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Maintain Your Weight During the Holidays

Navigate the season of overindulgence with these strategies.

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Updated December 04, 2012

Thanksgiving table

Thanksgiving table, pre-temptation

Catherine Holecko

The months of November and December can feel like a minefield for anyone who wants to eat healthy foods and avoid gaining weight. Your exercise time can easily be swallowed up by extra shopping, decorating, cooking, kids' events, and more. Cookies, parties, and alcoholic drinks are everywhere you turn: It's hard. And total self-denial, besides being terribly difficult, is just no fun at all.

Instead, try these suggestions for maintaining your weight without going cold turkey on turkey, gravy, and other seasonal goodies.

Get in a workout whenever you can. Find a few minutes for fitness every day: Squeeze in a 10-minute workout while your turkey is roasting, or do a few minutes of yoga before bed. Take an early-morning or post-dinner walk, or play some active games with the kids. Go sledding, skating, or skiing—or even shovel snow.

Control your portions. Take care as you load your plate, whether you're at the Thanksgiving table, a holiday party, or just a weeknight family dinner. Try to fill at least half of your dish with vegetables—preferably grilled or steamed, or at least not dripping with a buttery or creamy sauce. The fiber in vegetables helps you feel full, so start your meals with a salad or another portion of veggies whenever you can. And these 10 portion-control tips are relevant (and doable) year-round.

Bring your own. If you're going to a potluck event, make your contribution a salad, or some other healthy appetizer or entree that's loaded with vegetables and low in fat. Then you know there will be at least one option on the table that helps you maintain your weight. These holiday food switches can help too.

Drink plenty of water. Alcohol has a lot of calories. Skip the wine and eggnog, or limit yourself to one or two small glasses a week. Alternate alcoholic drinks with plain or sparkling water. Watch out for fancy coffee drinks too. Stick to nonfat milk and limit sweeteners that add empty calories.

Eat breakfast. Start the day with a nutritious, filling meal that includes protein, whole grains, and fruits or vegetables. This will make you less likely to crave not-so-healthy treats later in the day. Don't skip meals to "save up" calories for a dinner or party later in the day. This can easily prompt you to overindulge when you do start to eat.

Enjoy your favorites and pass up the other stuff. You can have mashed potatoes or bread any old time. So save your calories for the holidays-only foods you love and rarely eat any other time of year. Stick to this strategy when the leftovers come out too.

Take advantage of long weekends. Whether you're shopping, decorating, or visiting friends and family, look for ways to add physical activity to your traditions.

Don't stay up too late. Or get up too early, if you can avoid it. Insufficient sleep can contribute to weight gain. Delegate or dump to-dos if they are preventing you from getting a good night's sleep.

Ramp up to your resolutions. Instead of going for broke now and planning to start fresh in January, plan ahead for success. What are your goals for the new year? What can you do now to get ready? Give yourself a head start instead of placing your aims farther out of reach. For example, if you plan to join a gym or sign up for a new fitness class, start researching your options now. Knowing what's to come may even help motivate you to make healthier choices before January 1.

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