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Nutritionist Shares a Step-by-Step Plan to Lose Weight During the Holidays

Losing weight over the holidays is easier than you think, according to this expert. 

Losing weight over the holidays seems counterintuitive, as most people tend to gain weight from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day. "With all the temptations like the leftover Halloween candy, party bubblies, heavy holiday hors d'oeuvres, Christmas candy, it can be challenging to keep that weight off over the course of the season," says Tara Collingwood, MS, RDN, CSSD, LD/N, ACSM-CPT, a Board Certified Sports Dietitian. That, "compiled with the grief that we all experience, especially over the holiday season," can be a recipe for weight gain – but it doesn't have to be. Here is a step-by-step nutrition plan to lose weight during the holidays. 

Set Goals Before the Holidays

woman writing her goals on a board

Collingwood suggests starting by setting goals before the holidays, and displaying them prominently, "like stuck to the refrigerator or on your phone's lock screen," she says. "Keeping your eye on the prize makes it harder to go back for more eggnog when your goals meet you eye-to-eye."

Aim for Balance

Good and Balanced Nutrition
marilyn barbone/Shutterstock

Next, maintain balance in your meals. "Choose a good source of protein, fiber from vegetables or fruit and healthy fat to comprise most of your meals and snacks," she suggests. "This balance aids in fullness so hopefully the holiday cookies won't tempt you as much."

Don't "Save Up" for Big Meals

man taking turkey out of oven, worst things about being an empty nester

It can be tempting to starve yourself on Thanksgiving or Christmas morning, but you are setting yourself up to fail, says Collingwood. "Eating light and often keeps blood glucose stable, which is key to managing a healthy weight over the holidays," she points out. "The one big meal a day mentality will only set you up for over indulgence and weight gain. Keep it consistent with eating every 3 to 4 hours because it helps with portion control."

Ask Yourself "Why?"

Woman thinking
Maria Markevich/Shutterstock

One of the hardest but simplest things you can do this holiday season is to ask yourself, "why?" "Before you put food or drink into your mouth, figure out WHY you are eating. This will help you to differentiate eating based on biological hunger and emotional hunger," says Collingwood. "Emotional or comfort eating is the major cause of weight gain over the holidays so before you start munching check in with yourself to make sure you are physically hungry.   If you're hungry, eat! If you're sad, depressed, or angry, phone a friend, go for a walk, meditate, exercise, or do some other form of self care," she adds. 

Volunteer to "Bring Your Own Dish"

Spicy Hummus from Butternut Squash, Vegetarian Dish
iStock / asab974

Volunteer to "Bring Your Own Dish" to contribute to the holiday smorgasbord, Collingwood recommends. "By bringing something you prepared or know is healthy will help to ensure that at least one item at the party will be nutritious for you to eat," she points out. 

Enjoy Your Food

Happy young woman eating lunch at cafe
iStock / Satoshi-K

Make sure to savor every bite, says Collingwood. "I truly believe the holidays are meant to be enjoyed. I don't like being a food cop at holiday time! I certainly let loose a bit myself and enjoy the season. I try to balance it with exercise and eating smartly before and after the get-togethers," she explains. 

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Move More

Female Hiker Walking Across the Forrest Field in Winter

Don't stray from your exercise routine over the holidays. In fact, "if you know you are going to be eating a bit more than usual, make sure you increase your output with longer or more intense workouts," she suggests. Also, try and slip in workouts during holiday activities, like getting your steps in at the mall while you are holiday shopping. 

Leah Groth
Leah Groth has decades of experience covering all things health, wellness and fitness related. Read more
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