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How to: Stick to Your Goals During the Holidays

Author: Karen Kawolics,  MS RD LD, MEd

Does this sound familiar? You’re right on track downing water from your favorite bottle 3 times a day, religiously scanning every barcode to search for the healthiest options, diligently logging every morsel that hits your mouth, taking extra loops around the office to ensure an on-target daily step goal, meal prepping like a pro chef every Sunday and then boom, a holiday or a special event hits and your healthy routine seems to explode.  

Holidays and other celebrations are often surrounded with family gatherings, special dinners, happy hour socials, catered lunches, and travel. With so much going on, it’s easy to see how one could get off course!  However, with some simple planning, a curveball event can be turned into a homerun for your health! Check out these tips on how to stay the course during special times of the year..

Make a game plan

The most important step you can take is to design a strategy for the time surrounding these special occasions. Creating a one month calendar, whether it be written out on a dry erase board or using a smartphone scheduling app, can help you organize and plan for any upcoming disruptions to your normal routine.  Here are some things to keep in mind.

  • List all upcoming social events 
  • Plan out your activity schedule and add it to your calendar
  • List out 1-3 goals for each occasion, such as deciding upon an alcohol limit, making half of your plate veggies and fruit, planning to giving away any goodies left at the end of the night, etc.
  • Note your starting weight, goal weight, daily and/or weekly weight if this is something that’s important to you
  • Each week, highlight the goals you achieve, cross out the goals you miss, and use this information to learn and make better plans or set more realistic goals the following week
  • Reassess progress daily, weekly, and/or monthly, and keep a copy of your monthly plans to reflect back on experiences and successes

Anticipate unexpected events

Create a contingency plan for exercise and healthy eating to help you stay on track when obligations appear out of the blue. Decide upon a plan B ahead of time for missed scheduled exercise and meal prep days. Keep frozen meals and veggies on hand or make a list of healthy options you can pick up easily at your local grocery store. Some ideas are fresh cut fruits and vegetables, hard boiled eggs, pre-cooked poultry, or pre-washed bagged salad.  For those last minute dinners and happy hours, keep handy a list of lower calorie “go to” items such as drinks, appetizers, or restaurant dishes that you already know won’t put too big of a dent into your daily calorie budget. 

Be honest with yourself

Avoid the temptation to skip tracking meals at social events. Don’t get hung up on the details. This is not an exact science. Guesstimate to see where you might be at calorie-wise. And even when it’s hard, regularly weigh yourself.  If you have been mindful, it’s usually not as bad as you think. You may have even lost a few pounds!

Make a travel plan

If you are driving out of town to visit family or for business, pack a cooler with healthy options.  If you are flying, once arriving at your destination Uber to the local grocery store to stock up on healthy choices.  If your hotel room does not have a refrigerator, pack a collapsible cloth cooler bag in your luggage and use the hotel ice machine to keep food chilled. On the exercise side, look for ways to get additional movement in. Hit the hotel gym, run the stairs inside or jog around the parking lot. Another option is to pack an exercise band and do some resistance training in your room.

Don’t beat yourself up

No one is perfect. Falling off course is common and a piece of this journey. The important part is getting right back at healthy habits once a slip up is recognized.  One bad decision doesn’t have to ruin your month, week, day or even the next hour.

Arming yourself with a plan can be a valuable way to navigate through the holidays or any busy time of year. Here’s to enjoying the festive times with friends and family and keeping your health journey in mind along the way!