How to Stay on Track with Weight, Food, and Stress during the Holiday Season: Your Holiday Survival Guide

The winter holidays are here and with all the joy and excitement, they also include challenges and realities that can throw your goals, routines, and eating off course. As much as many of us look forward to this time of year, we know that it is stressful and that the food-filled festivities can be a recipe for overeating and weight gain.

The research on holiday weight gain and stress is worth paying attention to. Holiday stress has a particular impact on women, who take charge of many of the holiday celebrations, particularly the tasks related to food.

Women are more likely to report increased stress during the holiday season. Women have a harder time relaxing during the holidays and are more likely to fall into bad habits like emotional eating to manage overload or overwhelm. Our health can take a further hit because, during the holidays, people are much more likely to choose non-active (and ineffective) activities like watching TV, sleeping, eating and drinking to manage their stress.

Many people engage in emotional eating and other unhealthy behaviors to cope with their stress levels during the holidays, and as you probably know, weight gain is a big issue. People gain more weight during the holiday season than any other time of year. It gets worse. We’re less likely to lose the weight we gain over the holidays, and, if you are already overweight, you are likely to gain more weight than average.

I’m not trying to be a downer here, but the holiday season is definitely a time to be proactive if you want to avoid overeating, weight gain, and stress and begin the New Year feeling on track and in control.

Here are five essential ingredients for staying on track with weight, health, and stress over the holiday season:

1. Set a goal. Be clear on what it is you plan to accomplish over the next several weeks. Be realistic; make sure it’s manageable; and be concrete. Your goals don’t have to be huge. Maybe you are going to pack a healthy lunch every day or walk on your lunch hour. Maybe you will only eat dessert on certain days of the week. Pick a goal that fits you and make sure that you can easily tell whether you are on track or not.

2. Create a plan. This is not the time of year to take anything for granted. Make sure you know the how and the when of anything you plan to do. Schedule time for your goals NOW before life gets any busier. Write things down. Identify the steps you will need to take. For instance, if you are going to pack a daily lunch, make sure you have ideas of what you will take, that you have the time to prepare it, and groceries on hand. Set yourself up for success by thinking things through on the front end.

3. Keep it do-able. I’m repeating myself here because it’s important. When you set goals that are too big, you are setting yourself up to fail and to feel ineffective. This is probably not the time of year when you will maximize weight loss, in fact, for many women, the goal may be not to gain. That’s great. Be honest with yourself about what you want to do and what you really can do over the next six weeks. Remember, small changes—the ones you can maintain–can create big results.

4. Savor and be selective. Think about food ahead of time. You probably encounter some special foods over the holidays that you don’t want to pass up. Plan for these, and whatever you do, make darn sure that you stop and savor them (without guilt). You can’t really indulge if you are busy feeling bad or mad at yourself for what you are eating. Make those calories count!

On the other hand, you’re going to encounter lots of unhealthy food you probably don’t really care about over the next few weeks. Consider making some policies for yourself about foods you are willing to forgo. Do you really care about the store-bought dinner rolls or the eggnog? Get clear NOW on what you will happily skip.

5. Commit to me-time. Remember all that stuff about holiday stress? As busy as you may be this holiday season, it’s important to set aside regular time just for you. This will help you manage your stress, stay connected with your needs and your goals, and feel better. You’re likely to be less irritable, more focused, and more productive if you commit to taking regular me-time. As little as ten minutes a day can reduce stress, add ease, and make an incredible difference in how you feel and function.

What are your holiday survival tips? I’d love to hear. Leave a comment and let me know your challenges and how you plan to stay on track this year.

Take good care,


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