All That Holiday Eating Advice

October 28, 2008

Halloween is on Friday and it is, what many people consider, the start of the holiday season. It’s about that time when little blurbs of information pop up everywhere offering tips on how to maintain or lose weight during the holidays.

When I read the bounty of tricks for avoiding holiday eating my first thought is usually an accusation that the person writing has obviously never been to a holiday party, or at least the kind I’ve been to.

Most of the tips are just too simple and I begin thinking – why do we need tricks to fool ourselves into eating healthy? It feels a little dishonest and sneaky. Why is it wrong to thoroughly enjoy the holiday season even if it means putting on a couple pounds?

I do believe the information out there saying that weight gain overtime can be attributed to the small amounts that people gain year after year at the holidays which they never seem to take off. This makes sense to me. It becomes a serious problem if you never lose holiday weight.

I struggle like crazy with the holiday eating because for the past few years my husband and I have taken an all-inclusive vacation the week before Christmas. After all that eating and drinking we head right into Christmas and New Years. We balance two families in the same town so that usually means 2 – 3 massive meals in the same day, everyday. Explode much? It’s a lot of food!

So I started thinking about all those tips that don’t work for me and here are a few.

Eat before you go. This one makes me laugh every time because all it has ever done for me is resulted in two meals instead of one. I understand the idea of not feeling starved when you get there, but why would I want to fill up before getting to all that tasty food.

Arrive late. Have we really gotten so out of control with our eating that we must be rude to the host in order to control ourselves?

Fill your plate with veggies. Okay, this can work sometimes, but after the carrots I usually go back for the stuff I really want.

You can’t take the food out of the holidays. Enjoying (and cooking) these meals with family and friends are a huge part of what memories are made of. It doesn’t mean we have to overeat and gain weight, but it does mean we have to develop a healthy relationship with food (and exercise) so our thoughts and energy are focused on the experience and not the size of our waistline.

These are a few things that I try to incorporate around this time of year.

I start right now. I mentioned that yearly vacation right? I’m always motivated this time of year to hit the gym a little harder and cut out excess calories in preparation for things to come. I get a head start so I’m not left with a ton of weight to lose come January.

Practice mindful eating. Don’t mindlessly stuff your face with food as you talk and talk. Take a second to enjoy each bite and recognize when you are full. Appreciate this time and all the wonderful foods that go with it.

Choose what you really want. It has taken me several years to make this change. I used to eat everything and anything offered. Now I’ve begun to recognize what I can pass up. For example, rolls, chips and other unexciting things I can get everyday (if I wanted it) I pass on, but that special mac n cheese or pecan pie only comes around about once a year.

Exercise, exercise and exercise some more. Keep up the workouts. The only real way to curb weight gain while enjoying the foods of the season is to burn it off. The bonus is that it will also relieve that holiday stress many of us feel.

Eat real foods (you had to know this was coming). The holidays aren’t an excuse for me to indulge in processed, chemically-laden junk. I focus on the homemade stuff with real ingredients. Spare me the calories of the chips and store-bought cookies.

Stay away from the food table. Okay, this one is usually listed with most tips and for me it definitely works. If I take a seat away from the buffet of holiday goodness, I end up eating less.

Don’t skimp on actual nutrients. Make sure you are still getting those leafy greens, fruits and calcium which can sometimes be lacking in holiday foods. Don’t make your body go without necessary nutrients for healthy function. Decide how you can include them.

Accept and appreciate yourself. So you gain 5 lbs during the holidays? So what? The bigger question is – 1. did you enjoy the foods you ate? 2. did you enjoy the time spent with the people you love? Give yourself a break and commit to returning to a healthy weight as soon as the holidays are over.

How do you feel about holiday eating “tricks”? Let me know what works for you.

Photo by Marica Umland,

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  • Jenn October 28, 2008 at 1:07 pm

    AMEN to this post!!! I completely agree with you on all points. I always try to eat before I go to a party and then end up stuffed.

    And, like you, I know that I’m going to gain 3 pounds over Christmas. But usually by Jan. 1, they only thing I want is a salad and I’m roped into some new exercise goal. Those three pounds are usually gone by February without even too much trying!

  • cathy October 28, 2008 at 1:22 pm

    FINALLY holiday eating tips that make sense! You’re so right on with your assessment of the usual tips that are doled out – and with your substitute tips. Great post, Lori!

  • Anya October 28, 2008 at 1:23 pm

    I’m with Jenn, this post was perfect. So much of the holidays for me is making (with family) some really decadent dishes (my mom and I love to bake from scratch). Trying to resist only makes me binge late at night. For me, the best method seems to be taking small bits of everything I want which includes desserts.

  • Lori October 28, 2008 at 2:19 pm

    Thanks! So glad to hear that this hit home. I know some of the usual tips work for people, but I’ve just grown tired of stressing about holiday weight gain! I just want to enjoy the experiences AND the food.

    anya – Welcome and thanks so much for stopping by with your comment.

  • VeggieGirl October 28, 2008 at 2:22 pm

    Great tips!!! Hooray for eating real food :0)

  • laura October 28, 2008 at 3:55 pm

    Great post. We too have two families in the same town. “Choose what you really want” is a really good one–don’t fall into the trap of trying to say, “I love you,” or “I think you’re a great cook,” by taking three helpings.

  • Erica October 28, 2008 at 6:06 pm

    Thank you for this post. I can’t stand those stupid articles. PLUS telling yourself you can’ t have any of the good stuff usually leads to massive overeating! Good for you, yayyyy for you! Tell that cute little pug of yours that Frank says “Whats up girl” haha

  • Lori October 29, 2008 at 2:49 am

    laura – I couldn’t agree more. We’ve accepted the fact that we are going to disappoint people by eating only a little at each meal on all those multiple family meal days. 🙂

    erica – Tell Frank that I am honored he is commenting on my blog! 🙂

  • Darius T. Williams October 29, 2008 at 5:10 am

    My one tip: eat what you want when you want it – lol. I love the holidays and the food!


  • Delightfully Healthy October 29, 2008 at 9:25 am

    What a truly excellent post!

    A lot of it is what I tell my clients to do year-round. It all comes down to being present, listening to your body, and checking your priorities. You put it so well!

  • Lori October 30, 2008 at 6:34 am

    darius – Me too. I always hate to hear people say that they don’t like the holidays because of all the stress. The celebrations, food and fun make it worth it for me.

    delightfully healthy – Thank you! Love the 3 points you mentioned. I definitely agree.