Staying On Track During the Holidays

Staying healthy during the holidays

Last Updated on October 19, 2023 by Kayla

Christmas is a time for joyous celebration, but it’s also stressful balancing family obligations and work schedules. As a result, staying on track during the holidays is difficult.

From striving to find the perfect gifts to attending holiday parties and baking cookies, many things are competing for your attention, and a happy healthy holiday season involves taking care of yourself inside and out.

Fortunately, there are simple strategies to help you stay focused, productive, and healthy during this festive time of year. Keep reading for holiday wellness tips to help you stay on track this season.

Set Boundaries

Having a happy, healthy holiday season begins with protecting your energy and resources. Staying on track during the holidays involves practicing good self-care like setting boundaries with your time, relationships, and finances.


Time is our most precious resource, and holiday obligations add up quickly. Coordinating and attending events requires time and effort for both hosts and attendees.

Planning, decorating, shopping, gift wrapping, cleaning, cooking, and traveling is a lot to manage – especially on top of other everyday responsibilities.

When I polled my women’s bariatric community about holiday challenges, managing family schedules was the most significant stressor. So while it can be easy to say “yes” in the moment or to accommodate others, I challenge you to take personal inventory of your calendar and energy.

Take a look back

When extra responsibilities surface, the first thing to go is self-care. Exercise, preparing healthy meals, and sleep fall victim when you overextend yourself.

Review last year’s calendar to gauge holiday commitments. Did you say “yes” to everything and overcommit? Or were you able to balance family obligations, office parties, and still keep on track with your personal goals and self-care through the holidays?

Remember, self-care keeps you sane!

Forecast the future

Before you send an RSVP, volunteer to ring bells, or offer to caravan a holiday lights tour, consider how you’ll feel as the day approaches.

Rather than haphazardly committing to an event weeks or even months in advance, imagine it’s happening within 48 hours. When the occasion is closely aligned with the present, you’ll be able to anticipate how you’ll feel once the commitment approaches.

Exercise your right to say “no”

Nearly 90% of Americans report feeling stressed while celebrating the holidays, so you are not alone if you feel overwhelmed.

As difficult as it can be to say “no,” I challenge you to resist following it up with an apology. Don’t buffer your decision with an “I’m sorry” or “I wish I could, but…” You don’t have to be apologetic for decisions that impact your health.

There are polite ways to decline an invite sans the apology. For example, “Thank you for thinking of me. It doesn’t fit my schedule.” Or “I can’t attend. I have another commitment.” Keep it simple and don’t over-explain.

Furthermore, do yourself a favor and don’t delay your response if you know the final answer is “no.” The anticipation of the inevitable conversation will eat away at your emotional energy.

Instead of saying, “Can I get back to you?” just be honest. Don’t fabricate a little white lie that you’ll have to remember down the road or forbid friends and family from posting pictures on Facebook to mask what you’re really doing.

Realize that as hard as it might be to say “no,” even a calendar full of “good” events can be a drain on your energy and well-being. Think about how you show up for yourself and others when you’re stretched to the max. Spend your time wisely.


The holidays mean more time with family and friends. For some people, this equates to more “merry and bright.” For others, more family or “people time” means increased anxiety and distress.

Personal insecurities, differences of opinion, and underlying expectations create tension and set the stage for uncomfortable conversations.

If you’re worried about conflict, confrontation, or which corner of the living room you’ll claim, then consider setting boundaries in advance.

Perhaps you propose a truce to forego conversations about politics, religion, or comments about your weight loss if it’s not a welcome topic of discussion. When conversations veer off course, have a predetermined “safe word” to redirect dialogue to a neutral topic.

If you’re trying to stay on track with healthy eating or following pre- or post-op diet guidelines, consider communicating your dietary preferences ahead of time. Offer to bring a high-protein recipe to share or provide alternatives that meet your needs.

While setting boundaries with others can be uncomfortable, having clear expectations and respecting other people’s boundaries is essential for cultivating a happy, healthy holiday season.


It’s easy to overspend around the holidays and making responsible financial decisions is one lesser-known piece of the holiday wellness puzzle. Staying on track during the holidays goes beyond your waistline to your wallet and impacts mood and resources.

Setting boundaries with finances during the holidays can be difficult, especially when faced with the pressure to buy gifts and travel. So plan ahead and determine a budget for all holiday expenses. This includes everything from gifts, meals, beverages, decorations, and travel costs.

If money is tight, consider other ways to celebrate the holidays without breaking the bank. For example, instead of buying presents, make homemade gifts or meals. Draw names, play Secret Santa, or plan a holiday activity in lieu of purchasing gifts for everyone.

Staying on track during the holidays: Holiday wellness tips

Whether it’s time, relationships, or finances, setting boundaries isn’t easy.

Personally, I thought setting boundaries would be empowering, liberating even. I imagined a sense of relief after clarifying expectations with loved ones or saying “no” without apology, but honestly, setting boundaries sucks.

For people pleasers, the emotional tug of war that accompanies boundary setting can be uncomfortable. However, it’s important to recognize that self-care means setting boundaries, and self-care isn’t selfish.

Be Intentional

Setting an intention for the season is one way to stay focused on what’s important and enjoy the time spent with family and friends. Here are some tips on how to set intentions for a happy, healthy holiday season.

Routines & rituals

A routine is a set of habits, and creating strong habits is fundamental to staying on track during the holidays. Morning, evening, and eating routines help guide your day to create consistency and a sense of control.

How you start and end your day can be a difference-maker in sticking to your holiday wellness goals. For instance, if you make your bed every morning or meal prep on weekends, don’t let these precious habits slip. It could have a negative ripple effect and lead to other setbacks.

Lack of structure and extra responsibilities make even your strongest habits vulnerable this time of year, so it’s important to uphold your healthy habits and routines. As a result, you’ll feel more energized and in control.

Make time to reflect

It can be helpful to spend time reflecting on how to manifest your intention throughout the holidays. Celebrate what worked and let go of those things that didn’t quite work out to create more space for growth and joy.

Staying on track during the holidays: How to have a Happy healthy holiday

One of my favorite ways to do this is through journaling. Writing thoughts down helps to debrief and dump mental clutter that adds up quickly this time of year. You’ll be able to work through emotions and explore solutions to relieve anxiety.

Optimize your mindset and metabolism this holiday season with community support and dietitian-led challenges and events with my women’s bariatric membership. Stay accountable and engage in group discussions to stay on track this holiday season!

Regardless, even a few minutes of daily reflection can help mental well-being and having a strong support system – in-person or online – will help you thrive, not just survive.

Start with the end in mind

Before a meal, event, or family interaction, ask yourself what you hope to accomplish and how you want to feel once it’s over.

When tempting food is center stage, for example, make it your goal to feel better after eating than before. For this to happen, you’ll be more aware of physical versus emotional hunger and stop eating when you’re satisfied, not stuffed.

Before social events, take inventory of the guest list and who you enjoy conversating with. Make interactions with people who inspire you or “fill your cup” a priority versus getting cornered into an uncomfortable dialogue about your great aunt’s upcoming colonoscopy.

Whichever strategy you choose, try to avoid living on “autopilot,” be in the moment, and set intentions for a happy, healthy holiday season that leaves your heart full and patience intact.

Pinpoint Priorities

Ultimately, staying on track during the holidays comes down to being consistent with your goals – not perfect. By identifying priorities ahead of time, you’ll have a plan in place and intentions top of mind.

In my favorite goal-setting book, Finish by Jon Acuff, the author gives numerous strategies for simplifying objectives and achieving your goals, including cutting your goals in half and choosing something to suck at.

Jon talks about how “quitting happens the day after perfection.” We get discouraged if we’re not perfect on day one, and with this attitude, we “pre-quit.” To eliminate the urge to stop before you even start, pinpoint your priorities to help manage the overwhelm.

Choose no more than 2-3 daily “non-negotiables.” Aim for persistence over perfection, and for more guidance, check out my free resources which includes a free habit tracker PDF and dietitian-approved grocery list.

Some of your “non-negotiables” might include the following:

  • Setting a bedtime
  • Scheduling workouts
  • Prioritizing self-care routines
  • Drinking at least 64 ounces of fluids
  • Filling 1/2 your plate with vegetables
  • Eating only from a plate (to avoid grazing)
  • Planning 2-3 meals for the week
  • Packing a lunch
  • Bringing a healthy dish to pass

Keep it simple and don’t overcommit. Small actions compound to build consistency and momentum over time.

Consistency trumps perfection every time. One meal or one day isn’t going to make or break a health or weight loss goal. What you eat over the course of the week and month will.

Plus, the holiday is just that – one day! It’s what you prioritize and take consistent action on that allows you to achieve the results you desire in the long run.

Words from the Wise

Boundaries are the distance at which I can love you and me simultaneously.

Prentis Hemphill

Don’t let the never-ending web of holiday events keep you from setting and reaching your goals. Recognize that setting boundaries and intentions are inevitable for a happy, healthy holiday season.

Give yourself the gift of grace this holiday season. You deserve it!

Yours truly,

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