Should You Take a Break from Weight-Loss Over the Holidays?

woman working out over the holidays
Spoiler alert: The answer isn’t as simple as you’d think. But the good news is, you have options.

With the holidays approaching, it’s perfectly normal to feel a little anxious about how to handle the sudden change of routine and flurry of festive foods coming your way. Depending on where you’re at in your weight-loss journey, you may not be prepared to indulge much for fear of backsliding your progress—or perhaps you’ve come a long way and feel you are ready for a season of reprieve from your otherwise structured approach to eating.

The holiday season is usually not just a single party or weekend. When you account for the time from Thanksgiving to New Year’s, it’s more like a month-long of festivities, so it’s important to keep that in mind when deciding which path to take.

Let’s look at three possible scenarios—and the implications of each—so that you can make the best decision based on your individual situation and weight-loss personality.

1. Pause Weight-Loss Efforts

If the idea of restricting yourself in any way bums you out and you feel confident in your journey to take a reprieve—knowing for certain that you’ll get back at it promptly after the holidays— then taking a break altogether could be an option.

Just because you’ve decided to temporarily pause your pursuit to lower the number on the scale (experts recommend one-to two-pounds per week for healthy weight loss) it doesn’t mean that there aren’t some equally important things to focus on. Shift your focus to non-scale wins like how amazing you feel in your holiday outfits, how much energy you have and how happy you feel. You may even notice that your cravings for all the things aren’t really there anymore.

Here are some pros and cons to ponder if a full-on weight-loss pause is something you’re considering.

Upsides:

  • You won’t feel deprived or left out
  • You can test out what a balanced lifestyle will feel like in the maintenance phase
  • You won’t snap under the pressure of depriving yourself entirely, which has been shown to be potentially more detrimental than allowing a few indulgences

Downsides:

  • There’s a chance you may struggle to get back on track
  • You may regress in your progress and gain a few pounds, depending on how much you relax your plan

2. Forge Forward in Your Weight-Loss Efforts

If you suspect that a pause in your weight-loss journey might be a slippery slope, then forging ahead will be the best approach for you. With so many temptations this time of year, you’ll need some proven strategies  to stay on track, but deciding to stay consistent is a decision that may be especially important to you given how far you’ve come and your personal relationship with food—only you know and can decide.

Consider these pros and cons when deciding whether you’ll mostly adhere to your current lifestyle over the holidays. 

Upsides:

  • You’ll continue to make progress and not have to worry about taking a step backward
  • You’ll reinforce your mental fitness in the face of temptation 

Downsides:

  • You may experience intense moments of temptation, frustration or isolation
  • You may have to deal with the peanut gallery questioning your dietary choices and giving you a hard time—have a polite response prepared

3. Compromise and Choose Maintenance

Maybe you don’t have to choose one of the other and can enjoy a happy medium instead. If pausing feels too risky and forging forward isn’t realistic and you refuse to not have any fun, then a maintenance month is an option that allows you to approach the season with balance.

Figure out when the bulk of your festive engagements are taking place—perhaps it’s one week or two or three—and for that time period, temporarily move into a maintenance phase where you’re neither losing or gaining weight but instead maintaining your current weight, wherever you’re at in your journey.

It may be helpful to re-adjust your macronutrient mix using a nutrition app or calculator so that you know how many more calories you can consume during this time and where you’ll “spend them” but if that sounds too restrictive for you, just eat mindfully, savor your food, exercise portion control and stop when you’re full. Know that a short period of occasional treats won’t have an irreversible impact on your weight-loss goals.

Upsides

  • You will enjoy your holidays stress-free while still maintaining some balance
  • You can fully experience what balanced living in the maintenance phase will feel like after you reach your ultimate goal 

Downsides

  • You might get a little carried away and have to rebound more than expected—but decide ahead of time that it won’t stop you

Bottom line:

The main thing to remember is to ditch all-or-nothing thinking because whether you choose to pause, press forward or maintain, in each scenario, it is possible to get carried away and overindulge.

In this case, practicing compassion with yourself and remembering that on-off instances are just a drop in the bucket will be paramount to your long-term success. Ultimately, take a balanced approach to eating and enjoy the holidays!

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