Christmas Tree

Surviving Thriving Through the Holidays

“This holiday season, if you happen to overindulge in something you know doesn’t make you feel well, leave the guilt behind. Guilt is a toxic emotion that creates more damage. When things get out of control (which they do), simply make a gentle U-turn. Think of this as a GPS for your soul. Your GPS doesn’t yell at you, call you stupid, or judge you for taking a wrong turn. In the sweetest voice imaginable, the GPS reminds you to take the next possible U-turn.” 

-Dr. Mark Hyman

The holiday season can cause stress when trying to achieve health and wellness goals. It certainly offers a unique set of obstacles with additional social events, family gatherings, and goodies. We have developed some strategies for getting you through the holidays guilt free. It’s easy to hyperfocus on strategies that involve excessive restriction and punishment for indulging in foods that do not support wellness efforts. Our hope is that this blog post sheds some light on the situation and offers some comfort in knowing we all face this struggle in some capacity. Additionally, we hope to provide some tips and tricks to keep you feeling merry, joyful, thankful, and trim this holiday season and for many more to come! 


A few days before a Holiday offer a great opportunity to set your intention. Taking some time to plan additional activities other than those related to food is a great way to center the focus around quality family time. For example, leading up to Thanksgiving we collaborate on a “Thankful Tree” each year. Each of us adding a leaf with something we are grateful for. By the time Thanksgiving rolls around we have a colorful tree filled with all the things we have reflected on. Additionally, we encourage clients to increase physical activity (walking, workouts, outdoor time, biking) leading into the Holiday to preemptively account for the extra temptations that will come about. This does not have to be intense, but an extra 30 mins of mild exercise can go a long way. Consider getting the family involved too by checking out a park, going for a hike, or trying an at home youtube video together (always a good time). It’s a good idea to monitor beverages throughout the week as well (skipping on the extras and sticking to water/0 calorie options) to stay hydrated. 

The Big Day

The “day of” is a wonderful opportunity to share quality food with loved ones. To clarify, high quality is quite different from high quantities of food. It can be strategic to slow down and enjoy food during the planning, preparation, and consumption part of the holiday meal. Being present at the table and taking time to appreciate those sitting around you can also enrich the meal. Be mindful that one meal or day of eating off of your routine will not prevent you from reaching your goals. In fact, we find that taking tracking and restriction off the table and aiming to eat intuitively can enhance the holiday experience while not causing one to feel guilt or shame in their food choices. Here are some ideas for incorporating mindfulness and intuitive eating this year:

1) Make peace with food by honoring your hunger before the main course. It’s fine to still consume a meal earlier in the day, even two depending on when your family kicks the main meal off!

2) Slightly lean into grazing and make sure you have “guilt free” options you can munch on such as a veggie tray as you mingle and enjoy quality family time before the main meal. 

3) Stay hydrated! Alternate between water and fancy beverages to trick your brain into thinking it is full because there is more volume in your belly. You can’t overeat with drinks in both hands! 

4) Have a low sugar/carb drink option available such as a Holiday Ranch Water (splash of diet cranberry, lime seltzer, clear liquor of choice + fresh lime wedges for garnish) or Hot Toddy (Herbal Tea + cognac + 1 tsp honey + garnish with cinnamon stick/citrus peel). 

** Bonus: use straws with water and small sips with fancy drinks. People typically drink more when using a straw vs sipping.

5) Offer to lend a hand in the kitchen or keep smaller children occupied! Similar to tip 3, you can’t graze too much if your hands are busy!

6) Break out the silverware and take time to cut food. 

7) Be picky about dessert, choose your absolute favorite item to enjoy for dessert and skip the rest. I promise you’ll have more satisfaction that way. Including a decaf coffee can complement most desserts.  


Returning to your routine in a reasonable timeframe after the Holiday can be strategic. We try to set the precedent for the day after by getting up, getting outside, and MOVING. This will help alert your body that it’s time to get back into the swing of things and it feels great! Let’s be clear that you do not get additional bonus points for skimping on sleep. It may be beneficial to get a restful night and allow yourself to naturally wake up with the sunlight rather than force yourself out of bed at O’dark thirty. Reflect on the positives of the holiday as you get movin’ and groovin’. I typically find myself chuckling at something silly my brother did or how intense family board games are at my house. This positivity can generate a lot of momentum that is essential for getting back on track. Attitude is everything after a Holiday.

Additional Thoughts

In addition to contributing to personal health goals, these strategies offer benefits for the whole family. An extra perk to consider during the Holidays is the ability to slow down and enjoy quality time around the table together. This can be difficult in our everyday culture of hustle and bustle. Family members can collectively pace their meals and take time (approximately 30 minutes) to feel satiated while enjoying gathering and lighthearted conversation. There is tons of opportunity for family bonding, creating positive memories, and offering cheerful associations with food. There is also a wonderful chance to carry on and start family traditions such as recipes, activities and behaviors this season. 

Fun Holiday Family Commitment

We know that it is possible to enjoy the wonderful food of the holidays and keep our health and wellbeing in mind. This year we will prioritize slowing down and enjoying quality time together as a family.

Today, we make a promise to ourselves to make healthy food choices during this holiday season. We will balance our food intake. We will mindfully choose desserts to enjoy. We will limit grazing between meals. If we drink sugary beverages/alcohol, we will do so in moderation. We will keep active.

We promise to enjoy this special time of the year and give thanks for our health, happiness, and the love of our friends and family.

Signature:__________________________________________ Date: ___________

Sign and date this contract and place it on the refrigerator!


Headshot of Chain Effect's Mariel Gampe, MS, RDN, LDN.

Authored by:
Mariel Gampe, MS, RDN, LDN.

Mariel Gampe is our newest licensed dietitian, she began practicing as a dietitian in 2019, completing her bachelor’s, master’s, and dietetic internship at Appalachian State University.