How to Lose Weight During the Holiday Season

153rd Airlift Wing leaders serve holiday meal in Wyoming.
Wing leaders took turns serving 153rd Airlift Wing airmen lunch in Cheyenne, Wyoming, Dec. 7, 2019. (Master Sgt. Jacqueline Marshall/U.S. Air National Guard photo)

If you are trying to maintain your current weight or lose weight, you may have discovered that the time from Halloween to Thanksgiving to Christmas to New Year's Day is a series of tough challenges.

The excuse to eat sugary treats, huge meals, party snacks and drinks is spread consistently throughout the extended holiday season. Top it off with a change in temperatures to keep you inside more, moving less and weekend-long sports seasons full of chips, wings and beer, and you have a perfect storm of challenges to keeping your health and fitness goals. No wonder so many people reach the new year and say, “I have to make a change in my life.”

The following is a list of reference material and tips to help you get through the snacking, mega-meals, holiday cookies and sugary drinks (alcohol included).

1. Stay in the movement habit. If you have been good this year with creating a regular fitness/activity routine, now is not the time to give up. Even with the higher stresses that accompany this last quarter, having some form of physical outlet will help you relieve stress and balance out the extra calories that come with this season. Keep moving.

Ideas: Walk 10 minutes after every meal. Work out before work/school. Take 10-minute breaks from long periods of sitting throughout the day and stretch and walk. You will find by adding movement to your day, you will be more productive with work and tasks.

2. Never quit. Whether you successfully have navigated the majority of the year with consistency or just getting started now, the key is to keep moving and build good habits of eating smaller portions. This means eating healthy and planning your meals, and when the extra calories arrive in the form of Halloween candy, work parties and holiday social events, stay focused and disciplined.

3. Drink water first. When enjoying company or major weekend sporting events, drink water first. Water can help you feel full quicker, and with the indoor dry heat of the season, being dehydrated is a serious concern. Chapped lips, dry sinuses and headaches are common when you turn on the heater during the late fall and winter. Stay loaded up with water to help you fight off the flu and cold season, but water is a natural appetite suppressant.

4. Get your flu shot. A flu bug and cold can sidetrack the most disciplined and motivated exerciser and healthy eater. It happens. If you can, get the shot. It may work or may make the flu less severe for you. Another way is to wash your hands often, use hand sanitizer after being in public spaces and avoid touching your face. Keep those dirty hands away from your eyes, nose, mouth and ears.

5. Get it out of the house. To be honest, get the extra candy, cookies and treats out of the house as quickly as possible. If you do not feel right throwing them in the garbage, leave the basket of candy you have left over on the doorstep when you are finished handing out candy. It will be gone in the morning. Otherwise, save your favorite treats for occasional snacking, then get rid of it quickly.

6. Your new year's resolutions start here. Get a head start on training for the spring and summer and go into the new year with great habits of eating and training already made. If you can maintain your weight during this time of the year, losing weight will be even easier once this crazy season is over.

In the end, it comes down to moderation. If you can limit extra calories, avoid larger portions at meals, drink more water than you currently do and exercise a little more habitually, this season will pass by with little disruption to your health and wellness goals. But minor slips can lead to weeks of more calories, missed workouts and unhealthy habits. Having a plan to get back on track before the holiday weight gain reaches epic proportions is centered around staying or getting motivated. See related motivation articles for help:

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you’re looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to

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