When the holidays roll around, it usually means we are in the midst of holiday cookies, cakes, stuffing, sauces, and hams. Trying to eat healthy foods can be difficult during this time of year, making some of us feel guilty when we veer from our usual meals.
Of course, there are ways to be sensible, but sometimes it's nice to drop your guard and go for the gold. If you walk the line most of the year by eating a balanced diet, holidays may be the one time can let yourself stray.
The bottom line, ultimately, is that we need to eat. If you think about it, food and social interaction go together. Food is almost always shared, whether it be with your best friend or your family. During the holidays, we are surrounded by people where we eat, drink, and catch up on the latest happenings. Face it, you're not in this for nutrition, although it's a bonus if you can pull a good meal out of the buffet line. When you approach the table, your food choices should be yours alone, and you should eat the way you want without feeling any shame afterwards.
If you think you'll waver too much, set a goal. Be reasonable and remember to focus on what you did accomplish. Beating yourself up is a waste of time and it will make you feel bogged down and overwhelmed. After all, the holidays can be stressful enough.
Try to prioritize what you need to do. Grasp a hold of your inner child and realize that it is okay to be a bit selfish with your time and your diet. The truth is, you cannot do everything and be everywhere. Figure out what is most important to you and follow through with it.
Consider the difference between fact and fiction. You know that gym memberships are going to be advertised through December. They will talk about holiday weight gain and inactivity, while topping it off with some guilt and shame. However, many studies show the average person gains only 1-2 pounds during the winter holiday season. The issue is that most people do not shed that weight, and it adds up over the course of several years.
This means you can breathe a bit easier and think about how you would like to lose that pound or 2, or maybe even not gain it at all. There are ways to navigate the endless sweets, gravies, and sauces, and still maintain your weight. You have heard it a million times, and it applies here: everything in moderation.
Like with most things in life, too much of a good thing can turn out to be bad. Here are some tips to help you get from Halloween to New Year's Day with ease:
Physical activity is also important. If you do exercise, stick as close as possible to your normal routine. If you do not, take a walk around the block. Schedule 30 minutes to do some sort of activity on most days of the week. A good rule to remember is that it is better to do something than nothing. In combination with your holiday eating, it will help you maintain your weight and make you feel better overall.
Remember, the holidays are meant to be fun. Do it on your own terms and leave the bad feelings behind.
American Society for Nutrition
Eat Right—Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Public Health Agency of Canada
Enjoy guilt-free holiday eating. Brigham and Women's Hospital website. Available at: http://www.brighamandwomens.org/patients_visitors/pcs/nutrition/services/healtheweightforwomen/special_topics/intelihealth1206.aspx?subID=submenu10. Accessed April 13, 2017.
Food and eating: An anthropological perspective. Social Issues Research Centre website. Available at: http://www.sirc.org/publik/food_and_eating_1.html. Accessed April 13, 2017.
Stevenson JL, Krishnan S, Stoner MA, Goktas Z, Cooper JA. Effects of exercise during the holiday season on changes in body weight, body composition and blood pressure. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2013;67(9):944-949.
Wagner DR, Larson JN, Wengreen H. Weight and body composition change over a six-week holiday period. Eat Weight Disord. 2012;17(1):e54-e56.
Yanovski JA, Yanovski SZ, Sovik KN, Nguyen TT, O'Neil PM, Sebring NG. A prospective study of holiday weight gain. N Engl J Med. 2000;342(12):861-867.
Last reviewed April 2017 by Michael Woods, MD, FAAP
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.