Fall in West Michigan is the best. We have waited so long to wear our fall colors, sweaters and boots. Pumpkin spice lattes, doughnuts, apple cider and caramel apples are comfort foods we long for.

I don’t know about you, but I look ahead to the upcoming holiday season with a little bit of anxiety because that scale is registering about ten pounds heavier than it was on Memorial Day (oh, but those double scoops of ice cream were so good!). I do not want to gain any more weight, yet I want to enjoy holidays with my family. Those two goals seem to be opposing, and to be honest, I feel a bit overwhelmed.

Oh, have I mentioned yet that I’m a nurse practitioner at STR!VE? Our office promotes health and wellness. At work, I counsel our members on wellness, healthy eating and an active lifestyle. Yet here I am, in the same boat as many of you, a busy wife, mom, and working professional struggling to zip up my jeans. To be completely honest, at times I feel like a hypocrite because I do not have it all together, and yet I’m trying to offer guidance. What I often tell my patients is, “I am in this with you. It is a journey. I have the same struggles. I also prefer to eat cake and not kale.”

So, I am writing this blog to share with you a few different approaches that I share with my patients on how to handle the food temptations of the upcoming holiday season. Studies show that Americans who are already overweight are more likely to gain weight than those who are already at a healthy weight (1). The biggest message I want to emphasize as I share these approaches is to PLAN AHEAD. Whatever you do, PLAN AHEAD.  Pick an approach and PLAN AHEAD! Below is “Melissa’s Guide to Handling the Holidays” (just the food part—I’m still shopping for presents on Christmas Eve and wrapping Christmas morning).

  1. Reckless abandon. Enjoy the goodies in the break room. Sample the goodies at Costco. Take the second helping of Grandma’s pecan pie. You will, however, gain weight and you will have to be okay with that.
  2. Planned cheats. As you look ahead to the four upcoming holiday parties, make a plan to have just one drink and one dessert at each party. You’ll still enjoy the individual holiday events to their fullest, and pledge to continue to work on your health goals throughout the rest of the holiday season. With this approach, the chance of weight loss is low, but maintaining weight will be a significant accomplishment.
  3. Enjoy the big days. You have made the decision that you are going to bring the veggie platter to the holiday parties and skip the cookie platters in the office. You have an awareness that each holiday only comes once a year, and on those actual holidays, you will splurge. You will enjoy the apple pie, put a little extra butter on the mashed potatoes, and not feel any guilt. When you step on the scale on January 2, the likely outcome is some weight loss.
  4. Laser-focused. You will make 100% commitment to your health and you are aware that the holidays come every year without fail. By saying “no” this year to indulgences, you are going to start 2019 on track, and you will likely be down several pounds.

Is there a right or wrong approach to holiday eating? Absolutely not! The key is that you have decided AHEAD of time the PLAN and not gone into the holiday season unprepared. For me, I’m still trying to decide between option #2 and #3. Once I make my decision, I will find an accountability partner as multiple studies have shown that social influence is important for weight loss success (2). By taking the time now to plan for how I will eat duringthe holidays, my focus will turn to savoring my holiday experiences: the time with family and friends, and making memories that I will cherish much longer than I will savor that apple pie.

P.S. Accountability works. I have held myself accountable with another team member at STR!VE and she and I have both been crushing our goals (not perfectly, but continual progress). I have lost almost all of the weight from double scoops of ice cream, and she is staying on course with her half marathon training plan. Do not be afraid to reach out to someone for accountability, because not only does it work, but having a partner in the process makes the process more fun!

References:

  1. Cook, C. M., Subar, A. F., Troiano, R. P., & Schoeller, D. A. (2012). Relation between holiday weight gain and total energy expenditure among 40-to 69-y-old men and women (OPEN study)–. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 95(3), 726-731.
  2. Carson, T. L., Eddings, K. E., Krukowski, R. A., Love, S. J., Harvey-Berino, J. R., & West, D. S. (2013). Examining social influence on participation and outcomes among a network of behavioral weight-loss intervention enrollees. Journal of obesity, 2013.