Holiday Diet Survival Guide

some appetizing food at banquet table

Let’s admit it up front. Holiday time is the pits when you are on a diet. Thanksgiving and Christmas, not to mention New Years, are so close together they offer a huge opportunity to fall off the dieting wagon. According to the National Institutes of Health you can expect to gain seven pounds during the holiday season. This includes a whopping 7,100 calories alone for the holiday feast. (Are they auditioning for Santa’s helper?)

How would you feel if you could make it through the holidays without the normal backslide into sugar-topia and carb heaven? So many new options are available today for women on a diet during the holiday season that you can enjoy wonderful, delicious foods along with everyone else and still lose weight.

The Holiday Challenge

The challenge of the holidays is about more than just the food. Stress plays a big part in holiday eating. Stress levels rise dramatically during the holidays and can lead to emotional eating.

Emotional eating is one of a dieter’s biggest pitfalls. If you eat because you are happy, sad, or anxious you are coping with these emotions by using food. Does food solve the problem? No. The stress does not go away. You will be just as anxious as you were before you finished off that huge bowl of Cherry Garcia ice cream. In fact, you will feel worse because you let yourself down and succumbed to emotional eating.

Plan ahead during the holidays and keep emotions in check. The more organized you are, the smoother your holiday will go – and the lower your stress level. Acknowledge that you are an emotional eater and clear out your cabinets of the foods you are drawn to during these binges.

Let’s look at emotional eating cues:[1]

Emotional Eating


Physical Hunger

Sudden – You want to eat now

Gradual – Stomach growls

Craving – Want a specific food


Accepting –  May have a preference

Absent minded – Eat without being aware you are eating

Intentional – Aware of what you are eating




Doesn’t notice when full


Responds to feelings of fullness

May be linked to upset feelings


Linked to time of last meal

Induces guilt


Does not induce guilt

Say No to High Cal Meals

Just say no to high calorie holiday meals. Holiday meals are notoriously unhealthy. They can destroy your diet. Many people even plan to take a break from their diet during the holidays. Sadly, few of these people ever restart their diet after the New Year.

You can make healthier food choices during the holidays. Focus on fruits and a variety of vegetables to give yourself plenty of options.[2]

You can make great choices during the holidays with a little planning and creativity. Let’s look at holiday parties where you are invited to bring a dish. First, make sure the dish you bring works well within your diet plan. If all else fails you can nibble on your dish at the party. Usually, holiday parties have vegetable trays with yummy fresh fruits and veggies which are very healthy options as long as you skip the high calorie dressing and dip.

To ensure that you are successful in staying on your diet when tempted by holiday goodies eat before you go to the party. Do not stuff yourself, but eat a normal meal according to your diet plan. When you have just eaten you are less likely to nibble on snacks all evening. Plus, keep track of how much eat. When you lose track of what you are eating you tend to splurge.[3]

When you plan a holiday party you can easily control the food that is served. You can choose to cook every dish yourself, ensuring it is in tune with your diet plan. However, this is a lot of work for you and can lead to holiday stress – and emotional eating.

A great idea, and one that is hugely successful for many women, is to ask your guests to bring healthy dishes to the party. You can specify a dish for each guest to bring, you can give them choices, or you can let them have free reign. How you do it is up to you. The point is to fill your buffet table with healthy foods and keep your stress level down by delegating some of the cooking to your guests.

Tips for Holiday Success

  • Make a Plan: have a plan when you approach the buffet table and choose only healthy foods
  • Make a stand: position yourself away from the buffet table – the closer you are to the hors d’oeuvres the more likely you are to return for seconds, thirds, and fourths
  • Fill Up: fill up before you go to the party – a healthy snack will keep you from attacking the buffet table
  • Bring it with you: bring a healthy dish with you – make sure it is something you love to eat so you will have at least one choice on the buffet
  • Say bye to leftovers: do not accept leftovers from the hostess – if it is your party you can throw out any unhealthy leftovers.
  • Talk, don’t eat: recognize that you are at the party to socialize not eat – many people use food as a social crutch
  • Keep it up: to lessen stress and burn calories keep on regular exercise regime

Don’t let the holiday season get you down. Stress and tempting holiday treats contribute to dieting disasters. You can easily fall victim to emotional eating with any of the many stressors that you will face during the holidays. Plan ahead to keep on top of these problems.

When it comes to your holiday meal or holiday parties you can also plan ahead for dieting success. Low calorie healthy foods can be delicious options to the sugar and fat heavy typical foods found at these events. You will finish the holidays with a bang!


[1]  University of Tennessee Extension. (n.d.). Retrieved from Tennessee Shapes Up: utextension.tennessee.edu/publications/Documents/SP622.pdf

[2]  Overweight, Obesity, and Weight Loss Fact Sheet. (2009, March 6). Retrieved from Women’s Health: womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/overweight-weight-loss.cfm#f

 [3]  Mindless Eating that Adds Pounds. (n.d.). Retrieved from National Institute of Health: newsinhealth.nih.gov/2005/July2005/docs/01features_01.htm#feature01


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