Eat Your Way to a Happier Holiday Waistline

Rock Springs Retreat Center / November 8, 2021 / rockspringsrc / 0


It’s the holiday season, and no matter what you’re celebrating or why, if there’s one thing that Americans know how to do when we get together to celebrate, it’s EAT. From that Thanksgiving spread with candied yams, green bean casserole, and pumpkin pie, to that New Year’s Eve celebration with cocktail weenies, spinach, and artichoke dip, and champagne, holidays mean food and lots of it! And don’t forget about two months’ worth of eggnog (with or without a little extra holiday cheer in the form of bourbon or rum) in between! After all of that celebrating, you know what happens next: that extra-snug feeling around your waistline. We all know the perils of the winter holiday season for anyone trying to watch their weight, and how easy it is to gain a few extra pounds on gravy and mashed potatoes alone… not to mention that platter of delicious cookies lurking around the corner to be set out for Santa.

Holiday weight gain from overeating
With all that dining destruction in mind, Fit Farm at Rock Springs is here to help. We’re going to share with you six simple hacks you can use to prevent holiday weight gain. Let this year’s gift to yourself be not having to let your belt out an extra notch!


Hack #1: Eat Before You Feast

Eat before you feast

Eating more might seem counter-intuitive, but it can save you calories in the long run. Some may take the course of not eating anything before a large holiday meal to avoid eating “extra” calories on the big day, but this is a self-defeating strategy. You know that someone is going to bring a cheese ball, your uncle will bring a case of wine, your cousin is going to bring at least two plates worth of cheese you can’t pronounce, and you’ll be looking at six different types of desserts – all with no willpower!

Not having a sensible breakfast (or if your holiday festivities begin late in the day, a healthy lunch) will only mean that you will arrive at your gala event severely calorie-deprived. This extreme hunger will have you bee-lining for the highest calorie foods and eating at such a rapid pace that you’re sure to overeat.

Eat something high in fiber — raw carrots or celery, or some bran cereal with skim milk — all BEFORE you arrive to ground zero, to get pre-filled. That way you can snack without feeling the need to fill up all the way. And one more thing, the mind-body connection here is one of the best dynamics you can have, because it will help eliminate your chemical cravings right off the bat, before any big culinary event.

Hack #2: Have a Seat Before You Eat

Sit before you eat

The siren call of snacking amid the holiday hustle and shopping showdowns will break down even those with the strongest willpower. It’s tough because when you’re on the go, you’re also burning dough (both money and calories if you’re hustling from store to store). The food court is awfully adjacent to the movie theater, and nothing feels more right than a healthy helping of Froyo after the feature show … which is (of course) consumed after a tub of popcorn and (if you’re anything like me) a pack of Twizzlers (their fruity goodness knows no bounds)!

So, what can you do to slow your cinnamon roll, so to speak? It’s one of the simplest and most effective eat-hacks in the book – SIT DOWN. Yep. That’s it. Sit down. Instead of browsing and carousing from stop to stop on your food trip as you hop from shop to shop, take the time to consciously sit down to eat, and eat well.

One of the best things you can do is to plan in time that your entire group stops the shopping, decompresses a little bit, and sits down at home (or an actual restaurant – NOT a fast food joint). Take the time to order thoughtfully, enjoy your meal, and connect with your friends and family. Now to be clear, we’re not suggesting to do this on a daily basis, as this can add up quick on your wallet and waistline, but for those few days that you spend more time out of the house than you do in the kitchen, this can be a really effective way to manage food intake in a conscious (and more enjoyable) way. So before your jeans don’t fit, take the time to sit! You’ll be glad you did.

Hack #3: Be a Mindful Eater

Watch your holiday waistline

Dr. Susan Albers, one of the world’s leading experts on mindful eating, recommends pacing yourself and being choosy. Think about what it is that you are putting on your plate, and eat it slowly and thoughtfully. It’s like the advice mom always used to give you: be sure to chew your food. Taking the time to savor each bite, to slowly indulge often allows the body to “catch up” as it were, to let you know that it’s full. You know everyone’s going to sit around the table for at least the next hour, so why wolf your food down in the first ten minutes? Do you even know what side dishes you just ordered? Do you? Shame on you (just kidding, we all do it).

If you take the time to eat slowly, you might find you don’t really need that second plate. And what’s more, you’ll find that you actually make the most of your holiday food diversity once you’ve had the chance to enjoy several different food offerings along the way (no seriously! I once realized I had eaten the exact same meal 5 times over Christmas at the same restaurant chain. Who knew binge eating could be so boring?). Whether at a holiday party, your favorite restaurant, or the family dinner – take time to smell the roses. And above all, be conscious of how you approach eating throughout the day, particularly when in tandem with leisure snack-magnet activities like Netflix binges.

Hack #4: Eat Smart

Eat smart to avoid holiday weight gain

Abel James, founder and host of the popular health podcast ‘Fat-Burning Man’, suggests filling up in a sensible order. If you know you’re going to eat a lot, make sure to eat more things that are lower in fat and try to avoid empty calories. When mom asks if you want a slice of what you’re pretty sure must be the Everclear-drenched fruitcake that grandma made back in 1998, think about where it falls in this list:

  • Fibrous vegetables (carrots, celery, cauliflower, broccoli)
  • Proteins (turkey, ham, tofurky)
  • Whole-food fats (cheese, nuts, dark chocolate, eggs)
  • Everything else (grandma’s mystical fruitcake, cookies, that fifth glass of boxed Merlot)

The lower down on the scale it is, the less of it you should have. Do your best to eat top-down, and be aware that if you cover the broccoli with cheese, it falls down the list a couple of notches.

Hack #5: Don’t Strive to be a Perfect Eater

Be mindful of what you eat

An easy way to overindulge is to make unattainable goals. If your goal is to not eat any cookies, chips, dips, or anything with the color white in it, you’re setting yourself up for failure. And what happens when we feel like we’ve failed? We stop trying to make any good choices at all.

Strive instead to be a good eater, one who makes smart choices, but still allows for a little indulgence in the journey towards holiday Zen. Instead of no dessert, say no to the whipped cream and that scoop of ice cream that goes with the slice of pecan pie. Instead of saying no to the heavy spinach dip, allow yourself a little cocktail plate that, once finished, is cast aside in favor of a pickup game of football in the backyard. Be brave enough to say no to anything that doesn’t truly sound good to you. When Aunt Ginny keeps launching cookies at your face like skeet at a shooting range, and you can only discern vaguely what they taste like by the frosting color – just stop. Say ‘No thanks’ and wait for something you’re truly excited about eating. Remember that you can still enjoy Aunt Marion’s family-famous chocolate lava cake, but help yourself out by being aware of portion size, and can give a firm no to the little extras that add calories without really adding much else.

A caveat: If you have that specific food you just can’t control, that thing where you preface eating it by saying, “You know, I can’t eat just one of these, I just can’t say no! I usually end up eating half a dozen before I even know what I’m doing!” then, unless it’s the crisp crunch of a carrot stick that draws you in, keep away from that ONE FOOD. We’ve all got that food we can sit and eat and not realize how much of it we’ve been eating — potato chips, ice cream, cake, cookies — and by being firm to start with, you can set yourself up for success!

Hack #6: Do More Than Eat
Avoid holiday weight gain

You may be at a party with friends, or at your aunt’s home with your family. No matter where you are, there’s a conversation to be had, friends and family to visit with, and activities to join in on. While food is a big part of any holiday, it’s only one part of the day. Take the time to talk with your family members, go out and play touch football, join in on a board game, or volunteer to wash the dishes. Find a way to not just sit in a chair and fall asleep with a plate in your lap. The more time you spend away from the snack bowls, appetizers, and desserts, the fewer opportunities you will find to sneak a few extra bites in. Enjoy the entirety of your day, not just the parts spent with a plate. Your family will appreciate the time you took to chat and play, and your waistline just might enjoy it, too!


Whatever you celebrate, and however you celebrate it, at Fit Farm, we hope that these six tips prove useful. Enjoy your holidays and come back ready to tackle the new year with those extra holiday pounds being the one thing you didn’t find in your stocking. For more great tips and tricks on how to navigate your fitness journey without hitting the wall, be sure to follow us on social media! To jumpstart your new year, contact our team to learn more about our weight loss and fitness retreats!