How to Keep Your Diet On Track During the Holidays

Sam Naymark
How to Keep Your Diet On Track During the Holidays
Spending copious amounts of time with family can have big benefits for your taste buds. Aunt Sarah makes the best pumpkin pie you’ve ever had, and mom saves her Morrocan beef stew for that one special day a year. It’s your nephew’s birthday in a week too, overlapping with Winter Vacation, so you know the cake and ice cream is headed your way. Sounds tasty right?

That is, unless you’re trying to cut back. If you’re working on eating balanced, healthful diets and keeping your calorie intake to a healthy limit, holiday season, with it’s forced family dinners, classic rich foods, and copious desserts can be pretty stressful. It can be hard to stay on track but miss out on the yummy treasures steaming on the table, and it can be equally frustrating to indulge, only to come face to face with your shame and diet-stress when you look back as how many gingerbread men you ate. 

The answer? Drop the diet, and instead focus on mindful or intuitive eating this holiday season if you really want to stick to your weight loss plan

End the Cycle and Enjoy Your Food

Food stress and emotional baggage combined with the distractions of being out of schedule, with people you aren’t regularly eating with, and heightened pressures of hosting, cooking, preparing or schlepping your food around can throw off your diet mojo. Rather than the pendulum swing of eat → repent → repeat while spending time with your mother-in-law, pay attention to your body, not to the food on your plate. 

Mindful eating philosophies maintain that it’s crucial to enjoy those holiday favorites, giving yourself permission to be fully present and guiltlessly enjoy your chocolate cake, and eat it too! If you feel that you’ll never have dessert again, it can be harder to maintain adequate portions and enjoy the food that’s right in front of you.

Here are the top 3 tips for intuitive eating this holiday season: 

1. Self Care Will Keep You Calm

Shockingly, the top intuitive eating tip this winter has nothing to do with food. List your top 3 favorite activities and do whatever you can to squeeze them in. They shouldn’t involve a screen, but could mean heading out for a jog, grabbing a new book, or getting together with friends you don’t see very often. The idea is this: if your proverbial cup is full, you’ll be able to hold your own when faced with the 4th protein dish on the table at Christmas. Not sure where to start? Download a meditation app or set off a bath bomb and enjoy the bubbles. Once you’ve taken some “me time” to decompress, you’ll be ready to spend quality time with super skinny cousin Susie, no baggage attached. 

2. Practice Makes Perfect

You don’t need a rehearsal Thanksgiving dinner to know what to expect when your siblings get together. You have a relative who loves pushing their special dish onto your plate? Come prepared with a response. If you’re hosting or bringing the paper goods, being prepared is even easier. Buy plates with lots of color contrast, such as blue or green, which studies show helps you eat less. People tend to over-serve food on big plates, so consider sizing down the options. Nothing needs to be “party-sized,” and if you eat a bit in advance, you won’t be starving when the oily appetizers roll out.

If you’re hosting, consider omitting the bowl of cookies or jelly beans on the coffee table, keeping the food in the dining room, kitchen or back porch--wherever is comfortable for eating, but not necessarily spending the rest of the afternoon. Practice politely saying “no thank you” to your friends and family members, and take a look at the buffet options as soon as it’s set up, not waiting until you have a plate in your hand. A Cornell University study suggests that the first 3 items you see in line are the most likely to take up 65% of your plate just because you noticed them first, and that makes it harder to resist coming back for that great casserole you only noticed later on.

3. Stay Mindful

Consider the foods and eating times that will bring you the most satisfaction and enjoyment. Does it make you happy to dig into the chips while you chat with your cousins in the kitchen? Eat slowly, purposefully, and pay attention to your body’s cues of when you’re hungry and full. If the food you put on your plate isn’t as tasty as you expected it to be, no need to finish it. If your full, the plate can wait, and if you’re not hungry yet, ignore what everyone else is doing. 

Try not to multitask while you eat, since being distracted by the television, board game, or unwrapping gifts can easily lead to overeating. There are 5 S’s to help you remember mindful eating skills as you prep for the holidays this year: 

  • Sit down
  • Savor
  • Slowly chew
  • Stay in the moment
  • Smile

Enjoy The Holidays!

It’s great to enjoy sugar cookies and gingerbread houses, and it can be even better without the guilt and shame that come from breaking your diet. Intuitive eating helps maintain a healthy outlook and intake without restricting you to cutting calories and skipping dessert. Keep your eye one the prize: a happy, healthy, wholesome holiday season with food, friends and family that you love. 

Sam Naymark
Sam Naymark is a marketing storyteller writing about business, tech, and everyday stories of regular folks. She loves city living, but dreams of spending all her free time in a canoe. She has studied literature, political science, and creative writing.

The information on this site is based on research, but should not be treated as medical advice. Before beginning any new diet plan, we recommend consulting with a physician or other professional healthcare provider. Results may vary based on various health factors, individual weight loss plans and adherence to the meal plan.