‘Tis the season to jingle all the way to the fireplace with a mulled wine in hand. It’s a very merry time of year to get together with loved ones for festive cookie swaps, cocktail parties, and secret snowman gift exchanges. Although you don’t want to be a grinch and cramp the holiday vibe, it’s easy to break healthy routines and pack on unwanted weight this time of year. In the midst of all the stuffing, pumpkin pie, and gingerbread martinis, you’re trying not to stray too far from your weight loss progress. But alas, where to begin? We get it, which is why we consulted with experts who share healthy holiday habits for weight loss you’ll want to stick with.
The good news? According to a study published in The BMJ, incorporating a “behavioral intervention” in your routine during the holidays can be incredibly beneficial. The participants in the study’s intervention group were encouraged to practice some healthy habits to avoid packing on extra pounds. These included reading food labels, being mindful of portion sizes, opting for low-fat foods, eating meals around the same times each day, and shooting for 10,000 steps per day. The results? People in the intervention group lost weight!
We’re not telling you to totally cut out your favorite things about this time of year. (Now that would be something the grinch would do before he turned pro-Christmas!) It’s all about enjoying the flavors of the season in moderation, maintaining a healthy mindset, and adopting some key habits that’ll keep you on the right track. Read on to learn about eight holiday habits for weight loss, according to the experts.
Raoul Manalac, MD, senior director of clinical experience for weight management at Ro, a direct-to-patient healthcare company with a mission of helping patients achieve their health goals, suggests alerting your loved ones in advance that you’re making a conscious effort to eat healthier and lose weight.
Dr. Manalac reveals this is a pro tip he’s shared with patients—and it delivers results. He says, “They’ve told me that by being open about their goals and their motivations to get healthier in advance helps take the pressure off at the dinner table, and ultimately helps them stay on track.”
For some individuals, one major hurdle is not just the holiday itself, but the festive gatherings sprinkled throughout the season. They can add up, and so can the calories!
“One way to set yourself up for success for holiday parties is to make sure you’ve eaten a healthy meal or snack beforehand. When you’re there, try to avoid sugary drinks and alcoholic beverages as much as you can,” Dr. Manalac suggests.
Lauren Manaker, MS, RDN, LD, CLEC, an award-winning registered dietitian, book author, and recipe developer who sits on our Medical Expert Board, explains you can—and absolutely should—still enjoy your favorite holiday treats and meals. It all comes down to portion control.
“Don’t deprive yourself of your favorite food. Please enjoy those gingersnaps that your aunt bakes every year and that casserole your neighbor made for a holiday party,” she encourages, adding, “Enjoying your favorite foods in appropriate portions can help prevent overeating in the long run. And you get to enjoy the holidays a bit more too!” Manaker recommends balancing out the holiday treats with nutrient-rich foods like fresh veggies and fruits.
Laura Burak MS, RD, founder of GetNaked® Nutrition and author of “Slimdown with Smoothies,” agrees that portion control is the name of the game. “A healthier holiday season can be as simple as portion control, which goes for any other time of year, too, but especially when the food tends to be more calorically dense,” she explains.
Burak encourages choosing the indulgences you think are worth it, and then try keeping your meals as balanced as they can be. “Eat regular meals during the day, and don’t ‘save up’ for the holiday meal, because you will most likely end up overeating due to low blood sugar and hunger later,” she says.
As for what a well-balanced plate looks like, Burak suggests, “Fill your plate with mostly protein (turkey, meat, fish) and veggies in any form, and keep the heavier creamier buttery foods to small portions. You can sample everything in small portions and still maintain a healthy lifestyle.”
If you’re all about shaking up and ordering festive drinks, this one’s for you. Manaker recommends opting for a festive mocktail over a cocktail the next time you head out on the town.
“Mocktails can be just as enjoyable as a cocktail, but with fewer calories,” she says, adding, “And when you lean on mocktails, you don’t run the risk of losing your inhibitions so you can continue to eat more mindfully.”
The struggle can be real when all you want to do is cuddle up by the fireplace with a big blanket and watch holiday flicks. But adding movement to your daily routine is not a question—it’s a staple if you want to stay on track with your weight loss goals.
According to Manaker, “A little movement can go a long way when it comes to weight loss. An easy walk, an impromptu dance session, or a front yard touch football game can help get the body moving and can support weight loss.”
In addition to getting up and active, Burak stresses the importance of staying hydrated. This way, at least some regular day-to-day habits can remain consistent over the holidays. And consistency is king when it comes to staying on track with weight loss.
“Having a sense of control over some things can lead to healthier outcomes and you may end up naturally staying in a better zone this new year rather than throwing your hands up to the usual weight gain because ’tis the season,” she explains.
Above all else, don’t forget to show up for yourself. The last of these holiday habits for weight loss has to do with being kind to yourself. You’ve worked so hard all year long, and everything you’ve accomplished won’t turn to shambles by simply attending a few holiday plans. “Enjoy celebrating with your friends and family with the foods you love and have a plan to continue your progress toward your goals after the holidays,” Dr. Manalac says.