Here Come the Holidays: Strategies for Eating, Fitness, and Reaching Your Goals

by Marsha Hudnall

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Goal setting during the holidays for healthy eating | Strategies for successSay the word ” holidays” and women with food issues start to fidget.

  • It’s the time of year when many of us find it hard to stay focused, hard to stay motivated, hard to exercise. It’s easy to get too busy, too tempted, or just too down in the dumps to eat and exercise sensibly.
  • It’s hard to go to the gym when it is cold and snowing. Harder still to get outside and walk.
  • At parties, the gauntlet of buffet tables and Christmas punch can make it easy to give in to that old self-sabotaging voice that whispers, “Oh, what the heck, I’m not going to be able to manage this well, so I might as well enjoy myself.” The result is numb out — “pig out” — and ultimately a push of the self-destruct button.
  • Cooking for the family and generally “doing for others” can fan the flames of self-pity and low self esteem.

No wonder that for so many of us the holidays are not only a time of joy, family, and festivity, but also cause for anxiety, even dread! But there is hope. The way to get through the holidays is simple — although not always easy. Stay positive, passionate and committed to yourself and your ultimate, long term goal, and don’t worry too much about the details. Add a touch of gratitude and a pinch of humor and you can have a wonderful time.

Here are a few Green Mountain tips to help you through.

Stay in Charge

Now, at the start of the season, is the time to realistically assess your personal holiday pitfalls and plan ahead. After all, planning is key to overcoming any challenge. Consider these examples.


  • If you walk regularly but usually outside, plan an alternative winter walking routine. Scope out a local mall for mall walking in bad weather. But remember, if you have good boots, mittens, gloves and warm clothes, walking outside can be fun!
  • Vary walking with an outdoor winter sport like snowshoeing, skiing or skating (sign up for lessons). Or join a gym or health club and vary between the treadmill, elliptical trainer and other machines all winter long.
  • Plan things you enjoy and set aside time for them. But most of all be realistic. If tight holiday scheduling or fatigue keeps you from planned exercise, just chalk it up and keep going. Don’t waste time beating yourself up. Look ahead, not back, and keep the long term plan in mind.


  • Plan to start with a reasonable amount of what you want, and savor every bite.
  • Continue to eat regular, balanced meals; don’t “save” calories so you can eat what you want at the big event. You’ll only set yourself up for overeating; you will be better able to decide what you really want if you come to the meal well-fed and not too hungry.
  • Assess the effect that alcohol has on your ability to stay mindful. If it presents a challenge, drink while you are eating, instead of before. The alcohol is more slowly absorbed that way.

Eat Passionately

  • Close your eyes and let go of internal thoughts about what is healthy, unhealthy or fattening as well as your fears about overeating.
  • Think about what you really want to eat and let your taste buds and your spirit soar. If you savor the experience itself of eating-smell, texture, density and taste — and experience every bite mindfully, you will be less apt to numb out and find yourself devouring a plate of cookies without even knowing it.
  • Truly experiencing the food will help you stay in charge. It’s not about the type of food as much as how you eat that counts.

Be Clear about Your Goals

Holiday time is not a time to rationalize a total lapse of mindfulness or to encourage dreary calorie counting and self-denial. It is a time to balance your food and health desires with a healthy dose of “grown-up behavior”.

Make a decision about what you really want this holiday, be clear about what you need to do to get it, decide whether it’s the right choice for you at this time, then take the responsibility for your decision. More examples:

  • If you’ve been working hard to improve your fitness, and you don’t want the holidays to mark any slowdown in your progress, then recognize that you need to stay committed to mindful eating, and to keeping a regular physical activity program in place. Make concrete plans that will help you stay committed, as discussed above.
  • Maybe you want to use the holidays as an opportunity to take on some of your normal eating challenges, such as learning to live with a box of chocolate in the house without eating it all immediately. In that instance, it will help to understand that you may find yourself enjoying the chocolate a little more often than you really want to. But that can be part of finding out you don’t want it as much as you thought, and is therefore key to your learning process.
  • In any case, realize ahead of time that you may find yourself questioning your behaviors – after all, they are new to you. Tell yourself to stay mindful, trust what you are feeling, and avoid second guessing yourself.
  • Above all, remember to accept yourself. That means your good points as well as your flaws (we all have ‘em). Pat yourself on the back for what you are doing and don’t focus on what you haven’t done. When you are thinking about gifts for friends and family, think about giving the gift of a truly enjoyable holiday season to your very best friend — you!
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