11 tips to prevent weight gain during the holidays + still enjoy your favorite foods

How to prevent weight gain during the holidays (and still enjoy your favorite foods!)

Can you believe Thanksgiving is almost here and Christmas is right around the corner??  

And you know what that means . . . turkey and dressing and pumpkin pie and Christmas cookies and parties and cakes and pies and delicious casseroles and . . . well, you get the drift.  The holidays are a time of serious eating!  At least they are at our house.  I’m getting giddy just thinking about it.

A big part of the joy of the holidays are the special foods associated with them — foods we only get to have this one time of year.  They’re often wrapped up in fond memories from childhood of our family favorites . . . your mom’s special pecan pie, or your favorite aunt’s homemade macaroni and cheese that she always makes just for you.

As awesome as the holidays are, it can be a stressful time if you’re a bride-to-be (or bridesmaid or mother of the bride/groom) with a dress to fit into!  You really want to have those special foods you love.  But you’ve been working so hard to get in shape for your wedding and the last thing you want is to pack on a bunch of pounds during the holidays. Talk about a dilemma!

So here’s some good news — it IS possible to enjoy your favorite holiday foods WITHOUT gaining weight!  You just have to be very intentional and strategic about it.  The tips below will help!


11 tips to prevent weight gain during the holidays + still enjoy your favorite foods 

1, Get plenty of sleep the week leading up to (and during) the holidays.  If you come into the holidays well rested, you’re actually less likely to overeat. This is because lack of sleep negatively impacts the hormones that regulate your feelings of hunger and feelings of fullness.  So not getting enough sleep can make you feel hungrier and not realize when you’re full, and this can cause you to overeat in a big way.   Keeping the weight off during the holidays will be challenging enough without having whacked-out hormones that can’t tell when you’re hungry or full!  Aim for at least 7 hours of sleep each night.  (Learn more about how sleep affects weight loss here.

2. Take healthy snacks with you when traveling.  If you have a long road-trip ahead of you, pack a cooler with healthy snacks, meals, and plenty of water.  Doing this will make it easier to resist the urge to hit a drive-through when you get hungry. If you’re flying, pack some healthy snacks for the airport and flight (no Biscoff cookies or pretzels on the plane!).  Remember — you have awesome foods waiting for you, so don’t blow it on crappy stuff like airport junk food or fast food! (You can find ideas on my Healthy Snacks Pinterest board)

3. Splurge on the things you REALLY love and skip the rest. Whether it’s at the office Christmas party or your Thanksgiving meal, you’ll have lots of (unhealthy) goodness to choose from.  Save yourself for the really good stuff!  Don’t blow it on the unhealthy foods that are just okay, or good but not great.  Really be intentional about what you put on your plate. If you know it’s not good for you but you absolutely LOVE it, then have some. But if it’ not one of your favorites, skip it.  

Also, avoid the empty calories that don’t add anything special to the meal, like soda or other sugary drinks, bread (unless there’s truly something special about that bread) white rice, pasta, etc.

4. Have a game plan for your Thanksgiving and Christmas Day meals.  This includes:

  • Knowing what your favorite foods are at those meals that you definitely don’t want to miss.  Give yourself permission to enjoy those, but skip the other unhealthy stuff that you’re less excited about (as discussed in tip #3).
  • Whatever the big meal of the day is, plan your other meals accordingly.  If the big spread for Thanksgiving is dinner, then plan to eat super healthy at breakfast and lunch.  I’m talking fresh fruits and vegetables (preferably raw), and seeds or nuts.  Something like a green smoothie for breakfast and some raw veggies and hummus for lunch (or dinner after a mid-day feast) would be ideal.
  • Holiday snacking can be your downfall.  Filling up on fruits and veggies will help, but if you’re a snacker, plan to have some healthy snacks on hand.  A veggie tray, nuts or seeds, and popcorn are good choices.

5. Eat a big salad first, and then eat smaller portions of the unhealthy stuff.  And when I say a big salad, I mean a BIG salad (what my mom and I like to call “the big-ass salad”).  Load up on healthy greens (kale, Romaine lettuce, spinach, chard, arugula, etc.), chopped fresh veggies, and a moderate amount of a healthy dressing (olive oil with red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar is one of my favorite ways to dress a salad).  

I know this one’s not a lot of fun, but eating the big salad first will help you feel full because it has lots of fiber and is nutrient-dense, so you’re physically filling your stomach plus satisfying your body’s craving for nutrients.  This will keep your appetite in check and you’ll be satisfied with smaller portions of your favorite foods.

6. Eat the healthy stuff first.  Unless you have all unhealthy stuff on your plate (don’t be that person!), use the strategy of eating all the healthy foods on your plate first, and saving the unhealthy stuff for last.  You’ll be slowing down by the time you get to the unhealthy foods and less likely to overindulge.

7. Eat mindfully and slowly, appreciating and savoring every bite.   This is basically the equivalent of your mom telling you to chew your food when you were a kid, but she knew what she was talking about — this really works!  Chew your food thoroughly and make it a point to enjoy and savor every single bite.  Chewing thoroughly aids with digestion (which means less bloating later), and eating slowly will help keep you from eating more than you should.  Plus, being appreciative of each and every bite is in keeping with the spirit of Thanksgiving – being thankful! 🙂

8. Eat your dessert right after your meal.  I know, I know . . . That flies in the face of holiday tradition where you wait a few hours so that you can then eat MORE dessert because you’re too full right after the meal.  Well it’s time to break that tradition, and here’s why.  First the obvious — you’re already full so you’ll be satisfied with a much smaller portion of dessert.  

Second, eating your sweets right after having some healthy fats and protein (which I’m assuming you had at your meal…you did, right?) might help slow down the absorption of sugar into your bloodstream and keep it from being stored as fat, but burned for energy instead. And on that note. . .

9. Be sure to move.  Believe me, I’m all about getting into my pajamas after the feast and snuggling up under a blanket as I go into a turkey coma, but be sure to get in some activity somewhere in there.  It doesn’t have to be an intense workout — something as simple as going for a long walk is perfect.  If you’re visiting with family, get them to go with you and make it a family outing.  Or (she says as she puts on her devil horns) if your family is dancing the jig on your last nerve (or perhaps your in-laws?), then go by yourself and use it as an escape from family drama!

10. Eat before you go to the party.  This is like the party equivalent of eating the big-ass salad first.  Have a healthy snack before heading out the door for a party (or any event where there will be tempting unhealthy foods) and it’ll be so much easier to resist the temptation.  Include a healthy protein and fat, like nuts and seeds, smoked salmon, or avocados — these will keep you full longer.

11. Don’t keep all the leftovers.  One day of indulging (if done strategically) won’t sabotage your weight loss efforts, but doing it days on end will.  Pack up those unhealthy leftovers and send them home with your friends or family, offer them to a neighbor, or make a plate for an elderly friend who isn’t able to cook for him or herself.  Or if you’re going back to work the next day, take it to your co-workers.  If the thought of giving up your goodies makes you want to cry (I feel you), then fix up one plate for yourself for the next day, and give the rest away (but there is a consolation prize — you get to keep all the healthy stuff!).  

And if you’re the one traveling to someone else’s home for the special meal, don’t take the leftovers!  At the most, take one small serving of something special that you really love and graciously decline the rest.

Follow these tips, and you’ll be able to enjoy the holidays — and your favorite holiday foods — and still fit into your dress!


Next week I’ll be sharing tips for how to recover from the holidays and beat the post-holiday bloat!



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