Top Ten Tips for Not Gaining Weight Over the Holidays — A Guest Post

by Katy on December 17, 2009 · 6 comments

Alison Wiley

The following is a guest post from Alison Wiley over at Diamond Cut Life. Alison is a fellow Portlander and writes about:

“Chiseling our consumption down to the core of happiness. I try to tread with a carbon footprint low enough to be truly sustainable in the face of global warming — and doing it with so much happiness, vitality and sociability that others want to do it, too.”

This is not a blog post I could have written as only a blind fool would want my advice on keeping weight down. However, I’m there for you when it comes to scone recipes. I particularly like her advice to not bake. Warm buttery baked goods are my downfall, and are certainly easier to not overeat when they’re not cooling on my counter!


Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

Top Ten Tips for Not Gaining Weight over the Holidays

Have I ever mentioned that I once worked as a weight-reduction counselor? Or that the summer I was 18 the Army rejected me because I weighed, embarrassingly, 158-1/2? I cringe at the memory, not because the military and I could ever have been a match made in heaven, but because my overeating was out of control. It made me feel ashamed, akin to my unhappy run-in with Haagen Dazs earlier this year. (I ‘m pleased to report no dust-ups with Dazs since then.)

The holidays are notorious for sending us into that crazy, out of control zone with our bodies. I say don’t be a victim of them, but rather, take responsibility for what you want. These tips on weight control and self-care are from both my personal and professional experience.

  1. Set specific, realistic goals. “I’ll get skinny between now and New Years” isn’t specific or realistic. “I’ll gain no weight this holiday season” would be more realistic. Some specific ways to achieve that could be, “I’ll limit desserts to one per day, and I’ll exercise for thirty minutes three times a week.”
  2. Ask a friend or coworker to support you on your eating and exercise goals. Choose the right friend or coworker, one with some practice at self-discipline, and who really wants your success. My friend Lonnie is very loving, but lenient in equal measure. “Oh, I would have eaten that whole tin of cookies, too,” I heard her say happily last Christmas to her friend in Overeaters Anonymous. Not the right friend for the job. You want the friend who will say, “Ah, next time why don’t you call me before you openthe cookie tin, and we can go for a walk together.”
  3. Focus on physical activity rather than food for holiday entertainment. Go ice skating, take walking trips to sing Christmas carols or view Christmas light displays (hopefully LED lights), go folk dancing (famously kind to people of all coordination levels). Dancing to 80’s songs was a surprise hit at my recent birthday party.
  4. Consider doing no baking this holiday season. You can love and honor your mother, grandmother and all feminine forebears before them without continuing to make the  pecan and potato chip cookie recipe they handed down to you. (You know, the one that leads to eating the whole tin.) Make ‘real food’ like sweet potatoes, hearty soups, veggie frittatas. If your ancestral holiday recipes are short on the wholesome factor, fall back on my curried tuna salad, healthy and easy to make, if not especially traditional. If your challenge is not your baking but everyone else’s, ask their help in not giving you baked treats this year.
  5. Put your TV watching on a diet. Quite possibly your TV is the guiltiest party in your home, and is the one needing the discipline.  Every minute it holds us sedentary under its grip is a minute we’re not moving around, using our bodies, using our minds, relating to other people, checking things off our merry lists. Again, be specific and realistic with your plan (a 25% reduction is more realistic than cold turkey). Perhaps your sneaky television needs an attractive hood over its head to remind it of its new place in your life.
  6. Use ritual to slow your eating down and increase your satisfaction. Chew carefully, tasting everything, appreciating the details of texture, freshness, aroma. Cultivate a sense of  ritual around meals, using good table manners, for example, even when you are alone. Pleasing choices like good background music, plates, glasses and napkins in your favorite color, or a flower in a vase can all give us satisfaction beyond that of calories.
  7. At holiday gatherings, focus on ‘real food’  instead of sweets.While overeating can happen with many kinds of food, it’s usually sweets that set off the worst binges. If the gathering is all about sweets, eat real food before you head over, and then position yourself at the other end of the room. Thor and I are making wild salmon sandwiches for our open house on December 13th, and folks who want to bring something to share have been asked to bring food other than sweets.
  8. Consider putting your car on a diet. Using public transit leads us to walk more, for example, and cars often take us to the wrong places, like fast food drive-throughs and purveyors of Hagen Dazs. I tell you, the culpability of technology in our weight problems is underestimated. Take the real culprits to task.
  9. Hide treats and snack foods, if they’re to have a place in your home at all. I do this with verve and creativity, and my husband, prone to late-night snacking, appreciates it. I find that some hidey-holes are better than others. The other day he emptied my laundry basket into the washing machine. “Honey, have the Pepperidge Farm crackers gotten dirty again so quickly?” he asked me.

10.  Say grace before each meal. My husband and I hold hands and settle into a silent, extended moment of thanks whenever we sit down to a meal together, including in restaurants and when we have guests over for meals. This slows us down and interrupts the chattering monkey-mind that tells us more (of anything) is better. Often, less is better, and saying grace can help set us straight on that. The food landing in our mouths is an enormous blessing. In my view, it’s the gift of a Creator who loves us beyond measure. Consider asking that Creator to help you practice good stewardship of your body and the life-giving stuff we call food.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

WilliamB December 18, 2009 at 2:28 am

Excellent post with atypical advice. This is a good thing – if the usual advice doesn’t work for you now there are alternate suggestions.

I want to add one suggestion of my own. Set “not gaining weight” as a reasonable goal. It’s winter, the days are as short as they’re ever going to get, it may be hard to exercise in the cold[1], it’s hard to find time to exercise what with all the extra social events, we’re surrounded by food-centric events. Simply not gaining weight will put you way ahead of the game come the new year.

[1] The weather related difficulties only apply to Katy’s northern hemisphere readers.


Kristen@TheFrugalGirl December 18, 2009 at 3:56 am

If you do bake, I highly recommend having children around to help you eat the goodies.

Also, baking bread instead of making cake, cookies, brownies, fudge, and caramel is a good idea. I bake allll the time, but I don’t make desserts that much…mostly I bake bread.

And stay busy. I burn a lot of calories doing laundry, sweeping, cooking, vacuuming, giving children baths, carrying groceries and so on. It’s really productive exercise!


Kristen@TheFrugalGirl December 18, 2009 at 3:57 am

@William-What? You didn’t want to read another article that said to eat before you go to a party and to munch on the vegetables from the crudite tray?


Carla December 18, 2009 at 6:40 am

Thank you, Alison, for this timely post. About 6 weeks ago I pulled myself up by my bootstraps and started eating real food again instead of the junk I had allowed to become my mainstay. I KNOW how to eat well and have done it in the past but just let myself slid into some very bad habits — with a 25+ pound gain being the sad result. I’ve done very well, thank you, and lost 7 lbs. of that 25+. I feel much better already and at least to my eye, I look better, too. We head out early tomorrow morning for a huge loop of visiting family over the holidays, only to culminate in having more grandchildren visit us as soon as we return. I’ve already had a talk with myself about my weight. If I can come out of the holidays at the end of the next two weeks and not gain back some, I will consider it a huge victory!

Thank you, Katy, for having Alison as a guest. I appreciate it.


chrisck December 18, 2009 at 7:56 am

If you are used to baking holiday treats as a festive activity, substitute a holiday craft to get that same feeling in a non-calorie way: make your own wreath, make simple holiday candles, make your own ornaments.

Or do what I did last year–bake for your dog. The only baking I did last year was baking all-natural, bone-shaped dog biscuits for my dog to give to the neighborhood dogs for Christmas. I was not tempted to eat them.


Carla December 18, 2009 at 9:00 am

Duh, “let myself SLIDE” not let myself slid. I must be the worst proofreader in town.


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