The holidays can be a time of tension for anyone with health, nutrition, or fitness goals. If not actively worried about holiday food choices, sometimes we go into the season with an understanding that we will have to increase awareness or be more vigilant. We may feel the need to compromise on our goals – “If I maintain for the next two months, that’ll be good enough. I know I probably won’t be able to lose.”

Here Are 5 Tips to Take Some of the Pressure Off Yourself and Find a Way to Enjoy all That the Holiday Season Has to Offer:

1) Place nothing off limits.

Yes, I realize this is counter to most of the advice out there, but hear me out: When a food is off-limits, it becomes much more appealing. And if guilt is involved and you do end up eating that food, the “Screw it, I’ve already had a bite and ruined everything so I’m going to eat the entire party and have a thousand cocktails” mentality kicks in. Over-consuming is inevitable.

The solution: Give yourself permission to get pleasure from food.

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2) Don’t ever go to a cocktail party or arrive at a holiday dinner absolutely starving.

A lot of people try to “save up” all day before a big holiday meal or cocktail party, eating a super-light breakfast and lunch and no snacks to try to cancel out the calories that they’ll be consuming that evening. This situation will almost always backfire: in a place of primal hunger, it is almost impossible to eat mindfully, enjoy, and pay attention to your food choices. You will likely end up over-eating.

The solution: Make sure your nutrition needs are met! The day of a holiday party or dinner, eat normally but especially focus on lots of veggies, protein, unsaturated fats, and whole grains.

3) Decide which indulgences you most deeply desire.

When you arrive at a party, assess: What are your options? Ask yourself whether the food or drink that you’re considering enjoying is something that will be really worth it. This becomes about indulging in the things you truly love and avoiding the mentality of eating things just because they’re there. It’s easy to mindlessly eat and drink at holiday gatherings, and simply stopping and checking in goes a long way.

The solution: Choose what you know you love. If you find you don’t love it, don’t finish it!

4) Stop when you’re satisfied, not stuffed.

This is another place where being mindful and really checking in with your body is important. You can’t tell if you are satisfied if you aren’t paying any attention, or if you are eating too quickly, right? The key here is to eat slowly. Take frequent pauses. To help with this, physically set down your silverware, plate, or drink and take a deep breath. Give your body time to catch up. Also, make sure you have some veggies and salad on your plate!

The solution: Try utilizing a hunger scale and checking in with it on a regular basis. On a scale of one to 10, if one is starving, 10 is beyond stuffed, and 5 is neutral – where are you?

5) If you do overindulge – forgive yourself.

You’ve done it; you set limits on yourself around the holidays and you ate past the point of comfort or drank more than you planned to drink. You’re angry at yourself; this is only the first party of many – if this is how every party is going to be for you, how will you ever stay on track with your fitness goals?

The most important skill to embrace during the holidays, and on any nutrition changes you try to make in your life, is forgiveness. Perfection is not required for success. We all make choices we wish we could change in retrospect. Each experience we have guides us closer to our ultimate goals in some small way. We learn in increments, learn from our choices, and staying mindful will help use those small lessons to guide us.

The solution: Trust yourself. Forgive each moment you wanted to do better, and have faith in yourself to get back on the horse and make different decisions another time.

Tips from The Kitchn, a great site providing resources on recipes and meal planning!


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