You Really Don’t Have to Gain Weight During the Holidays

Plan ahead to eat without losing control — here's how.

Posted Dec 03, 2019

Holidays and events where food is center stage can be a real challenge with respect to remaining in control of eating. I have treated eating disorders for decades and I’m often asked: How does one not go crazy with eating during the holidays?

Holidays are without a doubt, times laden with indulgent foods, some traditional and some just plain available and overindulging is somewhat expected. And following the holidays, people who struggle with their weight see the beginning of the new year as the time to start fresh with a resolve to lose and control their weight. I would suggest instead, beginning the holiday season with a positive handle on eating with nothing to feel badly about when the holidays are over. It could be a jump-start to an amazing you.  Your new year’s resolution could be about something else instead.

Remaining within the range of what should be your normal eating and not spiraling out of control can be quite difficult without planning. And what many people do instead is plan for damage control by thinking that dieting afterward will do just that.  Unfortunately, diets just don’t work long term for many complicated reasons.

Conscious, mindful eating is about the only thing that really works to maintain a comfortable weight and control the potential for overeating.  Here are some suggestions for managing your eating and weight,  pre and post-holidays.

1. Look up, google or ask a healthcare professional what your calorie intake should be for your age, height, level of activity and reasonable weight in order to determine what your calorie parameters should be.  Having an idea of what you should be eating goes a long way in beginning to establish limits.

2. Days before the holiday, begin keeping accurate track of everything you eat. Write down absolutely everything you eat and actually look up or google the calories and nutritional information.  The act of actually looking up and writing down everything that goes into your mouth retrains your brain to become a conscious vs. unconscious eater and helps slow down the trajectory of unconscious eating.

3. Look up or google everything you think you might be eating on the holiday. Holiday meals can be fairly predictable and you can guestimate the calories as an attempt to consciously plan what might be a reasonable meal.  What you actually eat on the holiday will be tempered by having an informed idea of what you are actually consuming.

4. Plan to eat only the foods you love. Eating something that you merely “like” isn’t good enough for the body to register that you’ve eaten well and achieve satiation so as much as possible, eat foods you really love.

5. Become deliberate in planning and incorporating activities that you can easily do on the holiday and begin doing it days before. Something as simple as taking a walk after dinner or planning to exercise more consistently puts you in a mindset of control before instead of after the fact.

6. Consciously plan to go back to, or close to your usual routine within days following the holiday. Thinking that you’ve lost control so you just may as well keep overeating breeds continued loss of control. That doesn’t have to be so. Having a day of yummy holiday eating can easily be incorporated into your life. Knowing that you’ll get back on track in the next day or two is important in minimizing spiraling out of control. Be super conscious of that. 

7. You might use this time and opportunity to recognize and seek help for what might be an eating disorder or the beginning of an eating disorder. If you realize that you’re consistently eating really large quantities of food uncontrollably and can’t stop, are purging or exercising obsessively or can’t bring yourself to eating enough and are restricting what you’re eating, you might want to check with a professional. 

Finally, mindful, conscious and planned eating are the key ingredients of what can be a great holiday!