It’s no secret that making healthy choices over the holidays is challenging, everything from travel to social engagements, baking, hosting and gift giving. For many, there is also the lingering question of how to plan for the onslaught of food and beverages. As such, this is typically not the ideal time of year to focus on losing weight. However, you can still experience a positive health outcome by modifying your goal to simply maintain over the holidays.
Strategies for Holiday Weight Maintenance
As you go about planning a weight maintenance strategy, you have a couple of approaches:
- Convince yourself you have the willpower to stick with your dietary plan and physical activity schedule. Willpower will get you started but most studies find people are unable to rely on it as a means of sustaining a desired behavior.
- Accept that circumstances will be different over the next two months and give yourself permission to navigate the holidays with flexibility.
On the chance your inner voice already knew willpower alone wasn’t going to cut it, then perhaps you’ll reconsider option number 2. Frankly, if you’re thinking about how to stay healthy over the holidays, you’re well on your way to success!
Steps for Holiday Weight Maintenance
Planning (which you started), along with problem solving, are two of the most effective ways to manage weight maintenance. Reflect on the following questions to help you plan and problem solve. You may consider writing down your answers. Writing is an excellent technique to encourage problem solving, remember your plan and stick to it.
Step 1: Planning. Answer the following questions with as much detail as possible:
- What specific events are likely to change your current healthy lifestyle habits? (e.g. family visiting, kids out of school, invitations to holiday parties, etc.)
- Who will be a positive influence on your health goals and emotions? Who is a negative influence?
- What food and beverage choices can you control?
- Which holiday foods do you really love? Which foods are you willing to skip?
- How will you define moderation with holiday treats/beverages? Be specific, e.g. two cookies per day or one drink per event.
Step 2: Problem Solving. Answer the questions below in reference to your answers above:
- Which events will get your time this year? How can you prioritize those events that help maintain a healthy lifestyle while limiting those that don’t?
- What will you say, or do, to establish boundaries with others (and yourself) regarding food and beverage? By creating these boundaries, what benefit will you receive?
- How can you exercise in light of possible changes in routine and environment and when exactly will you do it?
- How can you use self-care practices instead of eating or drinking to manage holiday emotions?
- What is your plan B when plan A doesn’t work?
If things don’t go as planned, start over with the planning and problem solving by using what you learned the first time.