How to stay on track with your weight loss goals during holiday meals

Lillian Yang, RDN

Thanksgiving is quickly approaching (who else still needs to defrost their turkey?). I know it can be an exciting and also stressful time, and I hope to give you a little encouragement and guidance for approaching the holiday season. 


How to stay on track for holiday meals (like Thanksgiving, New Year’s, and Christmas):


  1. Eat breakfast. Have a breakfast that is protein and fiber-rich (i.e. eggs with wheat toast or greek yogurt with fruit). Skipping meals leads to being overly hungry (and mood swings), which leads to overeating.
  2. Plan ahead. Whether you’d like to bring a healthy side dish (like roasted brussels sprouts) or lighten up your sweet potato casserole (reduce the butter and sugar by ⅓ without sacrificing on taste), a little planning can go a long way for your mind and body.
  3. Be strategic about your plate. I love the Balanced Plate method even on Thanksgiving! Have ¼ plate of protein (turkey), ¼ plate of carbohydrates (stuffing), and ½ plate of vegetables (green beans). 
  4. Hang out away from the food area. This will reduce the environmental triggers to keep eating and nibbling. If it’s a formal sit-down meal, putting your plate in the sink can also help reduce temptation to keep eating.
  5. Be prepared to say “no thank you.” People love to feed other people — if your intention is to stay on track, prepare a few phrases to help you do just that. “Thank you but I am simply stuffed,” or “That looks delicious, I just can’t manage another bite at the moment.”
  6. Give away leftovers, or avoid taking leftovers home. One meal doesn’t undo your hard work, but letting the leftovers extend to several meals over the weekend can add up. Send guests home with the extra dessert and be the hostess with the mostess.  


Perhaps staying on track isn’t the right goal for you this Thanksgiving. Don’t feel pressured to “do all the right things” if it adds stress, feelings of guilt, or sadness about missing out. You certainly don’t have to follow your diet regimen or continue to lose weight during this time. Remember it’s about long-term weight loss goals and making it sustainable.


Another way to approach holiday dinners… 

  • Change your mentality. You deserve to eat foods you enjoy, regardless of how much you weigh. Food serves many different purposes — sometimes it nourishes our bodies, sometimes food is for joy and celebration, sometimes it creates memories and carries on traditions.
  • Set appropriate expectations. It is not easy to lose weight during this time, and consider if you really feel the need to. It may be a more realistic goal (meaning less anxiety and stress) to work on maintaining your weight for the next week or so. 
  • Be kind to yourself. Talk to yourself in the same way you would talk to a friend — rather than putting yourself down, focus on giving yourself grace. Maybe incorporate some self-care like a relaxing bath or taking 5 minutes for a calm cup of coffee. 
  • Be thankful for all of the things. We make a big deal about Thanksgiving food, but this is also an opportunity to spend time with friends and family and make memories together. Your weight doesn’t have to be the center of focus all the time — you have a lot of good things going for you! 
  • Don’t panic about a few extra pounds of (primarily) water weight.  Eating more than your typical amount of sodium and carbs (and alcohol) can cause water retention and bloat. Stay hydrated, and your weight should return to normal in a few days.  


If you’re looking for a little extra support this holiday season, meetings with our Registered Dietitians are included in every Sequence membership. My team and I love meeting with members to review how nutrition fits in with their overall weight loss goals. We'll also help develop a personalized nutrition plan to work in tandem with your clinician-prescribed medication.

Lillian Yang, RDN

About the Author

Lillian Yang is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She completed her BS at New York University and currently lives in Brooklyn, NY. For the last 8 years, she has helped people achieve their health goals by making realistic, easy, and sustainable changes in their habits and daily lives.

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