Keep your diet plan on track this holiday season

It’s that time of year… the time for fun, family, friends, stress and temptation to challenge your diet and workout goals. The holidays bring opportunities to enjoy the company of friends and family along with many indulgences. That doesn’t mean you have to get off-track. Living in the moment and enjoying the holidays is a great joy in life. However, it can also be stressful. It’s hard to balance the busyness of the season with maintaining the progress you have made throughout the year. You have been good at keeping up your New Year’s Resolutions… or at least at restarting them.

When it comes maintaining healthy eating, there is not a more challenging time of the year, and to make matters worse, there is very little daylight to motivate us to get out of bed to do an extra workout to offset the indulgences. There is hope! Planning and tapping into your support network can help you stay on track and feel proud this holiday season.

Here are some tips for helping you this season:

First step: Identify the typical culprits. The holidays while stressful can be somewhat predictable. Thanksgiving is a holiday where we look the other way to over eating very tasty but not as healthy food (mmmm.. did you say pie?!). Do you struggle with portion control at holiday feasts? Is it your favorite food you can’t resist? Is your social calendar more busy than typical? Or are you the person cooking for everyone else and you forget to eat or snack while cooking? Whatever the culprit, you can’t do anything about it if you don’t identify it. My suggestion is to write down the typical culprits on a list.

Second step: Set a goal. It is very challenging to stick with your typical eating habits. You can always bring your typical foods to host’s house, or if you’re hosting, feed your guest your favorite healthy foods and skip the unhealthy sides. But this is a bit impractical and can come across as inconsiderate to those who enjoy the holiday. And, you shouldn’t have to skip the joys of the holiday either. Bringing your own food or prescribing what others should eat prevent you from being in the moment and enjoying the company of your friends and family. Instead, I suggest you write down what your goal will be. Will you allow yourself to have one dessert? Or, will you stay away from the delicious buttery, creamy mashed potatoes? Will you stick to proportions the summer-time you would approve of? On that same sheet of paper, write it down. Keep it practical knowing the friends and family who you will be surrounded by.

Third step: Make a schedule. As your plans solidify, write it down. I suggest creating a calendar view with 3 columns. List the times of the day on the left column. The second column write your commitments including social, travel time, cooking, workouts and other time commitments. Don’t forget cooking time, eating time and time to clean. The third column is where you can start to plan out details. What are your workout goals? What will you cook? What will be be your goals for socializing? Be honest with yourself. If you want to indulge at the family thanksgiving and limit yourself to 1 or 3 pieces of pie, write it down. This is a method for setting expectations with yourself and to plan areas where you can compensate to stay on track. Refer back to your goals as you plan. Are you sticking with your goals? Will you need to adjust? This is the place to come up with an action plan.

Now take a second look. How are your workouts and meal timeline lining up? Write down your pre- and post- workout meals. Note the workout goals. Using this method, you can plan when you’re going to workout relative to meals to make sure your food is digested prior to working out or so you can plan an appropriate recovery meal (hmmm… pumpkin pie recovery meal?). And you can balance finishing a hard workout with having appropriate time to recover before jumping into social commitments.

Review this and adjust goals to be reasonable expectations or modify the plan so it is achievable. This is a challenging time with several priorities to be balanced.  Perhaps you can contact the host and offer to provide a tasty addition to the meal that is compliant with your diet goals.

Fourth step: Create a support network. There will be moments that will be challenging and it’s much easier to have a support network. This can be someone who will be with you at these activities that can be a partner and you keep each other honest. Or your support network can be someone else who will be vested in your successful compliance to this goal. Either way, going at this alone is challenging.  

Fifth step: Live in the moment! Have fun! After all, it is a holiday.  When you’re at the events, focus on the people and the conversations and less about the food. This will help create fond memories while achieving your goals. Some practical tips are to stay away from the appetizer table, add water as a beverage of choice. Sometimes eating a snack beforehand will help avoid the temptation to snack on all the appetizers while the turkey is cooking (Is it still frozen! Come on people!)

Sixth step: Forgive yourself! Chances are, you will slip up. It’s okay. As you’re being tempted, you can try to avoid the impulse by taking a moment to think about a blessing. This may distract you and provide you the opportunity to reengage in a different method. Remember your plan you set for yourself and revisit it to see how you can adjust. You can bring the paper discretely with you or you can mentally check in with yourself. Whatever you plan is, forgive yourself, reset and enjoy the company.

Seventh Step: Have fun! This is a holiday!


This holiday season, try following these steps to provide confidence as you entertain, cook and try to maintain relative routine in your day. You will have a plan and if you slip, go back to the plan and move on. This is a time to be thankful and to spend time with friends and family. Happy Holidays!