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How to Enjoy Holiday Sweets Without the Weight Gain.

Christmas cookies

Around the holidays, we are inundated with sweet “must haves” – eggnog flavored creamer, gingerbread Oreos, indulgent cakes, pastries, cookies…the list goes on. Needless to say, temptations are everywhere.

There is nothing wrong with enjoying the treats that are worthwhile to you, especially if it’s something you really look forward to around this time of year. In fact, even as a dietitian, I recommend taking the opportunity to enjoy these foods because they do evoke feelings of happiness and even nostalgia.

That being said, the overwhelming influx of treats between Thanksgiving and New Years can make sticking with your weight loss goals challenging. Between holiday parties, family get-togethers, and all those random snacks your coworkers bring in to share, it’s not long before you’re telling yourself, “Eh, I’ll just start over in January.”

My advice: DO NOT DO THAT! Follow me and I'll teach you how you can enjoy your special holiday treats without falling off track.


The "What The Hell Effect."

When you give yourself permission to lose all self-control, you enter a binge mindset. That means you’re likely to go way overboard with your consumption without increasing your enjoyment.

Instead of deriving pleasure from that single mouthwatering cookie, it turns into just another sweet. Over a surprisingly short amount of time, you lose confidence and start to engage in negative self-talk (“why can’t I control myself?”).

And the more time you spend in that negative mindset, the worse you’ll feel and the harder it will be to get back on track. This is what I call the "What the Hell Effect."

One bad decision leads to another and another...until you tell yourself, "What the Hell, I'll just restart in the January..." Meanwhile you start the New Year off 20 pounds heavier and full of regret.


Enjoy What's Worthwhile For YOU.

On the other hand, when you consciously you give yourself permission to truly just enjoy a handful of treats that are worth it to you, magical things happen.

First and foremost, you will avoid feeling deprived or like you're missing out, which often happens when we sacrifice something we really want in the name of "shoulds" and "shouldn'ts" ("I shouldn't eat that cookie" or "I should cut out the sugar"). 

At the same time, you maintain a sense of pride by staying true to your goals and to your plan.


Consider Modifications For Whatever is NOT Worth It.

I am not here to tell you to cut out treats altogether during the holidays, but it's always best to do so consciously I do want to help you avoid that troublesome binge mindset.

To move you in the right direction, I have 7 simple tips that will help you get the most out of your holiday treats while still staying in control.

1) Plan Your Sweets

Woman planning her holiday schedule

This sounds a bit type A but hear me out because it really works.

Look at your social calendar during the holiday season and map out when you expect to have treats. Choose the events that really appeal to you and designate those as your “treat events."

Give yourself permission to enjoy those events, but outside of them, make the decision to say no to sweets. Not in a penalizing way, but from a place of kindness to yourself and your weight loss goals.

Essentially this helps you avoid the everyday sweets that you just don’t tend to enjoy as much.

For example, if a coworker brings in a random batch of cookies outside of your "treat schedule," you’ll politely decline to take one. Then, instead of fixating on feelings of "I can't" and "I shouldn't," remind yourself how much you’re going to enjoy that special occasion when it comes.

Remind yourself how proud you will feel when you stick to your plan. Focus on the end game, not the transient pleasure you’ll get from those sweet treats.


2) Make treats with natural sugars

Healthy chocolate peanut butter chia pudding

or a fruit-based dessert. Berries and whipped cream, full fat yogurt with honey, or “ice cream” made with frozen bananas and coco powder are all great options if you’re experiencing a sweet craving. Foods with natural sweeteners like fruit tend to also have other benefits like fiber and vitamins whereas traditional baked goods are largely just empty calories.

3) Make creative savory treats

Flavored olive oil

If you typically make and give out sweets during the holidays, consider instead crafting healthier alternatives to pass out. Examples: trail mix with mixed nuts, seasoning blends, or infused olive oils.

4) Maintain your usual eating schedule.

One of the best ways to avoid temptations is to stick with your typical eating routine. Avoid skipping meals or eating at off times. Even if you have a big party or holiday meal later in the day, don’t skip meals to compensate. This will help you maintain control and make good choices.

5) Choose to Eat Sugar

Hot chocolate

Avoid sugary drinks like sodas, sweet coffee drinks, fruit juice, and sugary cocktails as much as possible. Typically, we derive much more satisfaction out of eating rather than drinking, so save the calories for when they count.

6) Start new traditions that don’t revolve around food

Find other, non-food ways to connect with others or to treat yourself. Examples include playing holiday games, ice skating, hosting a holiday movie night, volunteering at a soup kitchen, revisiting old memories in photo albums, or taking a walk around a new neighborhood to view the holiday lights.

7) Donate!

If you’re gifted sweets, consider donating them to a homeless shelter or bring them into work to share with others. Get them out of your house! A bite of a cookie here and a nibble of cake there adds up.

Don't Panic!!

Losing weight or cultivating a healthy diet is all about forming consistent eating behaviors that lead to lasting changes. The holidays are admittedly challenging because we’re surrounded by a constant flow of treats for 8+ solid weeks. We tend to have an active food-centric social calendar and many of our traditions involve heavy sugar and fat-laden food.

With that in mind, I will leave you with one last very important piece of advice: If you do get off track…don’t panic! Simply recognize that it happened and move on. You don’t have to wait until New Years to restart. Every meal is a new opportunity to get back on track.

Happy Holidays!


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