Surviving the season of festive feasting

Western Connecticut Health Network
Surviving the Season of Festive Festing

By Barbara Schmidt, Nutrition Program Specialist at Norwalk Hospital

Food is an important part of holiday celebrations. Events often revolve around food and eating with temptations everywhere. The trick is to be prepared and to avoid the anxiety that comes from trying to diet while also trying to celebrate. And don’t despair, you can do both. Consider these tips:


Focus on weight maintenance as opposed to weight loss during the holidays. This is not the time to lose weight. Maintaining your present weight is a big enough challenge. Don’t set yourself up for failure by making unrealistic goals.


Plan ahead. Think about where you will be, what foods will be available and what foods are special to you vs. those that aren’t. Ask yourself how you can fit them into your day’s calorie goal. Make a plan. It’s much easier to deal with a difficult social eating situation if you’ve already planned for it.


Be physically active every dayOften, busy holiday schedules, boredom or lack of structured schedules bump people off their exercise routines. Exercise, especially brisk walking, jogging, running, biking or swimming, can relieve stress and burn extra calories. Try to do 30 minutes of aerobic exercise five times a week. If you don’t have 30 minutes, remember even something is better than nothing.


Eat a light snack before going to holiday parties. Don’t skip breakfast and lunch to save your entire food intake for an event. It’s never a good idea to arrive ravenous to a function where there’s food. Not only are you more likely to overeat, but you will be less likely to resist tempting high fat and high calorie foods. Have healthy foods like a salad, a piece of fruit or a container of light yogurt before you go.


Pace yourself. Be the last to start eating so you are the last to finish. Count to 10 before digging in and watch everyone else eat first. Eat slowly. Put your fork down between bites and put your hand on your lap. Take sips of water between bites, too. If you are the last to finish you will be less likely to go back for seconds.


Watch the alcohol. Alcohol is high in calories, increases your appetite and reduces your resolve to make good food choices. Avoid hard alcohol with high-calorie mixers and sweet drinks. Alcohol slows your metabolism down. Stick to wine, light beer and zero-calorie mixers like seltzer. Two alcoholic beverages per occasion is a good goal. 


Keep perspective. Enjoy the conversation and ambience. Focus on other things, such as uniting with family and friends and sharing laughter and cheer. Remember, if you do eat more than planned, be careful not to consider it a catastrophe and throw in the towel. Make a conscious decision to exercise more and eat less the next day.

Barbara Schmidt is the Nutrition Lifestyle Program Specialist at Norwalk Hospital. She consults with patients privately and in-group settings in her eight-week weight loss program called Transformations. To learn more, call (203) 852-2178/ (TTY : (203) 749-9188)) or visit

Barbara Schmidt, MS, RDN