Home Healthy Eating My Personal Guide To Getting Through The Holidays

My Personal Guide To Getting Through The Holidays

by Erika Nicole Kendall

thanksgivingI’m not gonna lie — I hate this time of year. Sure, I love the family gatherings, the reminiscing, and the making of new memories… but damn, can we do it without it surrounding food? It takes a giant pot luck holiday and the promise of a full tummy to bring everyone together? Cold game!

I know that’s pessimistic, but I’d much rather have the good times and skip the whole “Battle of Thanksgiving” between my will power and the candied yams, you feel me? Besides, since I don’t eat pork, and everything is cooked in pork or beef (I’m reminded of the Boondocks clip where Huey and Granddad argue about the “Pork Flavored Broccoli”), I’m often left eating lettuce and water while the person next to me enjoys their bacon flavored cornbread. Sigh.

Having said that, I think it’s time I shared a few tips that I plan on using to make sure that I don’t leave Thanksgiving with about 5lbs of food stuck ON me, and 5lbs of booty that I didn’t plan for. ‘Cause seriously — while booty is nice, I’m going to flip out if I leave with more than I came with. Just being honest.

  1. Keep a glass of water on you at all times. Why? Firstly, water actually helps you fill up. Drinking water while you eat slows you down, and gives your body time to process the fact that food is being put into it. Since it takes your mind approximately 20 minutes to realize that your body is full, taking time to slow down and drink water (a vital part in weight loss, anyhow) will give your body time to realize what’s being put inside of it, and how much.
  2. thanksPortions, portions, portions! I know that Aunt Pookie (hey, I love my Aunt Pookie) has the world’s best scalloped potatoes, and I know that you love ’em and all, but commit yourself to portion sizes no larger than the palm of your hand.
  3. Put the satellite dish-sized plate down. I’m serious. You know y’all have those Thanksgiving-specific plates that are large enough to double as someone’s rims. Don’t do it to yourself. Stick to a regular sized plate, palm-sized portions, and allow yourself to try a bunch of different things… not simply overdoing it on the few things you love.
  4. Leave the obviously-store-bought-stuff… alone. I jokingly asked this question on twitter, but I’m serious. Those store-bought pies, those boxed mashed potato flakes, the scalloped potatoes that come from the Betty Crocker magic elixir? Leave it alone. Why? Foods that are processed are, well, processed – genetically engineered to be easier to chew, not leave food in your teeth, or “fill you up.” Unfortunately, it only turns back into the same powder it originated from, with all the calories and none of the “full” feeling… leaving you not only still hungry after all those calories, but on a carb high, at that. That wonderful “melt in your mouth” feeling that M&Ms has convinced us is a good thing? It might be wonderful for chocolate… really not ideal when it comes to actual food.
  5. thanksaRemember what the holiday is for. I know that’s a little pious, but just humor for me for a moment. If this is the one time that you get to see your younger nieces and nephews who are living out of state, and they’re forced to wait to be the last ones to eat (since they’re the youngest – you know how that goes), then stick behind and talk to them (while sipping your water) for a few moments. Play with the kids you don’t see as often as you like. Talk to your show-off cousin about his new car that he just bought, yet suspiciously has the “Avis” rental brochure still in the windshield. More talking, less eating. Entertain yourself!
  6. Lastly, and this is a big one: Don’t listen to anyone telling you what you do or don’t need to do for you. If someone at the table tells you, “So… you got all kinds of booty, now!” or “Why is your plate so light? Let me fix you another plate, girl, you’re too skinny!” or even (as happened to me a few years back) “Gosh, I remember when you were younger… and skinny!” be polite. Keep your composure. I’m telling you it’ll happen and you’re reading this going “Mmhmm, I can hear it now.” Don’t let it derail your holiday, piss you off, and send you running in there to those magic elixir mashed potatoes. Get your joy from the people who know how to act, don’t be afraid to be mocked for trying to focus on your health during the holidays, and for crying out loud… don’t stress out to the point where it makes you emotionally eat. If there’s ONE thing you don’t need this time of year, it’s to emotionally eat. Kid in a candy store syndrome, and whatnot.

If you should happen to let it slip that you’re watching your figure, don’t let anyone tell you “Come on, live a little” as a response. Don’t accept that. You’re surrounded by family you don’t see as often as you like. Use this time to “live” by enjoying their company, sharing stories of strength and love, and amaze yourself with how the kids have grown since last time. The last thing you should be “living” through and for on Thanksgiving… is food. To be a little corny (or a lot), the food is mainly a side dish. The family should be the main course.

Be happy, be healthy! 🙂


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Jubilance November 24, 2009 - 11:23 AM

Great tips! We talked about a lot of these at my WW meeting. I’m not going home, so I can really control what I eat this year.

BTW, my mom is the “Aunt Pookie” in my family – her family nickname really is Pookie, LOL.

Great post as usual.

Erika November 24, 2009 - 11:29 AM

LOL I KNEW it! That’s just one of those names that we all seem to at least know, even if we might not have our own, LOL.

What other tips did you get from your WW meeting? I’d love to hear them. 🙂

Kiesha August 27, 2013 - 12:56 AM

The best holiday survival strategy I learned from WW is to never say no to anyone offering you food, dessert or seconds. Never mention weight watchers, weight loss or diet. People get really defensive and sometimes combative if they are overindulging and you mention anything about a healthy lifestyle.Just simply say NO THANK YOU, MAYBE LATER. It worked wonders last year.
Made the holiday season much more enjoyable!!!! ESPECIALLY AT WORK!!!

Nicci@NiftyEats November 24, 2009 - 4:36 PM

I’ve got two houses to eat at. Portion control and one plate of food! I think I will save dessert at the second house adn not eat two! lol

Tracy November 24, 2009 - 5:31 PM

I can’t tell you the number of times my weight loss efforts havebeen “sabotaged” by family members that encourage me to “eat up” when my plate isn’t as full or if I don’t go back for thirds and fourths as much as THEY would like. I don’t know if it’s intentional or not, but I had to learn to tune them out. It’s hard enough to lose weight without folks tryin to ENCOURAGE your fatness. Not this year, buddy!

Erika November 26, 2009 - 9:37 AM

Tracy, I understand! Honestly, I had to do two things – one, I fix my food AFTER everyone else. It may not mean that I get any of EVERYTHING, but I will at least eat. Secondly, if someone insists on getting you to eat more… don’t be afraid to leave the food on the plate. It might be psychologically difficult considering we were alllllll told to clean our plates, but you’ll need to get in the habit of doing that, anyway. You know?

@Nicci, I don’t think I could’ve done it! True story! I can barely figure out what I’m going to cook at my OWN house! LOL EATING at TWO? BOO!

"Mira Luma" November 25, 2010 - 1:10 PM

The tips are great! I’m staying at home with my husband and my cat and for me, thats the best place I can be. (I confess my husband got a pie from Trader Joe’s, though!) LOL Dealing with family can make trying to stay in control of your meal so much harder, so I’m all but too happy to be in my own space. Enjoy the holiday, everyone!

GOAL Digger November 25, 2010 - 1:54 PM

Especially loving #1-in the past, I knew that if I didn’t drink anything I’d be able to EAT everything. I’m staying home this yr, I won’t be judged or persuaded!

JoAnna November 25, 2010 - 4:03 PM

Happy Thanksgiving Eriks!

Well, I just finished making 8lbs of my stir-fried collards w/smoked turkey. I’ll have to submit the recipe at your next contest. My aunt is Muslim and accused me of sneaking in some hammock on her the last time she ate them, so they passed the test! Those greens, my mother’s smoked turkey, and a couple of rolls are it for me at the family dinner in 2 hours. I ate a good breakfast this morning, saw the parade, and have plans this evening to catch a movie with friends while the rest of the family is in their carbo-stupor.

It’s took me some years, but I finally understand that the food is not going to magically disappear if we don’t eat it all to the dregs on Thanksgiving day. And since no one is actually rising at 3am to go shopping tomorrow, I don’t want to hear that lie about fueling up for Black Friday!

All in all, a good start to the holiday season. I discovered a recipe for walnut cookie sandwiches using walnut liqueur in the filling, and walnut meal in the cookie. They are absolutely delicious, almost decadent if you add ice cream or a dessert coffee. My secret to not overeating during the holidays is to cook a labor intensive dish/desert. If I take the time to bake dozens of cookies (at least 14-18), I just don’t feel much like eating whether I cooked dinner or not. People get their cookie allotment (always complaining that they didn’t get more), I get a chance to shine in my ongoing weight loss, and fabulous culinary skills, and I stick with my program. Win-win all the way around. Especially when I charge for future batches of cookies/cakes!

Cee November 25, 2010 - 4:54 PM

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! JoAnna, care to share your walnut cookie sandwich recipe?


Tiera October 27, 2011 - 2:08 AM

JoAnna, care to share any of your recipes? lol. I stopped cooking my food with salt and am having trouble getting that “Mmm” appeal. I mix different seasonings but can’t quite seem to get it. Erika, I could use your help as well 🙂

Janine November 4, 2012 - 8:49 PM

@JoAnna: that cookie baking tip is genius! I’ve noticed that baking a bunch of cookies for a potluck makes me less likely to gorge on stuff, too… maybe it’s because the memory of all that delicious-but-kinda-evil stuff that went into YOUR dish is so fresh, you are more aware of the devils lurking in the foods others made? in any case, great idea, I’m gonna exploit that this year.

Len November 22, 2012 - 8:27 PM

Well…I AM the pookie in my family and I love the tradition of food, family and fun. I guess one more thing I can add to the list of thankfulness is the ability to resist dirty foods. I was excited to boil a lobster, sautee kale in flavor packing herbs and spices, bake a sweet potato, steam garlic and green beans and hook up an alarming butternut squash soup. Guilt-free! 🙂

Darlicia November 25, 2012 - 7:15 PM

I love the suggestions, Erika! May I also add that we should limit the spirits at holiday time. For one, they have lots of calories with no nutritional value. Two, they make us mindlessly eat more…kinda like an internal sabotage mechanism.

The alcohol is the hardest for me. Not because I must have it, but because my friends act like I’m committing the ultimate sin if I don’t have a drink in my hand. They’ve gotten used to me not having processed food, but the alcohol, too? How could I? Lol

Devin April 30, 2013 - 4:14 PM

holidays are SUPER difficult for me! In my fam im known as the girl that eats more than the boys (im working on getting that revoked lol) but my question is how do you feed your little one during these holiday events? my son is 11 months LOVES to eat and cook all of his meals (minus the salt) so i know what’s going on in his belly. but you know people LOVE to feed kids. so im curious what do you do, or what suggestions do you have?

BK November 24, 2015 - 9:22 AM

One of my favorite quotes, “get your joy from people who know how to act.” I love this list. Love this site. I am trying to lose weight and the holidays is a difficult time to do that. I gave myself the goal not to gain any weight this season and maibrain
If I lose weight, it’s a bonus. December 26, im back to focusing on losing.

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