How to survive the holidays on a weight loss program

Caitlin McCormack
Caitlin McCormack
Shine On
Don't mingle by the buffet table if weight loss is your goal. (Thinkstock)

The holiday season can be a real belt-buster if you let it, but with a little planning and some smart strategies your weight loss plans don’t have to go completely off the rails.

“The main challenge is that there’s so much of everything out there,” says Claire Keyes, Weight Watchers Leader and Spokesperson. “We’re surrounded by food – there’s something everywhere we go and there’s a lot of socialization this time of year as well, so it can become a bit overwhelming.”

You don’t have to turn off your email or avoid getting together with friends and family in order to stay on track though. Keyes offers these tips to help you stick with your goals.

Scope out your options

Whether the event you’re attending is a buffet or cocktail appetizer-style affair, you want to take stock of what eats are available before diving in.

“You don’t want to start at one end of the holiday buffet table and work your way through to the other end, stocking up your plate,” she says. “You want to be very choosey about what you’re having and go for the things that you like.”

Filling your plate with proteins and vegetables can help ensure you’re filling up on the good stuff.

Mind your portions

Weight loss programs like Weight Watchers don’t say that any foods are off limits, but rather encourage indulgences to be enjoyed in moderation. The key is to select an appropriate portion size.

“Choosing a smaller plate is a great idea, but you really want to look at your options too,” she says. “If there are certain things that you love, then go ahead and have it – just choose a smaller size. You want to make sure you’re actually picking and choosing and not just grabbing anything. Go for your favourites.

“It’s not about eating the whole pie – it’s about having a slice of it. And you can still enjoy it and be satisfied with that.”

Don’t deprive yourself during the day

Keyes notes that a lot of times people will cut their food intake during the day in order to indulge later in the evening – but this strategy often backfires.

“You’re more likely to overindulge when you get to the party. Make sure that you hydrate throughout the day and that you’re actually eating.”

Step away from the food

Keyes says that at parties people will often congregate around the food, making it all too easy to keep mindlessly grabbing yourself an extra helping.

“Remove yourself from the area and go mingle with your friends and family, because you’re there to see them, you’re really not there to eat extra cream puffs.”

Mind your alcohol

People might not realize that there are a lot of empty calories in alcohol – not to mention the sugar! Again, moderation is the key here.

“If you do decide to go and do that, make sure that you’re drinking lots of water,” says Keyes. “Alternating water between wine is also a great option.”

You can even offer to act as the designated driver – a win-win situation for you and your friends.

Get your fitness on

Make sure to get a workout or some other fitness activity in – it can help you feel better about yourself and also build a slight calorie deficit so you can enjoy any treats guilt-free.

Be careful of ‘food pushers’

Keyes says everyone likely has a “food pusher” in their life – that one person who doesn’t see the harm in you having “just a bite.” Don’t let these people deter you from your goals. If you can, politely decline their offer, and if you can’t, you can always say you’re full but would like to take a piece of whatever it is home. You can then toss the item without offending the person. Sharing your goals and lifestyle change can also help relieve some of this pressure.

“A lot of people are very welcoming,” says Keyes.  “People are more understanding than we think they’re going to be, so if you just tell them then hopefully they respect that.”

Correct and continue

Weight loss is a journey, not a one-day affair – so think long-term when it comes to success and staying on track with your goals. Know that one party (or a series of parties during the holidays) doesn’t have to completely derail your progress.

“We go in with these great plans of staying on track but sometimes it doesn’t happen and we fall off track a little bit,” says Keyes. “But the most important thing is to get back on track with your next meal and just keep going.”