It’s not hard to find weight-loss advice from experts — especially this time of year — but sometimes you wonder, ‘Have they ever been in my shoes?’ Not to discredit their knowledge, but their advice can occasionally seem a little obvious or, worse, unrealistic. (It’s easy to forego goopy green bean casserole at Thanksgiving, but cauliflower mash instead of potatoes? Are they crazy?)
These tips come from members of our MyFitnessPal community who’ve successfully lost 50 pounds or more — and have maintained it. Their tricks are tried-and-true for sticking to healthy goals during the holidays.
1. HEALTHIFY SOME DISHES — BUT NOT ALL OF THEM
Since she does the cooking for holidays, Sheridan makes some dishes traditionally and makes lighter versions of others. “This way all the flavors are there that make the holidays more of an occasion,” she says. (It’s not Thanksgiving without her mother’s stuffing!) Down about 83 pounds, she also makes mini versions of desserts so it’s easier to have a tiny taste of pie rather than a huge slice.
2. GUESSTIMATE BEFOREHAND
“Enter what you think you might eat for Thanksgiving or Christmas in MyFitnessPal ahead of time so you get an idea of calories and macros. Then adjust accordingly,” suggests Audrey Misikin, who has lost 57 pounds and counting.
3. HAVE A MANTRA
“I repeat to myself, ‘I didn’t come this far just to come this far,’” says Kimberly Cooper Metcalf, who has lost 109 pounds with this mentality. Having a mantra keeps you focused on your goal.
4. EXERCISE BEFORE — AND/OR AFTER
Down 243 pounds, Brooke McDavitt likes to schedule a fitness-related event around the holiday, such as a turkey trot with the whole family. “Medals are a great motivator for my family,” she says. “We’re Star Wars nerds and have collected the Jedi Academy series. I’m so proud that my husband, sister-in-law and daughters join me now.”
After a holiday meal, Koreena Keller Ralston, a member of the 100+ weight-loss club, says there’s no better way to burn off extra calories than a walk or ride on your bike to look at Christmas lights. But staying in motion doesn’t apply only to the “big days.” Ashley Marsh, who has lost 90 pounds, walks or rides her bike before holiday parties, too.
5. EAT WHAT YOU’LL BE DISAPPOINTED YOU MISSED
“If I’m at a party and there are holiday cookies, I allow myself to pick my absolute favorite one or two as a treat. I think of the ones that I know I would be sad that I deprived myself of and I eat just one of each,” Marsh says. By indulging a little, it’s easier to feel satisfied.
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6. … OR EAT A LITTLE BIT OF EVERYTHING
If you go this route, put two-bite portions on your plate. “People look at me like I’m nuts, but I want to enjoy the delicious food without overindulging,” says Sky Sloderbeck, who has lost 120 pounds so far. This prevents feeling deprived while also keeping calories in check.
7. LOG EVERYTHING, TOO
Erin Franklin, who has maintained a 70-pound weight loss says “it’s better to know, and odds are good that you haven’t messed up as badly as you think you have. When you don’t log, it’s easy to get into the mindset of ‘It doesn’t count’ or ‘I’ve already messed up, I might as well have another cookie/drink/piece of pie.’” When you log it — even if you go over every day during the holidays — you’re holding yourself accountable, and there’s an element of mindfulness that makes it easier to get back on track.
8. OBEY YOUR SATIETY CUES
“If you notice you’re feeling full before you finish your plate, toss it so you don’t overeat,” says Jim Harrison, who’s lost 72 pounds sticking to this approach over the past year.
9. DRESS UP
“Wear clothing that doesn’t allow for overeating. Ditch the comfy sweatpants and go for the jeans that become uncomfortable when you have too much,” McDavitt says.
10. PACK SNACKS
“Always keep healthy snacks with you everywhere you go. They are lifesavers!” says Katilin-Philip Jones, who has lost 52 pounds.
11. BRING A HEALTHY SIDE
“I bring something that fits my needs,” says Matt Park, who has lost 65 pounds so far. “Invariably someone will ask how I lost the weight, and it allows me to practice what I preach and possibly encourage someone else along their path.”
12. EAT HEALTHY AT HOME
Evening meals at the holidays typically don’t have the healthiest options, so Franklin makes sure her breakfast and lunch are on track. That way you have a few “wins” for the day.
13. MAKE HOLIDAYS YOUR CHEAT DAYS
Now 120 pounds lighter, Chico Cheek uses Thanksgiving and Christmas Day as that week’s cheat day. “The key is keep it to that day and not the whole week,” he says. “One day won’t reverse months of progress. In my opinion, constant denial of treats does more harm and can permanently wreck weight loss.”
14. SIGN UP FOR A 2018 RACE
Sheridan found that signing up for half marathons helps keep her on track. “The one I’m about to sign up for in February will be a nice incentive to remain active during the holidays,” she says.
15. DON’T SWEAT IT
Sure, Alisha Price only eats treats that are really special and only in moderation. But if the scale moves a little, no biggie, she says. “I didn’t lose [200 pounds] in a day. I’m not going to gain it all back in a day either. Enjoy life while balancing out your choices,” she says.
Have you celebrated a weight-loss victory? What are your tips for maintaining it?