Surviving the Holidays on a Diet

It’s November, and that means the holiday season is right around the corner—

Unless you include Thanksgiving, then we’re just heading into round two!

It’s that time of year that is both full of cheer as well as indulgence and guilt, and it shouldn’t be! It’s a time to see the people you love and spend as much quality time with them as possible! Of course, with that often goes delicious meals and treats and drinks and so on. It’s not an easy time for anyone trying to maintain their diet and nutrition whilst enjoying socializing and feasts.

So today, after realizing I was starting to browse Christmas recipes and decoration ideas online, I decided to write a little bit about how I get through the holiday season without feeling guilty about the indulgence, and all while staying on track with my personal goals!

Alternate drinks with water

Have you ever been to an office party or family get-together where that one person gets just a little too tipsy and starts singing off-key at the top of their lungs? Or maybe (shhh!) it was you?

If you want to keep a cap on how much you drink this season (whether it be for pride or health), alternate every drink with water. For one, it’ll keep you hydrated for the evening, and it will also help stave off the unpleasant side-effects of those drinks. It’ll also help keep your caloric intake down if you’re trying to keep them “reasonable”.

If it suits you better, you could also opt for low-sugar mocktails. Cranberry juice with soda water and a lime wedge is a great festive drink (and high in vitamin C!).

Eat off a smaller plate.

Most dinner plates are quite large, so when we fill them up we don’t realize just how much we’re actually eating since it’s “only one plate”. You can easily consume more than two servings-worth of food just from one helping!

A great way around this? Eat off a lunch plate! A smaller plate fills up nicely just as well, but your portion sizes will naturally be smaller and help keep you from overeating.

And, if you do end up going back for seconds, the plate will still limit how much you get!

Eat Slowly

Probably the best piece of advice I can give anyone as a nutrition coach (and one I often remind myself of) is to SLOW DOWN!

Almost everyone I meet says their biggest problem is they eat too much too fast. Remember: It takes your stomach at least 20 minutes to half an hour to send signals to your brain that you’re full. Most of the time we can eat our meals in ten minutes or less, which is ample time to eat a second helping and suddenly feel stuffed like the bird!

Slowing down will help you realize when you’re full and stop you from that second helping of potatoes and gravy. And, this is a pretty easy thing to accomplish, thanks to my next tip:


Since this is a time to be with the people we love and spend quality time together, put down your fork after you take a bite, chew your food, and start up a conversation with someone! Don’t take another bite until the next natural break in your conversation, and then start it up again!

Taking the time to talk will naturally slow down your eating, and also help you reconnect with those around you.

Fill up on vegetables and protein

Before you spoon the potatoes and casseroles on and top with gravy, fill your plate with green stuff and protein! If you’re at a standard western Christmas dinner with Turkey, grab up the breast and fill up on those green beans and salad! Then, with the room left on your plate, get the “naughty” things.

Alternatively, if you’re sticking to a plant-based diet, find your chosen protein source and vegetables. Better yet, if it’s a potluck, bring your own contributions so you know what exactly you’re getting into!

Vegetables and protein will provide you with the best nutritional bang for your buck, and if they fill your plate first, you’re less likely to fill up on potatoes and cranberry sauce!

Gather your appetizers all at once— and no refills!

I don’t know about you, but I love appetizers, and any time I go to a function with them, I’m like a kid in a candy store! But I find I lose track and overeat before the main event just because I’ve eaten too many appetizers!

And the culprit? Distracted eating! I mosey around the room, drink in hand, picking appetizers one-at-a-time and not knowing how much I’ve eaten.

So the way around it: Get a plate, gather the amount of appetizers you want to eat all night, and DON’T get more! When you know you’ve sampled it all, stop there and remember what you’re here for!

Remind yourself

This one has a few interpretations.

To apply it to the tactic above: Remind yourself that you’ve eaten that thing food, that you know what it tastes like, and yes it’s delicious! But you don’t need another one; you just want it.

Remembering what your food tastes like can help stop you from eating unnecessarily, and thus overeating. Yes it’s delicious food, and Yes we want more! But we don’t need more, and we’ve had our share!

But beyond this literal point, also remember why you’re here: To connect with loved ones! Focus on conversation and connection, and remember that you’re not just here to eat!

(But for the record, if you find yourself salivating and just incapable of keeping yourself from one more mini quiche, allow yourself that last mini quiche—and savour it!)

Don’t be afraid to say “No”

Sometimes we get pressured into second servings—maybe your aunt doesn’t want to bring a pie home with her and wants you to finish it off—but that doesn’t mean you have to!

If you’re sitting with an empty plate, feeling satiated, and someone passes a platter of dessert bars along, don’t feel bad passing it on.

Don’t feel guilty for not tasting someone else’s pie after you’ve already filled up on the pudding! You’re not there to validate someone’s cooking skills or your ability to out-eat your big brother. Remind yourself of why you’re there: Connecting with loved ones!

Be the bigger person—

To yourself!

Just because you’ve eaten more than you mean to doesn’t mean you can give in and write everything off. You are not this one big meal or one holiday season—you are far more than this single event!

So once the dust has settled (maybe the morning after, or maybe after that last bite of pie), acknowledge your emotions, how things have gone, own up to it, and accept it!

Was it good food? Was it good company? Does it happen every day?

The holidays are meant to be a celebratory time, and often times that means “falling off the wagon”. But the wagon doesn’t cease to exist just because you’re looking at it from the ground instead of the front seat! Get up, dust yourself off, and get back on!

For one, it’s impossible to gain ten pounds overnight from one day of heavy eating. Any movement in the scale will reflect that there is more food in your colon at that particular time, and probably some water retention. Most people will be back to their normal weight (or very nearly) within a few days of a large meal, and sometimes within one day! And it’s worth remembering that we fluctuate 5-10lb on any given day just from drinking, eating and excretion.

And finally, it’s not about gaining weight from a day or two of indulgence. It’s about the bigger picture. If you maintain good eating habits and activity 6 days a week, then that one day you ate a bit more than normal won’t hurt you. It takes a steady level of eating at a surplus or inactivity to gain weight.

So, enjoy your holiday! Don’t obsess over calories or what the scale will say afterwards. You may or may not eat and drink more than normal, but the very fact that you can remind yourself of what is “normal” eating is enough to say: You are healthy! You are on track! You are enjoying your life!

Interested in getting more help to meet your goals and keep on track? Maybe you want something personalized just for you, and someone on your team?

Check out Nutrition Coaching! As a Precision Nutrition certified Coach, I can work with you to help you meet your goals and make them last for the long term, without any of the diet-fad crap!

Shoot me an email to get a free assessment and your first meeting—on the house!

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