The festive season typically comes with more indulgence than the rest of the year, and this can be stressful if you’ve lost weight.
But you don’t need to regain all the weight if you don’t want to, and you don’t have to deprive yourself either.
Going into the season with the right mindset will ensure you can enjoy all your favorite foods and keep your health in check.
Ultimately, don’t beat yourself up if you gain some weight — you know how to lose it again if you want to, but definitely don’t feel the need to restrict yourself after overeating.
The holidays are about enjoying yourself and good times with friends and family.
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I started my weight loss journey about three months ago and it’s going pretty well, I’ve lost 10 pounds so far. However, I’m really stressed about undoing all my progress over the holiday season because I can already feel myself slipping back into old habits (even though there aren’t the usual big parties this year).
I’m drinking a lot more already and I can’t seem to eat in moderation when it comes to Christmas cookies and treats. I want to enjoy the season, but I’ll be so mad at myself if I put on a lot of weight over the next few weeks. How do I find the balance? Help!
– Stressed Slimmer
Yours is a concern shared by many who’ve lost weight in the past. From Thanksgiving to New Year, it feels like one long celebration, which, while a lot of fun, tends to involve eating and drinking more than usual.
This year, the holiday season is looking a bit different, but most people are still finding ways to enjoy it – a pandemic can’t stop us from rustling up delicious feasts and celebrating with our loved ones (even if through a screen).
So your concerns are very much understandable. And trust me, I get it. Losing weight is hard.
However, if you go into the festive period with the right mindset, you can have a wonderful time, enjoy all your favorite foods and drinks, and not stress about your weight.
Gaining a bit of weight is not a problem
Huge congratulations on losing those 10 pounds at a sensible pace, that’s no mean feat. The good news is, you’ve shown you know how to do it.
“The Christmas period only lasts 2-3 weeks so even if you do gain some weight, you have oceans of time afterwards to lose it again,” nutrition coach and personal trainer Graeme Tomlinson – aka the Fitness Chef – told Insider.
“It can be a temporary trade-off whereby you simply understand that you can enjoy Christmas for a short time in the calm knowledge that you can resume your successful dietary plan afterwards,” Tomlinson said. “Don’t beat yourself up. Enjoy Christmas for a few weeks and move on. Don’t be mad at yourself for enjoying a very special time of year … embrace it.”
The chances are once you go back to your normal lifestyle in the new year, your body will reset without you having to try too hard.
Whether you lose it again afterward or not, gaining weight isn’t something to be afraid of. We are so much more than a number on the scale or a jean size.
You can work every food into your diet
If a lifestyle is going to be sustainable, it needs to be enjoyable. Any food can be worked into a balanced diet while allowing you to lose weight if you’re in a calorie deficit overall, and the same goes during the holidays.
Don’t make the mistake of trying only to eat “good” foods, because over-restriction only leads to overeating.
“Try to relax and don’t be too restrictive,” Sophie Dillon, registered nutritionist and Head of Nutrition at Fresh Fitness Food, told Insider. “Depriving yourself of a treat here and there can lead you to crave exactly the things you are trying to avoid.”
Perhaps a good approach for you would be to think about trying to eat at maintenance level calories most days, rather than a deficit. It’s taken you months to lose 10 pounds, and although gaining weight is much easier than losing it (for most of us), it’s very unlikely you’ll gain it all back over a few weeks.
If you feel very strongly that you don’t want to gain any weight over the festive season, personal trainer and fat loss coach Anjuli Mack recommends changing your food environment, which means, for example, keeping the holiday cookies in an opaque box at the back of a cupboard rather than on a plate in full view on the kitchen table.
“Reduce exposure,” Mack said. “Don’t have them in the house for now. I’m not saying don’t enjoy Christmas – do, but maybe have those ‘treats’ on Christmas day. The same thing can apply with alcohol: be selective with when you choose to have it.”
Look after your health in every sense
Yes, nutrition and movement are an important part of health, but they’re not everything. Your mental health is also really important. Spending time with family and friends, relaxing, blowing off some steam … it’s essential for your happiness.
“You will probably enjoy Christmas more if you include all the foods you love – this is important,” Tomlinson said.
Food is a big part of the holidays, but it shouldn’t be occupying all your thoughts or causing you anxiety.
“I personally choose to enjoy time with family without overindulging by making Christmas and the holiday season about time with loved ones, not the food and drink I consume,” Mack said.
Make sure you’re looking after yourself in a holistic sense: Eat regularly, keep moving in some way, drink lots of water, and ensure you sleep enough – this will also help you maintain healthy eating habits.
“Lack of sleep can stimulate our hunger hormone ghrelin, which increases our appetite,” Dillon said. “By ensuring we get our recommended seven hours of sleep, we can keep this under control. Not only that but getting enough shut-eye can also increase our serotonin levels – the ‘happy hormone’ – which reduces our cravings for the sweet stuff.”
You don’t need to restrict yourself before or after big meals
While some people navigate the holiday season by eating really lightly around their celebratory meals, you really don’t have to “save calories” so you can enjoy a feast.
In fact, ensuring that you don’t arrive at a big meal absolutely starving is probably wise.
“If you are particularly worried about overeating, make sure you eat full balanced meals before the Christmas canapes and drinks are handed out because this means you’re more likely to avoid snacking on what’s available and ensure you are only eating when you are hungry, rather than just because ‘it’s there,'” Dillon said.
Ultimately, the most important thing is to enjoy yourself. It’s the holiday season, and after the year we’ve had, I think we all need it.
Wishing you well,
As a senior lifestyle reporter at Insider and a self-described fitness fanatic with an Association for Nutrition certified nutrition course under her belt, Rachel Hosie is immersed in the wellness scene and here to answer all your burning questions. Whether you’re struggling to find the motivation to go for a run, confused about light versus heavy weights, or unsure whether you should be worried about how much sugar is in a mango, Rachel is here to give you the no-nonsense answers and advice you need, with strictly no fad diets in sight.
Rachel has a wealth of experience covering fitness, nutrition, and wellness, and she has the hottest experts at her fingertips. She regularly speaks to some of the world’s most knowledgeable and renowned personal trainers, dietitians, and coaches, ensuring she’s always up to date with the latest science-backed facts you need to know to live your happiest and healthiest life.
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