Living the Lifestyle during the Holidays

By , SparkPeople Blogger
It's that time of year again. Staying on track during the holidays is challenging, but it can be done.  I’m entering my fifth holiday season as a SparkPeople member, and I’m looking forward to conquering it! There will be many articles coming out in the next few weeks about avoiding holiday weight gain.  
Instead of concentrating on avoiding holiday weight gain, my goal is to maintain consistency with my diet and exercise program throughout the holiday season.  I do plan to splurge on special occasions.  The problem with maintaining consistency is that there are so many special occasions between now and New Year's Day!
Why is weight gain during the holidays a yearly topic? Weight gain during the holidays is an important contributor to the weight gain "creep"--that is, the extra pounds you gradually and slowly add without noticing. Just about everyone thinks that you have a license to indulge during this time of the year!
When I started my lifestyle change in 2007, I started out sprinting.  I was tired of being morbidly obese and I breezed through the 2007 holiday season with ease. There were no false starts.
I was on a mission and my mission was to reach my goal weight. That’s not to say I didn't hit a few bumps: I binged on Halloween candy that year, declaring it to be a "cheat day," and I pretty much did the same on Thanksgiving.  Otherwise, it was smooth sailing. 
I started out at 292 pounds on July 23, 2007, and by Thanksgiving 2007 I was in the 230s.  But, I was motivated and nothing was going to stand in the way of my goal. 
Unfortunately, the new penny feeling of a "diet" wears off.  I knew that I was trying to change my life, but I had started to tire of trying to be perfect.  Fortunately, I had already become very attached to SparkPeople and its principles and was attempting to focus on the long haul, not the quick fix. 
My weight loss was pretty steady during that phase.  By the 2008 holiday season, I was a sleek 158 pounds, but I was already a little battered and bruised.  I had faced and beaten burnout a few times already.  I had conquered many hard questions about my motivations and I had felt the pain of defeat. Still, I got back up and dusted off my knees after every fall.   Despite those battle wounds, I held steady through the holidays and got down to 150 pounds in early January. 
The next holiday seasons didn’t go as well as the first two.  I fought hard battles during the 2009 and 2010 seasons.  I gained for the first time during the 2009 season and had to go back to the basics after New Year's to get back to my maintenance weight.  I pretty much did the same during the 2010 holiday season.  So, is this a pattern?  Am I destined to be a yearly victim of the holiday weight-gain tradition?
My holiday season starts with Halloween and ends at the New Year.  That is when I have traditionally face the greatest struggle, and there are pretty good reasons for that struggle.  Treats on every corner, parties, days off, schedule changes, vacations, mass media telling you that you have to try this new holiday drink, etc.  Let’s not forget the cold weather and the fact that you get to hide some of your extra pounds behind sweaters and other winter fashions. 
As you can see I’m not an expert at getting through the holidays, but I have rode them out and made it to the other side.  I’m at a bit of a disadvantage this year because I’m going into the holiday season a little on my higher side, but I’m planning on success this year! Here’s my plan:
  1. Keep exercise consistent.  This is extremely important.  If you’ve been burning a couple of thousand calories per week through exercise and you drop it down to a couple of hundred during the holiday months, you are going to gain weight from that change alone! Throw some extra treat calories on top and you have a recipe for weight gain.  The workout endorphins are helpful for dealing with holiday stress as well.  So, I’m exercising consistently this holiday season! Are you?
  2. Just say no.  The candy in the dishes on the desk, the newest holiday coffee drink, the extra samples in the grocery store.  Just say no to it all.  I vote for attending the holiday office parties but not partaking in any of the treats. There are way too many special occasions during this time of year to spend your calorie bucks at occasions that are not all that special for you.  Pick the events that you want to splurge on a little and keep to the plan.  For me, it’s all about family.

    They own my splurges and I’m not wasting them on anything else! Remember there is no such thing as free dessert.  You will pay for it in the form of extra pounds and ill-fitting clothes.  Save it up for your special occasions!
  3. Tighten the reins.  Make sure you track even more diligently during the holidays.  You are going to need the extra wiggle room to absorb the special treats! Be honest--you don’t have a lot of room to play with when you're adding in extra sweets.
  4. Pick yourself up after every fall.  The all-or-none trap is especially deep during this time of year.  It is not all over if you slip.  Get back up quickly, I promise you will minimize some of your post-New Year's pain!
  5. Get support. Find like-minded people who are ready to brave the holidays with you. You will need a support system to help you get through the lure of joining in on the holiday mindless eating. Join a SparkTeam today!
Are you ready to stay consistent through the holiday season? To those who are staying strict and on a mission this season, kudos to you. Whether you are trying to lose weight or maintain throughout the next few months stay consistent and you will reach your goal. Let’s have a great holiday season. Good luck and keep sparking!
Do you aim to lose or maintain during the holiday season? Traditionally, do you give up or stay strong during the winter holidays?

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ATEAMSIS08 5/18/2021
I am one of my family members that loves the veggie tray and make an effort not to snack on chips or bread. Report
My holiday season starts at Halloween, wonderful candy only available then, and runs through Easter, peeps and malted candy eggs. I've learned to include a small amount of those special candies within my food plan so the calories are not extra. It can be done. Report
JUNETTA2002 1/6/2021
Thanks for sharing. Report
CHERYLHURT 11/5/2020
Great Report
PLCHAPPELL 8/29/2020
Good tips Report
Thanks Report
I tend to indulge a little more during the holidays, but I also try for the most part to stay within my caloric range. Report
I'm going to try to stay strong Report
good read! Report
Good Luck ALL you Spark people, it is so good to know that we all struggle together to lead healthier lives. The only one standing in your way is YOU.
Once we realize it we CAN make better choices even in the holidays. Take care
of yourselves and carry on to 2012. WE CAN DO THIS!!! Report
LOL. I would argue that Food Season actually goes from Halloween through Easter. That's SIX MONTHS of temptations. Ugh.

It's one reason I'm actually running weight maintenance and weight loss challenges through the season. Because for some of us that little extra bit of competition can help with making better choices.

I'm nearly back at goal weight, myself, having started the latest challenge at Halloween and going through Thanksgiving (the week of which I actually lost two pounds, but mostly because my cat of 19 years died and I didn't feel like eating. Thanks, kitty. :-/ )

Solid column, as usual. Nice job! Report
Thanks for this sincere blog. It came to me just when I needed it. I have gained 5lbs. since I started Spark almost 2 years ago and that is exactly the amount I needed to reach my ultimate goal. Hopefully I will do so by January 2012.

Happy Holidays! Report
I plan to maintain my weight during the holidays. I've been at this weight for a year and a half now but it is not my goal weight. The hard part will be finding time to exercise and helping my family with their weight loss journey. I love to bake and they love to eat what I bake. I've learned to cut back on the amount of baking and only prepare the absolute favorites. Report
Since I've been basically plateaued for the past 8 weeks, I'm going to strive to stay right here through the holidays (no gain) and continue walking when the roads are clear of snow with my trusty Spark Buddy, my dog Wilson. He is my greatest motivator as he gets depressed if we don't walk. I do plan on indulging a few times during the holidays, but not overdoing it. One piece of my homemade angel food candy, not 5 or 6. Good luck to everyone and to you Birdie for sharing your "ups and downs" blog with all of us. We'll see you on the other side of the holidays looking great and feeling great! Report
Thank you - that is SO inspirational and one little tiny word jumped out at me and may just get me back on track. no. Struggling always with how to handle the holiday creep (and I have been creeping for a couple of years now) but I think that your advice to 'just say no' might be the magic that I am looking for. We all know that is not easy but it sounds easy and I think that if I adopt it as a mantra of sorts, that may just work for me. thank you ! Report
Hello Dr. Birdie, and thank you for the excellent blog. I particularly liked your not eating anything at parties, but saving whatever treats you would have for family occasions. Not eating anything at the other occasions sure simplifies it. You always hear about just taking small samples on a small plate and so forth. Your idea is better! Report
Over the holiday season, my goal is to keep losing. However, to me that means losing pounds between Nov 1 and 23 (which I did), maintaining over Thanksgiving weekend, losing before the week of Christmas celebrations, and then maintaining between Christmas and New Year's. That way I have room to indulge on the holidays, without using the holidays as an excuse to indulge for 3 months. I'm hoping that will allow me to meet the new year as a much smaller person than I was last year. Report
WHAT A GREAT BLOG!!! I need to read it every week between now and the first of January! This will be my 4th holiday season with Spark and have held my own on all except one, when I was sidelined with shattered bone in foot. Couldn't really exercise and kind of had a pity party for me, then gained some weight which is so much harder to lose the second time around. I am a member of the Winter 5% Challenge which begins on Dec. 3rd. and that should help me walk the narrow path.
I felt such a familiarity reading this article. I've been at this a while and I know that I know how to do it. I know that when I travel to the in-laws I should bring my own food, especially at holiday time. I can talk myself out of foods at home because I have alternatives to turn to and can afford to spit it out for something better, if I don't like it. There I am stuck with it. At home I can go to a gym, do a video or the Wii. There the options are to walk around the polluted small town and bother my allergies either inside or outside. They are all overweight so it would not be polite to pop in a video and exercise in front of them. Also I wouldn't be comfortable. There are choices all around us. Thank you for reminding me that I can make logical and smart ones.

rumbamel Report
I really enjoyed this article and it makes me want to try harder to lose some weight.I just saw a chiropractor yesterday and now my back is somewhat better but exercising is not my strong point.I am not a goal oriented person but need to get some sort of plan that I can be comfortable with.Dr.told me to use my treadmill so I will do that.I like the sparkpeople site,lots of motivation and good ideas.Getting older is a bummer but it it what it is!All the aches and pains are lessened with a good attitude and some exercise(of which I don't do)now my back is demanding attention so exercise is becoming a must for me.Eating during the holidays isn't really a problem as there are only 2 of us and no relatives near by but I love to cook and he loves to eat my cooking but we both need to try harder to lose the extra pounds.Thanks to sites like this maybe we will! Report
I remind myself that there's no shortage of opportunities to eat unhealthy food. Tons of catered work meals have leftover doughnuts or cookies. If I don't eat it today, I'll have a chance tomorrow or another day. Tons of stores and businesses have candy by the register for customers to take for free. If I don't take one at this store, there will be one down the street. There will always be an opportunity for sweets around the corner, in a day or two... Report
I'm out to lose, but things became a lot tougher when my car died on the way home from Thanksgiving. With no transportation whatsoever, getting to the gym for water aerobics just got a lot more problematic. Who wants to walk an hour with wet hair in the dark and freezing temperatures? Report
Thank you so much for this story. I needed to hear how others handle the holidays. I have been fighting with myself on how to handle the holidays. I usually end up giving up until the new year, but not this year. I was at the mall yesterday and passed my favorite candy store. Twice. I did NOT go in. I thought about having one piece, but know that I have to buy a box. So, I choose not to go back. Your article really helped me see what I do to myself. By myself. This year will be different. I know I am not perfect, but I can do a better job of healthy eating and exercising. Thank you SO MUCH. Report
Great things to think about, apply and integrate into my life this holiday season!!! Report
This article is pretty much describes how I approach my eating during the holidays and other special occasions.
This is my second year as a Sparker and a recovering food addict who has lost 196 lbs in 23 months.
Last year I was so motivated to be under 200 by the new year, there wasn't any food that could possible derail me.
This year I am almost where I want to be in weight. But it's harder to stay as focused. I work out a lot and sometimes that gives me the false sense that I can indulge more. Wrong way to think. I am working on maintaining my present weight by eating only small bites of food that I really want. Not wasting calories on any junk food. Not letting the scales show more than 2 lbs difference. I weigh daily, log weight weekly.
I love my regained size from years ago, have no intention of ever buying larger clothes. I love the fact that I can ski and jog at my age. Food is only for engery and keeping my body healthy. For happiness and pleasure there is so much more out there that I wish to experience.
Just remember one slip up does not mean failure and a reason to spend the holidays giving in with the thought that you're start again at the New Year.
Let's start the New Year as successful Sparkers. No weight gain!!!!
Wish everyone the best. Report
Thank you for your honesty and sharing your journey. The holiday season is a difficult time and you have to be extra diligent to get your exercise time in and also to stay on track. I'm finding it a challenge this year ... I will stay on my journey and I will not allow a bump to become a mountain. Keep on sparking and sharing. Again Thanks! Report
Great, great blog entry. I think the holidays do truly start at Halloween and go until after the first of the year. Temptation is EVERYWHERE and we truly have to get to a place within ourselves that we value our health and well-being over those little bites of candy, slices of cake, and plates full of turkey, gravy, and the trimmings. Great job! Report
I have found that saying NO, and sticking to it firmly, no matter what, really helps. I no longer worry about hurting someones feelings, or eating just to please someone because "I made it just for you".

I know I'll have few treats during this season, and I know what I want them to be when I allow it. There is always something specific that I want, so I'm not really tempted with the stuff around me, because I would rather have that scoop of ice cream on Friday, or Key Lime Pie on Thanksgiving. I bring my special treat along, so I know I'll have something to enjoy, and I'm not tempted by the other desserts. Also, it's always gone when I leave, so I can't bring any home. Last year I craved chocolate chip cookies. So I baked some for Christmas dessert. It turned out to be a hit, and they disappeared as appetizers. I had my fix, and there wasn't another opportunity. Our family has the same standard everything year after year after year after year. I don't care for any of it, so this works well for me. I have to say no thank you, 100 times, but I leave it at that. I don't try to explain anymore because nothing works. A simple no thank you, is short, sweet, and the end! For at least 10 min anyway. After all my progress, everyone still wants me to eat myself silly. The better you do, the more they want to feed you. Sabotage!

Otherwise, moderation is key. If you have to sample, just use a small spoonful. Even if you sample 10 items/10 reg spoonfulls, you've overeaten. Keep them bite size, eat slowly, maintain exercise. Report
well last year i think i actually lost 3lbs and since i'm trying to lose currently, it's not enough for me to simply maintain. Report
Thanks for these great tips. I've been nervous about Christmas coming up. It's the treats...the Chocolate in particular! It's everywhere at this time and it's something I love. I particularly loved the comment about picking the special occasions to have a little something at. Will be trying to incorporate that and will be continuing w/my exercise plan and nutrition plan. Again, thanks. Report
Thanks for a really helpful blog. I needed all these hints. I often find myself dreading the holiday season, and that is a problem since I live in New Orleans and our holiday season lasts almost year round. We go from Halloween to Thanksgiving to Christmas to New Years to Mardi Gras to Jazz Festival to Strawberry Festival to French Quarter Festival, etc. We party year round and everyone loves to cook and invite you over to eat. Thanks for reminding me of the importance of keeping up with my exercise regime during the holidays. I often forget that it is more than just a matter of how many calories I eat or don't eat; rather the calories in - calories out formula is the key to keeping the weight from creeping back on. Report
hi i am a new member to sparkspeople, i am l95 lbs. and right now, i am trying to watch everything i eat. I right in a food journal, i am just trying to learn how to use the sparks food tracker. keep up the good work. hope to hear from you. my name is Pdelmarcrosson1 Report
This is a hard time of year for me too. The year I was most successful was back when I was still in weight watchers and our leader had us REALLY think very carefully before our holiday meals about what we were going to put on our plate to stay within our points and in the years when I think our points/calories and carefully plan out portion sizes and think about what I REALLY want to eat, I do quite well throughout the holiday season:) Report
Thank you for the encouragement and the reminders. This is my third SP holiday season. I have lost weight both other seasons. But this one begins with the challenge of recent knee surgery and still dealing with pain and tightness as I begin to exercise. Just two days ago I recommited to recording everything I eat and being completely honest. So even with 5 extra pounds from post-surgery and the challenge of some pain, here we go. Glad to have the support of others on the same journey.

Thanks again for your great reminders-- Report
I love Dr. Birdie's "been there, done that" point of view. She really gets the busy mom, aging body thing. While I really appreciate all of the younger people at Spark, it encourages me to know that Dr. Birdie is my peer ;-) and she's living the SparkLife! Report
I often do not respond to these 'how do you deal with it' articles because I am not sure what to say without sounding like I am preaching, etc.

Birdie has given GREAT GREAT tips and I apply each and every one of them. I especially like that 'pick your event' one.

I have been maintaining now for almost a year. Last Christmas I was right at the end of my 6 year weight loss journey after being obese all of my life and breezed through it (well, I do think I gained a couple of pounds, but that was gone within a few weeks).

I AM ADDICTED TO FOOD and know it but have found a way to deal with my addiction so that temptations are no problem. I find ways to work around everything.
If I know I am going to have a big dinner, I do extra work at the gym, etc. Its not even an issue. I wish I could explain how I got here (to this frame of mind), but its just an inner peace with myself now that I am never going to lose by becoming the person that I was...NEVER.
At my biggest I was 330 pounds. I am now maintaining at 150.
I love every day of my healthy life.
I love how I feel when I wake up in the morning.
I love how I feel when I go to bed at night.

I REALLY love all the yummy, delicious food that comes with the holidays and will eat it all!!! but in limits and then I will be putting an extra effort at the gym, etc to make sure I don't put any weight on.
The feeling I have for myself now over powers ANY need to put that extra piece of cake in my mouth.

Its willpower and planning. Its as easy as that, are you strong enough to handle it? I think if I can, ANYONE CAN!

Congratulations to all of you who have and are still losing and your accomplishments! I know what the struggle is and theres nothing more rewarding! Report
I started this latest (and most successful) weight loss journey the day after Christmas last year. (I joined SP a few weeks later) As of right now, I have lost 35 lbs this year and I feel SO good, and still have 33 lbs to go to get to my goal. My weight loss has been slow and I have worked WAY too hard to screw it up with the holidays. I do plan to cut myself some slack on Thanksgiving and the day after, and Christmas, but other than that I plan to stick to my plan, and bank some extra calories if I can. I have been exercising extra for the past week, too, and I plan to keep it has gotten to the point where exercise is non-negotiable with me, and I have done at least 30 minutes every single day this year, so I do not want to screw up my perfect streak! I hope to lose 5 more pounds before the end of the year to make it an even 40. Because my weight loss is slow, I only weigh myself once a month, so the next weigh in is Thanksgiving morning, and I am hoping to see at least a couple of those last 5 pounds for the year GONE! Report
I do know that I plan on keeping up with my workouts and eating a clean diet. I do know that one peice of peanut brittle and one peice of fudge has my name on it. Other than that I am eating just as healthy as always. For me it's about celebrating baby Jesus's birthday and being with friends and not about the food. Report
I'm hoping to lose a little over the holidays or at least maintain where I'm at. Thanks for the reminder to not slack on my workouts especially when I'm indulging in a few holiday treats. Going to go workout right now and bank a little extra time in case I can't get my exercise in while I'm visiting family this weekend! Report
Thanks for the tips and reminders! This really is a tough time of year and I agree with only eating those things that are truly speical holiday treats!
For me, getting everything into the recipe builder to see exactly what those treats are "costing" is enough for me to say, "No thanks, I'm fine!" Report
Something else I'm trying is something I read here. If I know I light not have time, or I might have a splurge day, I'm exercising early to bank the minutes. If it turns out I have time to exercise, I get extra minutes. But if I don't have time, then I'm not trying to push myself at the end of the week or month. It feels good to get an extra 20 minutes on Sunday and know that Thursday will be less painful with having to visit two families. Report
This will be my second holiday season with SP. Last year I continued to lose weight throughout the holidays. This year my focus is more on building muscle and changing my body composition than on losing weight but I certainly do not intend to let "treats" derail my work.

I've found it easier than anticipated to walk away from the "treats" at the office. When you have some idea of the calories involved they lose a LOT of their appeal. Even more so since so many of them are store-bought these days and I know they don't taste as good as they look!

Happy Thanksgiving to all of us and especially Dr. Birdie and her family! Report
This will be my first holiday season of watching my intake. I know the alcohol is going to be my pitfall. I am going to try to determine a specific number of calories to give to the indulgence, and make sure I at least get out for a walk every day Report
This is my second holiday season with Spark. My first holiday season was a disaster. It all started when I got my appendix removed in late summer/early fall, and after that I pretty much just gave up. I tried for a little while in October to get back on track, but it didn't happen. I ended up gaining about five pounds over the holiday season. But then, that's what I usually gain!

This year is going much better so far. I've had my ups and downs, but I'm trying to remember that just because I'm going to splurge on a handful of days doesn't mean I have to splurge on every day! Report
This is the first holiday season that I am conscience about what I eat. I am actually dreading the week. I will be away from home, so I won't be able to workout as usual. However, I am packing my workout clothes and tennis shoes so I can at least go for a long walk. I will do some 10 minute workouts from SparkPeople as well. I will focus more on eating veggies and watch my portions. Logging on to SP daily is a must! Report
This was great! This is my second holiday season and the first one went very well because I too was extremely motivated. I am nervous about this one because the exact same thing has happenend with me as far as the Halloween treats, etc. My goal is to maintain my 75 pound weight loss and keep my workout schedule. Then focus on losing the last 12-15 pounds at the start of the year. (This is my second goal since I reached the first one at the beginning of fall). Report
My wife and I started this venture just 2 months ago, so this will be our first holiday season that we are working on our weight loss during the holidays. Today was the perfect day for me to read this, at work today, there are a half dozen pies as treats for the holiday. Several of my favorites included. Rather than diving in, I decided to eat in my office, and eat my apple 'snack' at lunch time in order to make sure I was full and able to resist the extra treats. I will also be making sure I have some extra water at lunch time to fill myself up. My wife and I already discussed the plan for the upcoming week, including making sure we maintain our exercise schedule and help each other through the temptations. Great article and great timing, thanks. Report
This will be my first spark holiday season. I plan on staying strong, and continuing to exercise (at the gym). I am going to allow myself to indulge on certain days, but will get back on track the days that are not "special" Report
Great article. We are going out of town for Thanksgiving and are planning on practising portion control and walking everyday. Hopefully that will keep us on track! Report
This is a good reminder of how difficult the Holidays can get. Report