices while you get ready.
And then you finally arrive at the party. You are HUNGRY. The appetizers and drinks are ready to go. You literally can’t fill up your plate fast enough. Before you know it, you’ve majorly overeaten and you figure you already “fell off the wagon,” so you enjoy everything you desire. You feel like garbage the next morning.
What if instead you just ate fairly normal the day of the party and arrived at the party with a normal appetite? You enjoy some foods but you don’t go overboard because you’re not absolutely ravenous. This feels SO much better the next day, I promise. Saving calories never ends well.
Remember: even if you eat more calories than normal one day…nothing will happen! Weight gain does not result in one day of eating more calories.
#5: treat holidays like a normal day of eating
This is similar to the last tip – but it’s so important. When it comes to a day of holiday parties or the actual day of holiday fun – it doesn’t have to look very different from how you normally eat. Sure, there are a lot more fun foods around and the timing of meals might be a little different, but it doesn’t have to be a complete free-for-all.
What I recommend is sticking to similar meals and snacks. Start your day with a high-protein breakfast. Even if you’re having cinnamon rolls for breakfast on Christmas morning, have 1 and pair it with a few eggs and/or sausage for example. If you’re not new around here, you know that eating PHFF is the way to go in all situations! This means adding protein, healthy fat, and fiber to every meal. Read more about it here.
I also recommend avoiding grazing all day. Again, stick to somewhat similar meals and snacks. If you’re around a charcuterie board at a party, put together a mini meal from that – don’t snack all day until you don’t feel well. This really helps to keep your blood sugar happy too! And, again, this helps you feel much better instead of being fatigued all day.
You can absolutely enjoy yourself this time of year, but think about adding better balance. What do you want, and then what do you need to feel good? Usually, that means adding some protein, healthy fat, or fiber to your plate in some way.
If you want more help finding a better balance when it comes to the holiday season for your weight loss goal, I have a few ideas for you: