The holidays have arrived and one thing that comes with this season is – you guessed it: FOOD! We will be around food, and for some of us, we will also be preparing food… We just can’t get away from food! If you are trying to eat healthier this holiday season, it is important to prepare yourself beforehand to ensure that the holiday season is enjoyable for you. In this blog, we are sharing our holiday tips and tricks for intuitive eating to maintain your weight loss goals.
Preparing To Maintain Your Weight Loss Goals
Preparation is key when trying to maintain weight loss goals during the holidays. Here are our top tips to help you prepare:
Have A Plan
Having a plan is essential to managing weight gain or loss during the holiday season. According to a study, people who make efforts to pre-plan their holidays have more success in adhering to their goals (Phelan et al., 2008). Here are a few tips for having a plan:
- If you are not hosting a gathering – Try not to make a large meal. This will prevent you from having excess food within reach. You can also decline taking leftovers home. If you do take leftovers home, focus on adding protein and vegetables and leave behind foods not in your plan.
- If you are hosting a gathering – Make it a goal to give away as many leftovers as possible.
- Are you or are you not going to indulge in different items? Decide ahead of time and stick to your decision!
- As tempting as it may be, do not skip meals! A small breakfast will actually help to control your hunger and prevent you from over eating later.
The holidays provide us with an opportunity to catch up with friends and family. As you talk with others, your eating speed slows down and you become more mindful which can help you eat healthier portions. Additionally, focusing on the time you are spending with others can serve as a distraction to some of the foods you may feel you are missing out on this year. Here are two tips to help you be social this holiday:
- Plan table games to help encourage communication with your family and friends
- Practice taking time walking around the room to connect with different guests
Watch Portion Sizes
It can be so easy to indulge in large portion sizes during the holidays. Below are some tips to help you be more mindful of your portion sizes:
- If you are cooking the food, divide the food into small portions. Guests can always take more than one serving if they would like a larger amount!
- Use smaller plates.
- Take a small portion, maybe just a spoonful, of anything you want then eat to satisfaction, not fullness.
- Listen to your body – you are not obligated to finish everything on your plate.
- Explore all of the options available before filling your plate. This will allow you to see what foods are available and monitor your portion sizes.
Bring Your Own Dish
If you have a healthy dish that you enjoy, offer to bring it to the holiday gathering. You can also change recipes to fit your health goals. If you are known for always bringing a certain dish, share the recipe and allow someone else to have the experience of making it. If you are trying out a new dish, it may be good to take the time to practice and perfect your dish before serving it at the holidays.
Look For Healthy Recipes
Being mindful of recipes can be beneficial during the holidays. Here are some tips to keep in mind when looking at recipes:
- Utilize websites like Pinterest, AllRecipes, and YouTube to find healthy recipes.
- Take time to look at the nutritional value for a recipe and ensure that it aligns with your goals. HappyForks is a great website to help with this.
- Try to focus on dishes that are flavorful but without excessive amounts of sugar. Many recipes are just as delicious without the recommended amounts of sugar.
- Be creative in what you bring to a holiday gathering. Instead of bringing a dish, you could bring a healthy beverage. This way you can keep your health goals in mind and still have a contribution.
Swap Ingredients or Cooking Methods
There are several swaps you can make to lighten up traditional dishes, including:
- Swap roasting for frying. Or swap chicken for turkey.
- Focus on creating flavorful dishes by using spices and seasonings that don’t contain salt.
- Instead of adding salt while cooking, leave salt on the table for guests to use as desired.
- Swap plain, nonfat Greek yogurt for sour cream.
- Use whole grain breads instead of white breads.
- Choose healthier oils, such as extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil.
- Use low sodium broths and canned goods.
- Utilize alternative flours and sugars, such as coconut flours, almond flours, swerve sugars, and monk fruit sweetener.
Release The Pressure
It is important to remember that most people are not paying attention to your plate. They are concerned about their own plate! But even if they were paying attention to your plate, YOU (and only you) are in control of what you eat. Don’t let anyone tell you how to eat (and resist the temptation to tell others how to eat). If you find yourself being pressured to eat a certain way, that would be the time to exercise healthy boundary setting skills! Beloved southern icon Dolly Parton once said, “My weaknesses have always been food and men – in that order.” If Dolly can develop a healthy relationship with food, so can you! Lastly, release the idea of the “Instagram Perfect” holiday meal – it just doesn’t exist. Maintain realistic expectations and practice mindfulness.
Monitor Your Intuitive Eating
A study showed that weighing weekly during the holiday season with adherence to a food plan can increase awareness and reduce the likelihood that weight will be put on. (Fahey et al., 2019) Consider weighing before, during, and after holiday weeks. Get a baseline to track, and if you notice drastic fluctuations – adjust accordingly.
If you find yourself struggling to maintain your weight loss goal or you feel like you have developed an unhealthy relationship with food, our team can help. Contact our office today to schedule an appointment and begin the journey to mental and physical wellness.
Read more about the holiday season:
Staying Sane During The Holiday Season: Mental Health & The Holidays
Mental Health & The Holidays
This article was written by Dr. Ashley Garrett, PhD, LPCS, RPTS, ACS, NCC, Jessica Bearden, LPC, Rachel Brewer, ALC (under the supervision of Jay H. Byham, MS, LPC-S (#0741)), and LaTasha Toney, LICSW, PIP – mental health professionals at Garrett Counseling in Boaz, Huntsville, and online.
Fahey, M. C., Klesges, R. C., Kocak, M., Wang, J., Talcott, G. W., & Krukowski, R. A. (2019). Do the holidays impact weight and self-weighing behaviour among adults engaged in a behavioural weight loss intervention?. Obesity research & clinical practice, 13(4), 395-397.
“Healthy Holiday Foods and Fun.” Article published November 2016, article retrieved 11/8/2022 from https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2016/11/healthy-holiday-foods-fun.
Baum, PhD. Jamie (2020). “Holidays and Healthy Choices.” University of Arksansas, article retrieved November 8, 2022 from https://scholarworks.uark.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1021&context=cfhndfend.
Phelan, S., Wing, R. R., Raynor, H. A., Dibello, J., Nedeau, K., & Peng, W. (2008). Holiday weight management by successful weight losers and normal weight individuals. Journal of consulting and clinical psychology, 76(3), 442.
Shapiro, Ph.D. Jeremy. (2021 November 26). The Key to Managing Holiday Stress:Replacing rigid expectations with acceptance prepares us for whatever happens. Psychology Today. <https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/thinking-in-black-white-and-gray/202111/the-key-managing-holiday-stress>