Guest post by Melissa R.B. Connor, MA, RDN/LD

You decided to make some changes for better health. You’ve been staying on track with your goals, but here come the holidays. Don’t worry, I’m going to show you how to avoid overeating during the holidays this season and beyond.

Nothing can challenge healthy lifestyle changes like the holiday season. Routines change, stress rises, and temptations are everywhere. Having a plan in place can help you feel more confident so that you fully enjoy all the season’s festivities. 

Keep reading to learn 10 tips on how to avoid overeating during the holidays.

how to avoid overeating during the holidays

1. Stay active

If you already have a routine for activity, stick to it! Make necessary adjustments in your schedule to carve out time for exercise. When traveling, plan and ask for suggestions on activities to do in the area.

If you’re like me and you have super fit, personal trainer cousins, join them when they get up to work out or support them when they try to get the whole family moving. You will feel better and you will have made a family connection. A win-win!

Staying active naturally keeps you mindful of your goals such as eating well and staying hydrated, and keeps you in a positive mindset. Some level of holiday stress is inevitable, but exercise can naturally reduce it. Taking part in exercise is an opportunity to release the pressure and treat yourself, and is something on your holiday to-do list that is actually for yourself.  

Sign up for a 5k, grab a few family members for an early morning hike, play with the kids outside, or hit the dance floor at the office party to show off your best moves. Whatever you do, make it fun, and keep moving!

It also doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing, so if you have less time during the holidays, keeping up with just 15 minutes of exercise is much better than nothing. This will keep you in the habit and in a positive mindset, making it easy to ramp things up again post-holiday season.

2. Eat what you enjoy

 A huge part of the holidays is getting to eat those one or two dishes that only get made this time of year. For my family, it’s my mom’s sweet potato pie, my grandmother’s conch fritters, or my aunt’s red velvet cake, to name a few. These only make appearances once, maybe twice a year, and I’m surely not going to miss out on them! 

Family meals are important to our individual cultures and are an important part of our identities. These meals hold traditions and memories. You should never feel the need to deprive yourself of these moments or feel guilt or shame for enjoying them. 

If you have many favorites like me, take smaller portions of each. If you only have one or two must-haves, get those and fill the rest of your plate with veggies. You can also have one or two favorites now and put some of your other favorites away for another meal. This way you still get to enjoy it without overdoing it in one meal. 

3. Stick to your regular eating schedule

Another way to avoid overeating during the holidays is to eat like you normally would. Don’t skip or skimp on meals trying to save room for the big one. 

Start with a hearty breakfast, making sure to include fiber and lean protein. One of my favorites for the colder months is oatmeal

If your party is later in the day, make sure to include a balanced midday meal and maybe even a light snack before you head out. The goal is to not show up starving so that you feel more in control of how much you’re eating. 

4. Take your time

There is no better time than the holidays to catch up with family and friends. This not only feeds your soul but can be a tool to help you avoid overeating. 

Take breaks between bites while you talk, play games, and tell old stories. Before you know it, the party will be over, and you’ll leave physically and emotionally satisfied. 

You can also mingle and dance or use the time for networking and making connections for the new year. Taking the emphasis off of the food and more on the experience of the event helps reduce overeating and makes it so much more enjoyable.

5. Limit liquid calories

Excess calories from beverages and cocktails can quickly add up. Being mindful of what calories are worth it to you (a soda or your favorite holiday treat), can help you stay on track. 

Try a new low-sugar beverage or mocktail recipe and bring it to share. 

If a traditional holiday beverage such as coquito, eggnog, or pumpkin punch, is your favorite of the season, let that be your treat or have a small serving then switch to water or sparkling water. 

wine calories

6. Use smaller plates

An oldie but goodie for how to avoid overeating during the holidays is to use smaller plates. Limiting how much you can fit on your plate will ultimately limit how much you consume. 

A smaller plate will also help you to be more selective in what foods you choose to put on it. 

7. Take a time out

Try to fit in time for yourself to process all that is going on. We all need moments to step back, be mindful and remember our goals. The holidays can be hectic, and it’s easy to lose sight of things. 

Checking in with yourself helps you to be confident in what works for you. What’s been working for you? What hasn’t?  Are you being kind to yourself?  This is not a time to beat yourself up but a time to regroup and reset your focus. 

Food doesn’t have a moral value, but it does have a purpose. Sometimes the purpose is to nourish, sometimes it’s about the experience or connection, and sometimes it’s both. Be mindful of what you want to get out of the meal or event, and savor your meals for what they are. 

8. Know your triggers for overeating

Although the holidays are about love and joy, they can also carry some tough emotional elements. These can really cloud your judgment, making it hard to tell the difference between true emotional vs. physical hunger.   

Chances are you know the aunt or cousin that’s going to say something that leaves you feeling frustrated or down about yourself. While this can trigger emotional eating, there are things you can do to plan ahead for this.

During your personal check-ins, take time to prepare for those moments. Be ready to brush it off and don’t let them see you sweat. Remind yourself of all you have accomplished so far and be proud of that. 

Know your limits. Maybe that limit is talking to certain people or maybe it’s a time limit on how long you can stick around at the office party before you begin to eat out of boredom. Whatever it is, decide and stand your ground. Be confident in your goals and choices and remember that you don’t owe anyone an explanation as to why you’re eating a certain way or decide not to have an alcoholic drink. 

9. Choose your indulgences

If you have several holiday events to attend, choose the ones where you may want to indulge more than others. 

The office party may be a potluck with supermarket cookies as the best treat. They may not be worth missing out on your grandmother’s famous Tres leches cake at the family dinner, so choose your favorite wisely. 

10. Stay hydrated

Proper hydration is important to support the body in every function. It also provides needed energy during the busy holiday season and can help you eat less. For example, one study showed those who drank a glass of water before a meal ate 13% less than those who didn’t. 

During the cooler months, you may not be as easily urged to drink, it doesn’t mean you are getting enough water. Keep water on hand throughout the day. Use a tracker bottle or app to remind you to drink. 

At your events, alternate between sweetened beverages or cocktails and water to ensure you get in enough throughout the day. 

Bottom Line – How to Avoid Overeating During the Holidays

The holidays are about far more than obsessing about food. Plan and be confident in your choices. Maybe your healthy choice for the season is having a healthier mindset around your relationship with food. Let your holiday meals be the twinkling backdrop, not a cloud overshadowing the fun. 

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