How to Stop Worrying About Holiday Weight Gain

“What are your best tips for losing weight over the holidays?” That’s a question I’ve been asked hundreds of times. It’s also one I no longer answer. After all, why advise people to double down on their diets when the rest of the world is telling them to celebrate with their favorite foods? The question I’ll answer instead is, “How can I help myself come out of this holiday season feeling as good as I did when I entered it?” Glad you asked.

1. Weigh yourself less often.

If you typically weigh yourself daily, the holidays might be a good time to dial back to once a week or so. No need to track — and stress over — every fluctuation, which may very well be attributed to water (not fat) if you’re eating foods that are higher in sodium than you usually consume. If you find even weighing yourself once a week is more upsetting than informative or motivating, ditch it. The number that’s on the scale has nothing to do with your self-worth, value or ability to take care of yourself. It’s just a number on a machine that is not alive, so it can’t and shouldn’t dictate your mood or how your day will unfold.

[See: 6 Stupid Holiday Diet Tips You Should Ignore (and 1 You Shouldn’t).]

2. Enjoy some family recipes untouched.

True, I sometimes change recipes around to swap out ingredients that I know can be substituted with something healthier without compromising taste. For example, I may use oil instead of the chicken fat (better known as schmaltz) that might have appeared in one of my grandmother’s recipes. Or, I may use almond milk when baking a cake for vegan guests.

But some traditional recipes should go untouched because not only do they pass along a family treasure, but they also connect you to family members in past generations who may have shared a similar dish. Focus on listening to older relatives’ memories rather than stressing over how many calories are in your great-grandmother’s casserole.

[See: Thanksgiving on a Gluten-Free, Vegetarian or Vegan Diet.]

3. Dress comfortably.

Despite popular advice to wear tight clothing to prevent overeating, I say: Dress the body you have — not the body you had in high school. Wearing clothing that makes you feel good may actually lead healthier decisions than wearing clothing that makes you feel bad. Self-compassion always beats self-hatred when it comes to making decisions that serve you.

4. Enjoy a variety of foods — even higher-calorie sides.

Sure, you could fill up on turkey and a plain baked potato to avoid room for less-healthy side dishes, but you could also purposefully not wear mitts when taking hot food out of the oven. In other words, why make yourself miserable? Turkey and baked potatoes are available year-round, so no need to give them starring roles on your plate on Thanksgiving (unless you love them, of course).

Leave some room for other dishes that you only get the chance to taste once a year. (I’m already dreaming of my “Challah-Day Stuffing,” but you can bet I’ll be having my stuffed sweet potatoes, too!). Eating a variety of foods with different flavors can help you feel satisfied sooner, so you may not actually do any more “damage” than had you loaded up on bland foods you only semi-like.

5. Eat dessert if you want it.

Some people would prefer to skip the whole meal and just move right into dessert. If that’s you, enjoy it, whether your dessert of choice is pumpkin cake, pecan pie or a holiday fruit cake. Treat desserts as if they are special, and choose the one you will enjoy the most (yes, even if you are full). One day of a dessert you love is so worth the negligible impact it might have on your weight.

[See: How to Enjoy a Stress-Free Holiday.]

This is the time of year when balance is key. That means trying to achieve that sweet combination of enjoying what you’re eating while also enjoying the way you feel, mentally and physically. When you’re faced with holiday events, excessive cooking and baking, and invitations to parties with food everywhere, just focus on what it takes for you to feel good. Savor those foods that mean the most to you because of the memories they bring, the tastes they provide and the grateful feelings you get when you share them with others. Happy holidays from my table to yours.

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How to Stop Worrying About Holiday Weight Gain originally appeared on usnews.com