Dieting while on vacation is a tricky balance. Staying on track isn’t so easy when you have the added pressure of your family and an endless stream of goodies right in front of you.
Often, too, we have emotional ties to these holiday foods and associate some of our favorite holiday memories with food. With the holidays already underway, we came up with this list of ways to fend off the pressure to overeat.
1. Remember your “why”
The motivation to lose weight is powerful. And in all honesty, remembering why you started the diet in the first place may be what you need to keep you on point over the holidays.
Lean on your support system to help you remember why you started in the first place. And research implies that having a support system can help you be more successful when trying to lose weight (1,two).
Do you have to eat completely perfectly? Absolutely not, but making sure you don’t overdo it may be easier with a little reminder of yourself. You started eating healthier because you wanted a change.
Change is not the most comfortable process and it never will be. Change requires real effort and allowing yourself to feel uncomfortable for a while. You don’t have to give up everything for this diet, but be honest with yourself. You won’t get the results you want if you’re not willing to make the necessary changes.
2. Plan ahead
You may have heard the saying once or twice, but to fail to truly prepare is to prepare to fail. If you know that you are easily influenced by your environment, make your environment more comfortable for you. And studies suggest that having a pre-planned strategy could help double your chances of success (3).
Bring an appetizer or entree, as well as a healthier dessert option to the party. Knowing that you have food you can trust will help you moderate your overall intake. Planning ahead for vacations will allow for maximum stability in your diet while allowing you to indulge a bit.
And if you’re traveling, keep healthy snacks on hand. Protein bars, jerky, and nuts can make great travel companions!
3. Control hunger
Don’t let yourself get too hungry. There’s no way you’re going to stick to your plan or make good decisions if you show up to an event or meal hungry. Be sure to eat throughout the day and choose more foods that promote better appetite control, such as foods high in fiber, lean protein, and healthy fats.
Here are some easy tips that you can incorporate:
- Eat a protein-rich breakfast
- Drink plenty of water throughout the day and before eating.
- Load up on fiber-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
- Curb afternoon cravings with a handful of nuts
- Limit sugary foods like sweets, desserts, and refined grains
4. Fill up on vegetables
Load up on products to keep you satisfied and increase your overall nutritional intake. Many vegetables and fruits are very low in calories and high in fiber and key nutrients, which does wonders for your appetite, energy, and mood (4,5).
Try to pile half your plate with non-starchy vegetables and fruits when available. Think carrot sticks, leafy green salads, and fruit salads.
Headed to a party? Bring your own plate of healthy vegetables that you can enjoy without feeling guilty.
5. Enjoy in moderation
The phrase “everything in moderation” is thrown around a lot; probably because it has merit. Constantly saying no when you mean yes can lead to feelings of restriction.
Too much restriction can result in a cycle of restriction and binge eating. Once this pattern occurs, it can be challenging to break it and really affect your relationship with food.
Another negative impact of repeatedly saying no is starting to turn down social invitations or avoiding going out because you don’t want to be tempted by food. This not only further damages your relationship with food, but it can have serious consequences for your mental health.
This doesn’t mean you accept everything that’s offered to you, but accepting what you want to eat with your health in mind can make it easier to say no when you’re not hungry or something doesn’t sound right. This may be because you know that at the next event or the next time less nutritious options are served, you can say yes to what you want and leave what you don’t without need.
6. Prioritize your favorites
We all have seasonal treats we look forward to each year, whether it’s a Thanksgiving dinner, a slice of pumpkin pie, or your mom’s homemade cinnamon rolls. And there’s nothing wrong with indulging a little. The trick is to choose the things you enjoy and not say yes to everything just because it’s there.
Instead of using the time of year as an excuse to treat yourself whenever the opportunity arises, consider prioritizing your favorites and being more strategic.
This is especially true when wondering about the holiday buffet line or event: allow yourself to indulge in your favorite foods and skip the rest to cut back on the calories that matter least.
7. Stick to low-calorie cocktails
Alcohol can wreak havoc on a healthy diet by adding excess calories and lowering your inhibitions, leading to decreased willpower and less atrial fibrillation overall. Not to mention, binge drinking can slow your metabolism, promote increased storage of body fat, and send your appetite and blood sugar slightly out of whack the next day.
But it is possible to enjoy a few cocktails and stay on track. The best thing you can do is drink less and alternate between low-calorie cocktails and water. Here are some options to look for and some to avoid:
The best alcohol during the diet:
- Clear liquor mixed with soda and citrus
- champagne and wine
- low calorie beer
- Scotsman on the rocks
- Martini straight
The worst alcohol during the diet:
- Cream-based drinks like eggnog, white russians, and landslides.
- Juice and sugar mixers
- Cold drinks
- Long Island Iced Tea
8. Stay active
Staying active or even increasing your physical activity this time of year is one way to offset the extra calories you might be consuming. The key to losing weight is to eat a calorie deficit, so it’s not smarter, if you’re eating more, you should also consider burning a few more calories.
But this doesn’t mean you should hop on the treadmill after every “cheat” or high-calorie meal, or use exercise as an excuse to eat whatever you want. Remember that it is much harder to exercise on a few hundred calories than it is to consume them. And using exercise as a way to counter food intake is a dangerous path to disordered eating.
Instead, do your best to keep up with eating and focus on staying active this time of year to feel energized and motivated.
Even keeping busy can help. Cutting calories can make you constantly think about food. And the fear of temptation can make you want to disconnect from social engagements. But studies suggest that keeping your mind active, especially while dieting, can strengthen your willpower (8).
Tip: Exercise is also believed to be one of the best hangover cures.
9. Manage stress
The holidays can be a stressful time of year for most, and stress can inhibit your progress when it comes to losing weight and following your diet in general. Studies have linked stress to increased belly fat and a bad mood (9,10,eleven,12,13). And high stress can also cause sugar cravings and drain your willpower (14).
Combat the stress of vacations by taking care of yourself. Get plenty of sleep, find time to rejuvenate, and focus on enjoying your vacation.
10. Track your calories and macros
As painful as it sounds, you still need to keep track of all your food intake, including alcohol and sweets! While it’s easy to overdo it, paying attention to how much you’re consuming is the best way to hold yourself accountable and track your progress. YYou may even be surprised at how little small indulgences are affecting your weekly averages.
Track your daily intake and use weekly averages to determine You are quite good job for you eating plan in general. And if you’ve gone a little overboard, don’t try to starve yourself the next day to make up for it; the best thing you can do is let it go and get back on track with your daily goals.
When you indulge…
Instead of going through the holidays with an all-or-nothing mentality, allow yourself a little leeway. And don’t beat yourself up when things don’t go as planned.
Results come from consistency, not perfection. How you recover from a slip is far more important than the slip itself. So remember to shake yourself off and get back on track.
One day won’t fully make up for everything you’ve worked for. Getting back on your diet, even after a day of slightly deviating from it, is what will make all the difference. It’s all too easy to let the holidays become a domino effect of poor food choices, but remember why you started!
Discipline and habits are the bridge between goals and achievements. Stay focused!
If you want a little extra help getting back on your diet after the holiday season, check out these healthy ready-to-eat meals!