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Keep Your Diet on Track Through the Holidays

Spring came, and you vowed to get in ‘swimsuit shape’ for the summer. You cleaned up your diet and started exercising with vigor.

Summer came, and sure, you indulged in an ice cream cone or two, but for the most part, the diet train kept chugging along.

Fall came with its cooler weather. Perfect for taking exercise outside.

And then came the holidays, and you went – well, let’s just say it – you went a little off the rails.

It’s not just the weight you gain, it’s the weight you keep

While it may feel like the holidays completely undo all the hard work you have put in over the year, the truth is, according to a Cornell University study, the average American only puts on only 1.3 pounds.1

How bad can less than two pounds be, right?

The problem is, the same study showed that it can take five months or more to lose the weight you gain between Halloween and Christmas – if you lose it at all.


But it all looks so good!

Keep calories in check doesn’t mean that you can’t – or shouldn’t – enjoy the abundance of treats available over the holidays. Just be mindful about what you are eating.2

  • Don’t put foods on an “off limits” list. Grandma makes the best green bean casserole? Have a spoonful while maybe skipping the mashed potatoes. Mom brought pumpkin pie? Skip the dinner roll and have a small slice. Telling yourself you can’t have something is just going to make you want it more so go ahead and have some in moderation.  
  • Don’t “save” your calories. Your self-control is more likely to go out the window if your stomach is empty. You know how those extra treats magically end up in your grocery cart when you shop while you’re hungry? Filling up on healthy snacks before you head to the company holiday party can help you from overindulging.
  • Skip the holiday cocktails. Not only does alcohol lower your inhibitions, cocktails can be loaded with sugar and carbohydrates. Sip on garnished seltzer, flavored water or wine spritzers instead.
  • Scope out the buffet. Don’t just start at the head of the buffet and fill your plate as you go. Check out all the offerings and be mindful of your choices. Fill your plate with the healthier offerings first before adding small servings of your favorites.
  • Don’t let stress get to you. The holidays can be a magical time but oh-so-stressful. Find moments to relax and healthy ways to release tension. Read a book. Take a bath. Take a walk in the snow. Build a snowman … did you know that building a snowman can burn up to 300 calories an hour?!3

Get back on track

Don’t beat yourself up over a few pounds gained. So, the train jumped the tracks, so what? It happens to the best of us.

The new year is coming, and what better time to get your health heading back in the right direction? This year, keep your resolution simple and attainable – “I resolve to be healthier and happier in 2019” – and set yourself up for success by taking small but consistent steps.

  1. Know your triggers. Is it eating in front of the television or at your computer? Is it bringing the bottle of wine to the table instead of pouring just one glass? Is it letting the weather dictate whether you exercise? Awareness is the first step to making a change.4
  2. Make a plan. Instead of a single, lofty goal - "I want to lose 50 pounds by my birthday!" - create a series of smaller, achievable goals and then plot out realistic steps to get there. Your goal this week might be to walk 10 minutes after dinner every weeknight while next week's goal might be to increase your walk time to 15 minutes. Smaller, incremental goals allow you to celebrate milestones along the way. 
  3. Start with small, simple changes. They can add up fast. Go meatless one day a week. Go to bed 15 minutes earlier. Park further away from your destination. 
  4. Link your new habit with an existing routine. After you brush your teeth, take the dog for a walk. After you drink your tea, stretch or do tai chi, etc.
  5. Tell others about your goals. Invite them to join you, too. Ask your kids to help by joining you in evening walks. It helps to have support on this journey!
  6. Track your progress. Forget the scale. Health trackers such as Fitbit may help boost your motivation. 7,000 steps today? How about 7,500 tomorrow, and then aim for 8,000 and then 10,000!
  7. Remove obstacles to your goals. For example, try to shop when you’re not hungry. That way, you’re more likely to choose healthy foods.
  8. Find healthy outlets for stress. Call a friend. Take a nature break. Snuggle up with your cat.4,5
  9. Imagine your future self. Are you the kind of person who has trouble resisting temptation? For example, is it hard to resist the impulse to eat dessert every day? If so, it might help to imagine how your future healthier self will feel.5
  10. Celebrate success. Celebrate positive behaviors. Made it to the gym this morning? Get in the car and say, “Good for you, you did it!” Skipped that junk food snack? Do a little victory dance. Walked 10,000 steps every day this week? Treat yourself to a movie. The positive emotions you generate will help you stay on track.6,7

Health Mart. Caring for you and about you. 

Nothing herein constitutes medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, or is a substitute for professional advice. You should always seek the advice of your physician or other medical professional if you have questions or concerns about a medical condition.


  1. Real Simple: “Holiday Weight Gain Is Real, Study Says—and It Starts in October.” Available at: Accessed 11-06-18
  2. Be Well: “Avoiding Holiday Weight Gain.” Available at: Accessed 11-06-18
  3. Women: “10 Surprising Health Benefits Of Snow Very Few People Know About.” Access 11-06-18
  4. NIH News in Health: “Healthy Habits Can Lengthen Life.” Available at: Accessed 10-29-18.
  5. NIH News in Health: “Creating Healthy Habits: Make Better Choices Easier.” Available at: Accessed 10-29-18.
  6. Mayo Clinic: “3 ways to make healthy habits stick.” Available at: Accessed 10-29-18. 
  7. American Council on Exercise: “3 Secrets to Forming New Healthy Habits.” Available at: Accessed 10-29-18.
  8. IMAGE: The Oatmeal November 6, 2018 available at Accessed 11-19-18