This is part 1 in our series on how to survive the holiday season without losing control or getting off track.  There are so many different factors that shape our behavior during the holidays.  We will be addressing some of them and discussing ways in which you can work to enjoy this time of the year without deprivation. For the purpose of this set of articles, we will be addressing the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday seasons. Many of the strategies we will discuss could easily apply to gatherings at Easter, summer picnics, family reunions, or any other festive occasion.

It is my hope that you all find yourselves on January 1 (or after your upcoming festive gathering) feeling great with an amazing sense of accomplishment!

Below is an outline that is designed to prepare you for success in weight loss or maintenance during the holiday season.  If you have an upcoming food-focused gathering (not a traditional holiday season), you may want to work through III and IV only.

I. Basic plans and goals

  • Start the holiday season with a plan and goals.

II.Weekly weight goals

  • Set weight goals and regular times/days to weigh yourself to stay accountable.  It is very easy to turn a blind eye because you are afraid of what the scale might say.  Weighing yourself at regular intervals helps you to better see the connection between your food and your weight.

III.Struggles and strategies

  • Make a list of your vulnerable times/situations.  For each one, write 2 or 3 potential strategies that might help you to manage more effectively.

IV.Holiday meals

  • Develop a specific plan for large holiday meals.  Give yourself rules for the meal.  The following are only examples.  They can be modified to fit your needs.
  • Pick three things that you really love and have 2 tablespoons of each.  Fill the rest of your plate with healthy choices.
  • Look at all of your choices before you go to fill your plate.  Make all of your food choices BEFORE you pick up a serving utensil.
  • If you want to have a dessert, eliminate a serving of carbs.  This won’t completely balance out the calories, but it will help.
  • Give away tempting foods if you can.  Try not to keep them in your house.
  • Eat light before the meal, but still eat.  It should include protein.  Starvation always leads to overeating.

Holiday Strategies Worksheet
This worksheet (download here) is designed to help you put words to your journey and aid in the process of planning for your success.  If you have an upcoming event that does not fall into the “holiday season” category, you can start this process with step #3.  Consider any festive gatherings (even those not around Christmas) as great situations to practice your new skills.  It is never too early to begin planning.

1. Holiday Goals – Must be short-term, very specific, andrealistic

Holiday Goals

2. Write a weekly weight goal from the weeks leading to January 1.  This will help keep you accountable to yourself.  If your weight goes up, you can adjust accordingly the next week. Logging your weight will keep you aware of how you are doing.
Week 1 ______________
Week 2 ______________
Week 3 ______________
Week 4 ______________
Week 5 ______________
Week 6 ______________

3.Make a list of things you typically struggle with over the holidays.  Then write several potential strategies to handle things more effectively.

Struggle Strategy

4.Make a list of guidelines for large holiday meals.  These shouldnot be based on deprivation, but on moderation.  These are guidelines that will allow you to feel good about your choices, while still enjoying the meal but not feeling guilty or overstuffed afterwards.

Holiday Meal Guidelines

5.Think of a how the holiday season is often so integrally associated with food.  Food is a wonderful part of the holiday season, but it should not be the focus of the holidays.  Write some holiday memories that are associated with food and some that are not.  Think about how you make food choices based on feelings and memories.  List 2 new traditions that you could create that are not associated with food.  Make an effort to implement only ONE this holiday season.  This helps to take some of the focus from food and places it where it should be, on the experience of the season, the enjoyment of those you love, thankfulness for things in your life, and the making of memories.  Just because all of those around you are gorging and focused mainly on food does not mean that it is right, healthy, or necessary.  Try to be different this year.

Holiday Memories Associated With Food Not Associated With Food

New Traditions

New Holiday Traditions