Blog post contributed by Mary Wissmann, MS, RDN, LD . Mary specializes in weight management and family nutrition at McDaniel Nutrition Therapy.

The holidays are nearly upon us, and if your November and December calendars are filling up as quickly as mine, you might already feel the pressure of the food-focused celebrations around every corner.

While we always advocate for the 80/20 rule, it can still be stressful and difficult to stay focused on your health during the holiday season. There is the work holiday party, your significant other’s work holiday party, holiday parties with friends, holiday parties with family, holiday parties with the other side of the family… It never seems to end!

When life finally slows down and the inevitable post-holiday daze kicks in, do you find yourself regretting the past two months of indulgence? If so, plan ahead this year and find joy in the holidays, while shifting your focus from food, to having fun and creating memories

Enjoy the company, not just the food.

What do you remember about holiday parties from year to year? Sure, I always look forward to my mom’s apple pie on Thanksgiving (Sorry pumpkin, I think you’re overrated), but I also look forward to seeing my aunt who comes in from out-of-town and my cousins and their kids. I love watching all the kids play together, just like we did when we were their age. The food is nice, but it’s the people who make the holidays so special. Who are you most looking forward to catching up with this holiday season? Focus your energy and attention on spending time in a meaningful conversation with those people. The treats will become an afterthought.

Plan activities and celebrations that don’t involve food.

Plan a night to visit holiday lights and displays with your kids. Take your family or friends ice skating instead of hosting a dinner party. One of my favorite holiday traditions has become my cousin’s annual Ugly Sweater Bowling Party that happens every New Year’s Eve morning. It’s a little physical activity, a lot of laughs, and no food necessary. Mix it up this year and maybe you’ll start a new holiday tradition.

It’s okay to say “no.”

In years past, my family and I have run ourselves ragged trying to get to every event and holiday party. Each weekend the kids are exhausted, sugar-high, and crabby, and so are we! We have finally started to embrace the fact that it’s okay to say “no.” If you find yourself over-scheduled with holiday parties, are there any that you can skip this year? If you skip something this year, you can start an every-other-year tradition.

Stay mindful.

When attending holiday events, focus on eating when you’re hungry and stopping when you’re full. If you don’t already, practice mindfulness now to help you avoid eating in autopilot mode. A quick, 2-3 minute practice each day is all you need to start seeing the benefits during this busy season. I like to use an app to set daily reminders. Calm.com and Headspace are two great ones.

However you celebrate the holiday season, we hope you have a great one.

Mary Wissmann

Mary Wissmann is our weight management and family nutrition guru. As a Registered Dietitian for over 11 years, she has worked with individual clients, conducted research, taught community nutrition and health programs, and led many community health initiatives. She spent 7 years as a university faculty member, which provided her with extensive experience reading and interpreting the latest nutrition and health research. If you are interested in working with Mary, please visit our contact page.