November 19


6 Authentic Ways To Survive The Holidays Without the Guilt

You've been working on prioritizing your health and now the holidays are upon us. Maybe you're concerned about how to navigate them without blowing your health out of the water. Keep reading to grab my holiday survival tips!

By Sunny Brigham, MS, CNS, LDN

November 19, 2018

minutes read time


Updated 25 October 2021. 

Everyone gets nervous around the holidays. Not only because of the stress of family, friends, and making sure everyone is happy. But food. Food, in general, creates a significant amount of stress. But when we think about food and the holidays, one thing comes to mind…

Weight gain.

On top of that, tons of stress comes with the festivities. You can indulge in the holiday festivities AND come out feeling great on the other side.

In this blog, I’m going to share with you my tips for surviving the holidays with your sanity and waistline intact. We’re going to talk about strategies when you’re going to a hosted dinner and how to handle the stress of it all.


Let’s first talk about the meals involved.  Some have one meal at home for each holiday.  Others go to 5+ dinners for each holiday at the home of friends or family. Tell me if this sounds familiar…

“OMG this is gonna be EPIC!  I’m not eating a THING alllll day so I can have room for all those goodies!”

Be honest! Maybe not those exact words but you’ve likely said something along those lines. I definitely have. Only to feel disgusting afterward. You commence unbuttoning the pants or hit the couch for coma mode. And likely vow you’re not eating a thing for the next few days.

The guilt begins to sink in. “What have I done? I shouldn’t have had that extra piece of pie! And did I really need the cookies, too!”

But we aren’t taking that approach this year. This year, we are planning in advance. And we’re adding in some tricks to help stave off the drool but yet still allow you to indulge. On top of that, we’re ditching the guilt. Because regret is a crappy emotion that doesn’t change what already took place. So let’s go ahead and vow to regret nothing!

Holiday Survival Tip #1 – Eat Before You Go

I know I know. This takes away the fun of fasting all day so you can put all the yummies in your tummy. But you’ll still get to eat the yummies without the impending tummy ache.

You don’t have to eat a giant meal. But eat something. I tell my clients to eat that day as they would any other day. And treat dinner that night as if they were going out to eat. When you wake, have breakfast and make sure it contains some protein. Get the metabolism going!

You want to get things moving so when you have dinner (or linner = lunch + dinner), your body is ramped and revved to break it down! So, when you’re hungry…eat! Have snacks like you normally would. Eat lunch! If dinner/linner is early, make lunch a bit smaller but still eat it.

Have a small salad before you leave the house. Or steam some veg in the microwave before you head out. This will hold you over for a bit. It will also boost your vegetable intake for the day. And, when you dive mouth first onto your plate…you’ll be able to eat slowly throughout the meal.

This takes me to tactic #2.

Holiday Survival Tip #2 – Practice Mindful Eating

Mindful eating is a lot of different things. There are varying approaches. But what it comes down to is slowing your roll and enjoying the meal. Don’t shovel in the food in the hopes of getting seconds. If you want seconds, take a plate home with you.

When we are eating mindfully, we are really enjoying the food. We are savoring the flavors, chewing slowly, and taking breaks. Here are a couple of good practices I share with my clients. To maximize the exercises, pair them together.

Put your fork down – Don’t hang on to the fork between bites. No one is taking the fork from you…I promise. And no one is taking your plate from you either. Pick up the fork, put the food in the mouth, and put the fork down. When you’re ready for another bite, repeat!

Chew thoroughly – When we eat, we chew a few times, swallow hard, and chase with a liquid. You should be chewing more. Digestion starts in the mouth. The chewing process helps release digestive enzymes. These enzymes start breaking down food before it hits the belly. Aim to chew each bite 25-35 times. I know. You shook your head or thought that was ridiculous. It takes practice. And some things like mashed potatoes are IMPOSSIBLE to chew that many times. But do your best.

Sit down! – Don’t stand and eat. Don’t play on the phone and eat. And don’t watch TV and eat. Just eat. Only focus on eating and bonding with friends or family. If you’re doing other stimulating activities, you’re not focused on the sensations that come with food. You’re not practicing the above techniques. And, you will overeat.

If you start implementing these mindful eating practices now, you’ll be all set!

Holiday Survival Tip #3 – Check Your Plate

This is another mindful eating technique…sort of. This might be slightly more difficult than some of the others but I have faith in you. There are two things you can do here: 1) Start with a smaller plate, and 2) Eat your vegetables.

Just about every holiday hangout I’ve been to has a vegetable or fruit tray. Maybe people pass it and pick up a carrot here or an olive there. But most people are waiting on the main event. Remember…fasting until they feast? Make a plate of vegetables and eat that first. Savor it. Enjoy it. Chew it thoroughly. And then feast on the other goodies (using mindful eating of course). The veg will fill you up on lower calorie, nutrient dense foods before the feasting commences.

And when you fill up your feast plate…use your veggie plate. You know that smaller plate that you’re either sticking in the dishwasher or putting in the trash? Use that one. You’ll put less on the plate and likely be more selective. You can fill it up again and again if you need to. But taking those breaks to get more will help your body send the “I’m topped off” signal. You might end up eating less.

Getting up and moving to get another plate brings us to tactic #4.

Holiday Survival Tip #4 – Don’t Lay Down

For the love of God…do not lay down after feasting! Or sit for that matter. We need movement and activity. We must help the body digest the foods. Plus, if you lay down, you may get a little acid reflux.

Seriously though, you just put A LOT of food in the body. Your pancreas is working double time to release the insulin needed to reduce your blood glucose levels. Why not help it out? Take a walk. Grab a few others and take a 10-15-minute walk. Get the kids involved too!

Movement helps promote digestion. This means you’ll have room for leftovers when you get home…if you should choose to do that. Just eat them mindfully 😎

Holiday Survival Tip #5 – Relax!

This won’t apply to everyone. If I’m being honest, it probably applies more so to women. Realistically, we are the planners, preppers, and presenters. We may not do all the cooking but we work to make sure everything goes off without a hitch.

When we add that to family and friends, heated debates, and political discussions…stress rises! This is a great time to employ some de-stressing techniques. Here are 9 techniques you can easily employ throughout the day.

Some that would be easy to add in? Listening to music while you prep. When things feel overwhelming, read a book or take a quick breather. Have a long shower before the chaos kicks off.

Whatever it is…just do something. When we are stressed, we are releasing cortisol. Which means, we already have high blood glucose levels. Eating all the goodies is only going to add to that. This is not a good thing. De-stress, de-stress, and then de-stress some more.

Hopefully, you’re getting the hint.  (It’s de-stress!)

Holiday Survival Tip #6 – Enjoy the Food!

Like I mentioned earlier, guilt is a trash emotion. Literally, guilt does nothing for us…except make us feel guilty. We feel guilt when we’ve hurt someone’s feelings, said something we shouldn’t have, or eaten something we feel that we should have skipped.

When it comes to hurting others, guilt can be warranted but apologizing and learning from the experience is much better than stewing and feeling guilty over it.

When it comes to food, you literally cannot take it back. What’s done is done…so why feel guilty about indulging? You don’t do it every day. It’s the holidays. Let your hair down a little! Enjoy the process and the food! Savor each bite, indulge, and enjoy the heck out of it!


I know this seems like a lot. Honestly, if you’re only having one meal for each holiday, I really don’t think it’s THAT big of a deal. But if you’re a social butterfly or have a TON of family…definitely get moving on some of these tactics.

You don’t have to do all these. But I encourage you to pick 2 to employ when feasting on a holiday meal. Especially if you’re going to multiple holiday gatherings.

And one last parting gift…keep the liquid calorie to a minimum. If you’re going to have beer or wine, have one after dinner. Stick to water the rest of the time. Your cells will thank you 🥸

In the comments below, let me know which tactics you’re going to employ this holiday season!

  • I love the reminder to enjoy the process… and the food. The two strategies I’ll use this holiday: eat before I go & eat the veggies and use the smaller plate 🙂 I know that’s three….but what can I say, when the advice is gooood…. it’s hard not to take it!

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