This article was originally written by the Sequence clinic team (now known as WeightWatchers Clinic).

How to stay on track with your weight loss goals during holiday meals

Published July 14, 2023 | Updated May 5, 2024

Thanksgiving is quickly approaching (who else still needs to defrost their turkey?). I know it can be an exciting and also stressful time, and I hope to give you a little encouragement and guidance for approaching the holiday season.

How to stay on track for holiday meals (like Thanksgiving, New Year’s, and Christmas):

  1. Eat breakfast. Have a breakfast that is protein- and fiber-rich (i.e. eggs with wheat toast or greek yogurt with fruit). Skipping meals can lead to being overly hungry, which can lead to overeating.
  2. Plan ahead. Whether you’d like to bring a healthy side dish (like roasted Brussels sprouts) or lighten up your sweet potato casserole (reduce the butter and sugar by ⅓ without sacrificing on taste), a little planning can go a long way.
  3. Be strategic about your plate. Decide whether you want to taste everything or prioritize a few of your favorites. Start with the proteins, veggies, and fruit. Then, add on some of the rest.
  4. Hang out away from the food area. This will reduce the environmental cues that encourage you to keep nibbling. When you’re finished after a formal sit-down meal, consider putting your napkin on your plate or your plate in the sink to remind yourself you’re done eating.
  5. Be prepared to say “no thank you.” People love to feed other people — if your intention is to only eat what you’ve planned, prepare a few phrases to help you do just that. “Thank you but I am simply stuffed,” or “That looks delicious, I just can’t manage another bite at the moment.”
  6. Give away leftovers. If you think extending the meal into the weekend with leftovers might get in the way of your progress, send guests home with the extra dessert and be the hostess with the mostess.

Perhaps staying on track isn’t the right goal for you this Thanksgiving. Don’t feel pressured to “do all the right things” if it adds stress, feelings of guilt, or sadness about missing out. You certainly don’t have to follow your eating plan or continue to lose weight during this time. Decide ahead of time when you’ll hit play again. Remember it’s about long-term weight loss goals and making it sustainable.

Another way to approach holiday dinners…

  • Enjoy your favorites. You deserve to eat foods you enjoy, regardless of how much you weigh. Food serves many different purposes — sometimes it nourishes our bodies, sometimes food is for joy and celebration, sometimes it creates memories and carries on traditions.
  • Set your expectations. It is not easy to lose weight during this time. Consider if you want to take a weight loss break. It may be a more doable and less stressful goal to work on maintaining over the holidays.
  • Be kind to yourself. Talk to yourself in the same way you would talk to a friend — rather than putting yourself down, focus on giving yourself grace. Maybe incorporate some self-care like a relaxing bath or taking 5 minutes for a calm cup of coffee.
  • Be thankful for all of the things. We make a big deal about Thanksgiving food, but this is also an opportunity to spend time with friends and family and make memories together.