Food is a natural part of so many of our holiday festivities as we exchange tins filled with cookies and fudge, load up the dinner table with comfort foods and toast the New Year with bubbles. In fact, many people gain weight over the holidays, tacking on about 1 pound or 0.5 kilograms — which adds up over the years, according to a study published in Physiology & Behavior.
SHARE YOUR GOALS
For many of us, making sure someone has had enough to eat is basically a love language. But stockings full of candy, food deliveries with highly processed cheeses and meats and reminders to “eat, eat!” from your relatives aren’t so helpful when you’re trying to lose weight. A simple fix is to tell your family and friends about your health goal and ask for their support, says Micah Siva, RD. They might even agree to stick with non-food gift exchanges or, at the very least, stop pressuring you to get seconds.
RELEASE FOOD GUILT
Friendly reminder: Just because someone made you food or gave it to you as a gift doesn’t mean you’re required to eat it, says Julie Cunningham, RD. If you don’t enjoy something (looking at you, fruitcake and eggnog), don’t feel guilty about giving it away or putting it in the trash, she says.
FRESHEN UP YOUR SERVING STYLE
Instead of passing on creamy sides or your favorite pies altogether, get creative with how you serve your favorite foods. “Prepare the richest picks in personalized portions to help prevent doling out too much while making everyone feel special,” suggests Jackie Newgent, RD. For example, put breakfast casserole in ramekins, make stuffing in muffin cups, bake mini pumpkin pies, or serve holiday cocktails in slim, fancy glasses. Stock up on smaller holiday plates this year, and you might eat 30% fewer calories, per a study published in the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research.
ADD A LITTLE SPICE TO HOLIDAY SWEETS
If you know you’re going to eat cookies because, well, that’s what you do every single holiday, here’s an easy way to make them taste better with fewer calories: Add 25% less sugar (Think: 3/4 cup for every 1 cup in the recipe), and mix in more flavor with a little extra vanilla extract or spices like cinnamon, suggests Newgent. Another option: Use applesauce instead of sugar to add filling fiber.
INTRODUCE NEW HOLIDAY TRADITIONS
Instead of thinking about how you can lose weight, ask yourself, “What can I do that makes me feel good?” suggests Siva. Adding new traditions is an easy way to get away from temptation and enjoy quality time with your loved ones. For example, walk around the neighborhood to see holiday lights, play a family kickball game, or take a hike to see stunning views of snowy mountains. “You could also give back by cleaning out your house and donating food, clothes and other items to your local shelter or a charity you care about,” says Siva.
REMEMBER THE BIGGER PICTURE
“The holiday season is a special time of year, and one meal, one week, or one holiday won’t derail your progress or goals, so be kind to yourself,” says Siva. Case in point: One study finds people who gained weight over the holidays, but were motivated to lose it with regular weigh-ins afterward, were able to get back on track and shed the pounds. New Year’s resolutions that are sustainable and fun are a great way to do that.
Make progress every day while you work on fitness and nutrition goals. Go to “Plans” in the MyFitnessPal app for daily coaching and easy-to-follow tasks to keep you motivated.