For many, the holiday season brings fear of weight gain and food guilt, but there’s a better way to approach it. Slow down and remember what’s truly important: everything we gain from celebrating with family and friends.


Everyone talks about how to stay healthy during the holidays so before looking at all the ways you can “lighten” your favorite dishes, hear me out.

Staying healthy is about approaching the meal with a different mindset. Instead of being focused on this wonderful time of year with the people you love, the focus is on the anticipated binge.

The common thought is that you must restrict before the meal and need to compensate afterwards for everything you ate. Instead of leaving the table feeling comfortable and gracious, we leave with feelings of guilt and shame.

It isn’t the actual meal that is bad for us, but the cycle of restrict and binge. When you shift your primary focus to the people you are gathered with and the recipes that have been passed down for generations, you start to really experience the holidays. Here are a few ways to savor those experiences and promote positivity:

1. Wear something comfortable and that makes you feel beautiful.

Do not try and squeeze into clothes that are a size too small, pants that do not have any give, or a shirt you are continually pulling at.

2. Start holiday shopping early for friends and family.

Make your gift list at the beginning of November. Write down what you are thinking of getting your family and friends. Include random acts of kindness, such as taking cookies to your neighbor. Not only will you have your holiday shopping done early, but you gain more fulfillment doing it.

3. Plan activities together other than eating.

Drive or walk around to look at Christmas lights after your holiday meal. Go ice skating, play cards together or make hot cocoa and watch a movie.  

4. Plan for plenty of self care.

Taking care of yourself is the most important thing you can do for those around you. Below are some of my favorite ways to incorporate self care into my life. For example, try journaling, take a hot bath, or get a massage.  Be outside and connect with someone, or slow down to meditate.  Head to a new coffee shop and read a new book for fun.  Be kind to yourself by accepting gratitude from others, or buy something fun for yourself.

The holidays are more about feeling the abundance from the food, rather than the calories it contains. Stick to your normal eating pattern, don’t skip meals in anticipation, slow down and enjoy each bite. You will probably eat half as much and be twice as satisfied.

Instead of focusing on weight gain, focus on gaining beautiful memories, good food, and fulfillment.

Haley Goodrich, RD, LDN is a private practice Registered Dietitian based in Pittsburgh, PA inspiring others to have a healthy relationship with food.  Specializing in disordered eating, intuitive eating, and GI disorders, Haley’s mission is to show that healthy doesn’t have to be restrictive or defined by how you compare to others. To stay inspired to be your healthiest you, visit Haley at INSPIRD Nutrition.