An insinuation that you should maybe limit your indulgences over the holidays can be enough to bring some people to small fits of rage. It can be a touchy subject when people become so deeply attached to the foods and eating rituals of the holidays. The very thought of not having Grandma’s cookies or Aunt Mary’s sweet potato casserole can be downright offensive. People look forward to these parties all year long. It’s easy to see how this leads to overeating and even full-on binging. Even with the negative physical effects of overeating like indigestion, being excessively gassy, lethargy and even possible gallbladder pain, we do it anyway. The weight gain piles up and then we are left planning the next resolution to change.

That said, it makes much more sense to go into the holidays with a bit of a strategy. Now, I am not suggesting that you become a total kill-joy and annoy your friends and relatives with ‘healthy’ suggestions. But, rather, pick a few, if not all, of these tips on how to keep your head on straight in a minefield of gluttonous triggers.

1. Avoid excessive alcohol.

Alcohol can be a major whammy to the guts as well as the pants size. It can trigger indigestion, sleeplessness, increased hunger, decreased inhibition, and bring along lots of extra calories outside of the meals. It is definitely a good idea to at least limit the consumption if not avoid on at least some occasions. Strategies you can use include: limiting the number of times per week or month that you allow yourself to drink, limiting the number of drinks you have per event, and avoiding drinks that are heavy in alcohol content and/or rich in calories.

2. Potluck? Bring a dish to pass.

If you have the option to bring some food to an event because it is a potluck style or would be appropriate to bring a gift to the host(ess), you should. This gives you a great chance to prep the table to give you at least one option to guiltlessly fill your plate. There are loads of great tasting, lower calorie and seasonally beautiful dishes that can be easily found on the web. Keep in mind that it needs to have a wide appeal, so make sure it has some flavor or appeal. If you don’t cook, grab a veggie tray from the deli cooler or a premade shrimp cocktail plate. Simple works. The idea is to not offend the host(ess) by bringing something that won’t be enjoyed by anyone else but you.

3. Don’t eat to please someone else.

So often we have a person in our lives that lives for holidays. This person or people have foods they love to make and enjoy nothing more than seeing you enjoy it. This can be the hardest part about limiting what goes on your plate. You don’t ever want to hurt someone’s feelings. In these cases it is important to recognize that food is love for some folks. But your health is important as well. We should all be very aware that people that are prone to binge eating can be guilted into a trigger behavior that may land them in a full binge. People that love you should understand that you are making choices for your wellness and be compassionate.

4. Check in with hunger.

Ask yourself and ask often if you’re eating because you’re hungry or because you actually want to eat. Eat mindfully and with intention. Nibbles and picking can gather calories without you even enjoying what you’re eating. What’s the point of that? Also, be aware of when you become FULL. There is no reason to push past it to the point of discomfort. When your body says stop, STOP.

5. Don’t skip meals to ‘save’ calories.

Just like we all know it’s a BAD idea to go to the grocery store hungry, it’s a bad idea to go to a party starved. Making good choices is next to impossible when every biological impulse in you is driving you towards consumption. It may seem at first like a good strategy to manage your daily intake. But, in this case you can EASILY overshoot your planned daily intake by dropping yourself in an environment of limitless anonymous indulgence with extraordinarily high physiological hunger drivers. Bad choices will abound.

6. Connect with accountability partners.

You need friends, a few, if you can find them. Make yourself an accountability posse. Maybe even a social media group or email list to touch base, post inspiration, and let people know when you’re struggling. Keeping yourself in check works much better when you know there are other people that are invested in your health and you can do the same for them.

7. Be selective with your indulgent choices.

You don’t have to miss out on all the fun stuff to get through the holidays with minimal damage to your wellness plan. To do so, it helps to be a bit picky about the things you indulge in. By selecting favorites and sticking to those, you don’t have to feel deprived. The calories you avoid by not doing the ‘I’ll have a little of everything’ make the net calories come out in your favor overall.

8. Limit leftovers.

Don’t make the party last until it wears out its welcome. You don’t have to pack the fridge with mistakes for another week. If you’re hosting, make doggy bags for guests and spread the love. If you’re a guest, take the stuff that you can work into your normal routine and leave the rest behind. Also, getting rid of food may feel wrong but it doesn’t have to if you don’t let it.

9. Return to normal ASAP.

Don’t let one day of abnormally rich and sweet foods set you on a cycle of destruction. Give the space of time you let yourself eat off routine a distinct finish at the end of the event. Sometimes letting go and indulging in highly palatable foods can create an open door that can require some fortitude to close. Setting the rules ahead of time and being aware that there’s a start and a finish can help contain the damage.

10. Don’t punish yourself.

So it didn’t go as planned. Despite your best intentions, it still happened. You brought the ‘safe’ dish to pass, you gave yourself a limit on the booze, and had a big salad with chicken breast BEFORE you went to make sure you didn’t arrive hungry. Or you didn’t. Either way, things happened and you went all in.

Just. Move. On.

Go right to #9. Do not punish. Do not self-sabotage. You are not a bad person. You are not a screw up. It HAPPENS. The big mistake is in letting this derail your future. There is no such place as food purgatory. Don’t create it.

Kristin Kuykendall

Owner, Well Hello Fitness
Master Personal Trainer/ Sports Nutritionist/ Coach

Kristin Kuykendall is a Master Personal Trainer and Sports Nutritionist. Her credentials are backed by a BFA from Kendall College of Art and Design and further studies in Human Health Sciences from Oakland University.

With a passion for helping people acquire skills to promote the longest possible health span, Kristin has coached numerous clients to feel their best. She has brought this passion to her work as a private nutrition and exercise programming coach, personal trainer, group fitness instructor, and nutritionist. Kristin has been responsible for helping a wide range of clients achieve their individual goals, from competitive athletes to individualized healthy fat loss.

She has personally achieved professional and world standing both as a Physique and Figure bodybuilding competitor. All this while raising kids with her loving husband/partner in this crazy life. When she’s not playing in the kitchen or spending time with her family, you may find her working as a judge and promoter for natural bodybuilding competitions.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

This information is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional or any information contained on or in any product label or packaging. Do not use the information from this article for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing medication or other treatment. Always speak with your physician or other healthcare professional before taking any medication or nutritional, herbal or homeopathic supplement, or using any treatment for a health problem. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem, contact your health care provider promptly. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking professional advice because of something you have read in this article.