How to Prevent Holiday Weight Gain?

Santa Claus on diet scale

‘Tis the season for fun, family, festivities…..and food stress. If you care about your weight, you now face a daunting array of triggers and challenges. Many simply say, “Forget it!” and relinquish their goals for these weeks.

Forget it!

“Forget it” can cause a lot of trouble, though. After all, the average American will gain up to seven pounds this season, and few will lose it all. On the other hand, striving for diet perfection is a set-up for problems, too. One idea I return to this season is that of “just maintaining.”

That is, if you’re working to lose weight or change food habits, now may not be the best time to expect progress. Realistically, most of us will confront some potent combination of parties, extra tasks, family pressures–and a lot of cookies, candy, and egg nog. That’s a lot to deal with, and to expect perfect eating, too.

Maintain your weight?

If you aim to “just maintain,” though, you won’t need to operate in the all-or-nothing zone. You’ll start to see beyond the extremes of resisting everything vs. abandoning goals. This will probably mean picking and choosing the events you attend, the foods you put on your plate, what you decide to cook or bring. It might mean carving out exercise time even while your schedule goes haywire.

Assertive dieting techniques…

You might even think of this as a time to experiment with one new behavior, however small, that could yield important results over the long run. (Or, that could make future holiday seasons a bit less stressful.) For example, try some “assertive dieting” techniques with your family (see references. Try some 5- or 10-minute exercise “bites” (also see references) at work. Or, simply make a less fattening version of one favored food.

[box type=”note”]Just maintaining may not bring the thrill of lost pounds on the scale. But it’s real progress just the same. Think about it: while everyone else struggles with those extra pounds, you can start the New Year free.[/box]

REFERENCES (check magazine archives for these helpful pieces):

  1. “5-Minute Workout,” by Kate Hanley, Body & Soul, December 2008
  2. “Avoiding the Holiday Spread,” Suzette Glasner-Edwards, O the Oprah Magazine, December, 2008 – A great review of “assertive dieting” techniques to help you survive all kinds of challenges to your change efforts.

Terese Weinstein Katz, Ph.D.

Dr. Katz is a clinical psychologist, eating disorders specialist, diet coach, and author. Her workbook Eat Sanely: Get Off the Diet Roller Coaster for Good is available in paperback and ebook format. Her work aims to help as many people as possible eat more sanely in our food-crazy world. Visit her at

One thought on “How to Prevent Holiday Weight Gain?

  • December 2, 2011 at 4:15 am

    Even better than advice on don’t do this or do that is this free tool from the doctors of WeightWorks to get you through the holidays without any weight gain


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