Holiday Survival Guide: Get the Right Mindset

Posted On Nov 7, 2013 By Erin Kuh, MBA, RD

Holiday Hot Chocolate

The season 'tis upon us! The anticipation of the first snowfall hangs in the air, chilly nights send us to seek the warm sanctuary of the hearthstone, and our favorite holiday cookie recipes come out of the cupboards. While the holiday season is a time of cheer, family and friends, and giving thanks, the threat of holiday weight gain wreaks of anticipation, dread, and a feeling of defeat for many.  This holiday season avoid the 'all or nothing' approach. It will only set you up for a cycle of failure. Instead, try these five tips to enjoy the delicacies of the holidays without sabotaging your weight and health.

  1. Go with a plan and visualize going through with it. Prior to attending events and gatherings, decide ahead of time that you will eat. Other tips include, enjoying smaller portions of food, eating more slowly, and drinking in moderation (meaning 1-2 drinks). Whatever your plan is, visualize yourself carrying out these actions and feeling confident and happy with your choices. Seeing and believing has a profound effect on carrying through with actions!
  2. Use the white space rule. This works especially well for sit-down dinners. Make a point of having enough white space around each helping on your plate so that none of your foods touch. Following this rule automatically forces you to take smaller portions and skip dishes you aren't crazy about (for me its tomato aspic or persimmon pudding). It's like being a kid again!
  3. Choose only your absolute favorite foods and skip foods you can eat anytime of the year. I always skip nuts and rolls, because they're either foods I can eat any time or foods I don't miss if I forgo them. Think of it as swapping rather than deprivation. I'd rather skip gravy, hor d' oeuvres  and whipped cream, so I can savor a guiltless slice of pecan pie.
  4. Focus on enjoying other aspects of gatherings: catching up with friends, enjoying conversations and finding other activities to integrate into festivities. Not to say food and drink shouldn't be enjoyed, but engaging in conversation and shifting your focus to spending time with company will help take away the emphasis on heaping helpings and rich holiday cuisine. Additionally, try starting a new tradition. A touch football game or something that involves physical activity will keep things fun and fulfilling.
  5. Give thanks for your health and take actions that reflect this gratitude. Take a minute to reflect on the dire situations people are in worldwide. Appreciating all the gifts and good fortune life has handed you will help you think twice before reaching for another cookie.  Cherish your body, your health, and do something (exercise, meditation, or self-reflection) to demonstrate this gratitude.

Even by carrying out the above guidelines, internal pressure to please the host by taking a second helping, falling into the habit of traditions, or not saying 'no' to a certain dish can overpower our internal motivation to stick with attempts to be healthy. You might be surprised at how eating less allows you to enjoy the holidays, and especially, the fast-approaching New Year even more. Cheers to a happy and healthy holiday season!