What is it about the holidays that makes us want to throw up our hands and bury our faces in ever cake, pie, casserole, and adult beverage we see?

Okay, show of hands – have you ever tossed your weight loss goals to the wind while uttering the excuse, “But it’s Christmas!”?

Unfortunately, we’ve accepted the myth that losing weight and enjoying special or “bad” foods are mutually exclusive – it’s one or the other, but never both.

  • One bite of sweet potato pie and all these months of hard work have been ruined.
  • One drink and you might as well cancel your gym membership.

It’s a dangerous tightrope we walk, never allowing ourselves to enjoy the things we love in the pursuit of a goal. It’s not realistic. It’s not sustainable.

And it doesn’t just apply to the holidays! Weddings, vacations, parties, special events, and social activities offer goodies that are quite tempting…they can derail us and leave us feeling guilty, sad, or even depressed.

And that little snowball of guilt can cause an avalanche of self-judgment, hopelessness, or even continued indulgence that can lead us far from the path to our weight loss goals.

It’s time we free ourselves from this myth that you can either lose weight OR enjoy yourself!

Because here’s the thing – you CAN enjoy your favorite holiday foods without guilt…with a little planning! Here are five tips to get you started.

Give Yourself Permission

If you’ve ever snuck a candy bar in a closet so your kids wouldn’t see, or taken the last doughnut from the box in the break room while nobody was looking, you know the feeling of guilt that follows. And that’s the problem – we’ve equated indulgence with bad decisions, so when it happens, we berate ourselves for doing something “bad.”
But this is key – self-permission does not happen in the moment when you’re suddenly face-to-face with that beautiful coconut cake. Self-permission needs to be premeditated. If you know you’re going to a party, decide ahead of time that you’re going to allow yourself to have a glass of wine. If your sister is bringing your favorite squash casserole to Thanksgiving dinner, give yourself permission to enjoy a reasonable helping. But this doesn’t mean you give yourself permission to eat the whole cake or drink a whole bottle of wine yourself. Don’t go overboard. Giving yourself permission to indulge will help you psychologically preempt the guilt – and will allow you to look forward to the treat instead of beating yourself up over it.

Make a Plan

If you know you’re going to a wedding and will want to drink a glass of wine, that’s great. But maybe don’t drink every night the week leading up to the wedding. Not only will that make for some pretty rough mornings, but it will also decrease your enjoyment of the wine at the wedding. Make it something you look forward to – something special. If you decide you want to enjoy a slice of wedding cake, consider passing on that glass of wine. If you decide ahead of time, when the temptation isn’t staring you in the face, it’s a lot easier.

Eat Healthy Before Indulging

Staying conscious of your eating and drinking habits leading up to your special event will also help curb those feelings of guilt. In the week before the wedding, focus on drinking more water instead of soda or juice. Ask for brown rice instead of white rice in your Chiptole bowl. As small as they are, these changes will help you exert a sense of control over your environment and, as I mentioned above, will make the wedding cake that much sweeter when the big day finally arrives.

Be Mindful

While being mindful is something we need to do more of every day, pay particular attention to your surroundings and focus on your chosen indulgences. The big buffet at the wedding calling your name? Maybe sit farther away so you’re not tempted to go back for seconds (or thirds…or fourths). Know that the wine will be flowing? Keep a glass of seltzer water in your hand so you aren’t tempted to hold out your wine glass every time the server comes by. Then, when cake time comes, you can enjoy every morsel of that creamy frosting and spongy cake – without being over-full or over-lubricated.

Get Back On Track Quickly

This may be the most important tip in this blog article – don’t let one indulgence turn into weeks or months of poor eating and loads of guilt. It’s so easy to say, “Well, I had that piece of cake yesterday, so an extra helping of french fries today won’t hurt. I’ll get back on the plan tomorrow.” But tomorrow turns into next year, and your “treat” day turned into your default mode.

So as the holiday season approaches, allow yourself to indulge! Have one of your mom’s mouth-watering yeast rolls! Have a beer with your uncle! But be mindful in this enjoyment, acknowledge that it’s a treat, and turn your attention back to your weight loss efforts and healthy eating plan. Because gaining weight during the holidays doesn’t have to be a given.