6 Strategies to Survive the Holiday Season

November 14, 2017 by Kathleen Renner, L.C.S.W.

Health Concerns: Food Addiction

The holiday season can be especially challenging for those who wish to eat healthfully. But your health goals should not fall by the wayside each November until well after the New Year begins. Employing these helpful strategies can allow you to follow through on your commitment to improve your health and achieve your overall goals.  

Plan Ahead – Follow through with your commitment to eat healthfully. You will gain more confidence if you think through what you will eat and stick with that plan. You are more likely to do something consistently if you decide to do it well in advance of being challenged. If you go to a gathering and have decided to wait and see what they are serving, you will more likely go off your diet than if you plan ahead. Staying true to your commitment does not mean you have to test yourself when you are at your weakest. It is about putting plans in place to circumvent the pitfalls that you know you will encounter along the way. The best way is to plan a few days in advance so you won’t have to make difficult food choices later.

Be Prepared – Some people find when visiting relatives over the holidays it is helpful to stay in a hotel with a small kitchenette. They then find a local grocery store to buy a few staples like canned beans, fresh produce, fruits, seeds and nuts so that they can throw together rather simple meals and don’t have to be reliant on eating out. You will walk away from the experience feeling like you have done a really good job instead of feeling regret. Those of us who travel for work do this a lot because we recognize the hardship of finding healthful food in an unfamiliar place.

Create A Safe Zone – At home, make sure your kitchen is a safe zone. Work to keep your pantry well-stocked with healthful Nutritarian foods. Keep frozen fruits and vegetables on hand, cook soups and stews in large batches and freeze extra for when time is tight, pre-wash and chop vegetables on weekends so cooking during the week is easier, and when going to the grocery store, make a specific shopping list and pledge to stick to it.

Eat Before You Go Out – Don’t go out hungry. Eat a Nutritarian meal at home before you go out and you’ll be less likely to graze on unhealthy items at a restaurant or a party. Or offer to bring a healthy dish with you to the party for everyone to share. Others can taste your recipe and you will be guaranteed to have something you can eat. My patients say these two strategies work, and I find that those who employ them are more likely to successfully stick to their diet.

Don’t Be Alone in Your Health Goals – When we are alone in our decision to improve our health we are more likely to sabotage ourselves. Tell as many people as possible to create some accountability. Use the Dr. Fuhrman Member Forums to create a support group. Reach out and communicate with others to gain the support you need to be at your most successful during this holiday season. These member forums provide access to people who really understand what you are trying to achieve and are willing to  help you navigate issues you may encounter along the way.

Give Yourself the Gift of Support – Reach out to a professional who can offer concrete advice on how to navigate the delicate balance of socializing when you have food issues. Support is available throughout the challenging holiday season from our food and nutrition counselors. They are a great resource in dealing with special occasion and daily temptations. Our team offers a support package for anyone who wants help dealing with food cravings, bingeing and other food-related issues. Let someone who understands offer solutions so you stay committed to your health and wellness goals throughout the holidays. Those who sign up will receive a weekly 20-minute phone call  with a counselor, in addition to email exchanges, access to a private, clients-only discussion network, among other helpful resources. The Support Package is available by calling (908) 237-0200 Prompt 2 or (800) 474-WELL (9355).

What situations have you encountered that are challenging? Share the strategies you have used to help you meet the demands of the holidays without sacrificing your health? Leave a comment to let us know!


Kathleen Renner, L.C.S.W. is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with significant clinical experience working in the mental health and substance abuse fields. After undergoing further training with Dr. Fuhrman and his clinical team, Ms. Renner has developed a specialty in food addiction counseling. She also has completed Dr. Fuhrman's Nutritional Education Trainer Program (NET). She has worked in both inpatient and outpatient settings, motivating individuals to improve their health. Kathleen has worked with addiction in all age groups and in various settings, including individuals and groups. She holds the title of Food Addictions Counselor in Dr. Fuhrman's SUCCESS Program.


Comments (0):



11/29/2017 02:36 PM

Solid advice.  Thanks so much for these strategies and all you do to promote excellent health.


11/29/2017 02:43 PM

Thanks for this, I always say Christmas is a “diabetic’s nightmare”.  For a month your surrounded by sugar and fat!  I do my best but I confess, I do have a teeny taste of chocolate goodies.

SUPgirl replies:

11/29/2017 03:53 PM

Hi Joyce, After seven holiday seasons, I have found that imagining my holiday season eating makes all the difference. Once I imagine how it will be - just normal eating every day all the time, with maybe a few treats on Christmas Day (along with ALL of the normal GBOMBS), - I realise that to make it special, I can't look to the food, like most people do - I look to the relaxed time talking with people. The focus has to become the people, not the food.  People bring indulgent desserts and I congratulate them on how beautiful they look, but when they are serving, I find myself in another room or 'too full thank you, but maybe later'. It really isn't too hard after you've done it a few times, but you have to resolve before you even leave home that you will only eat a mouthful of a treat just before you leave, or none at all. Those unhealthy food orgies of the past that everyone else has - just have to become part of another life.  I trained as a nutritionist over the past 6 years, and now the people who eat like that are the ones I see in my clinic.


11/29/2017 03:40 PM

Just be careful when you bring a healthy meal to a gathering. I've done this often, and when other guests see something different, they all want to try it. It's the only thing on the whole table you can eat, but by the time they've all tried it, there's not enough left for a meal for you!  Lesson - keep your own portion aside before everyone else gets to it!!!

sharine777 replies:

11/29/2017 03:51 PM

SUPgirl, you are SO right! This usually happens when I make my famous BBQ beans and Creamy Curry Coleslaw. No one knows the recipes are FREE of milk, eggs, meat/poultry, cheese, processed oil, preservatives, and sugar, all of which are typical ingredients for those dishes. Problem is, guests eat the lion's share! So my husband and I learned, as you have, to pack our own hefty portions in separate containers!


11/29/2017 04:03 PM

My husband and I stopped personally celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas many years ago, before even starting the Eat to Live lifestyle. Those typical SAD holiday foods just don't even make it into our shopping cart, let alone our refrigerator. However, we do have LOTS of parties, one of which is near my birthday and Christmas. We get around eating junk food by making numerous healthy appetizers like spicy bean dip, salsa, and guacamole. If people want to bring their favorite homemade dishes, we say go for it, but we discourage them from bringing junk food. Also, I usually make a big green salad, and a batch of BBQ beans that are both Nutritarian-friendly. We always cook a large piece of Salmon, and my husband grills vegetables (no oil!), keeping them crunchy with their natural water content. I have also learned how to make delicious pies, bars, and other desserts that meet Nutritarian standards. It saddens me to see so many of our friends and family eating SAD foods every day for every meal, but it hasn't stopped us from staying on course at least 90% of the time (I would say that I am much closer to 100% compliance than my husband, but since I do the bulk of food prep, he's still in a pretty safe zone!)


11/29/2017 04:14 PM

Great comments and advice. I agree that when we make the event about the people, and not the food, things go better. We always prepare and bring our own foods (or eat in advance), so we are sure we have great foods to eat and are not tempted by the SAD foods available. It's gotten to the point where some of my old favorites do not even look like foods anymore! Yippee!!! 



11/29/2017 05:43 PM

Good ideas!

As long time vegetarian (and now vegan), I have practice saying no.  It wasn't always easy for others to understand that no does mean no, but after years of seing me surviving and being healthier than they all, animal products aren't pushed on me any longer,  Since I always have declared/declare myself as 'not a sweet person' with a smile on my face, I am getting easily off any dessert offerings without anybody feeling offended.  Holidays are no dietary problem for me - Thank God! I also really never had a sweet tooth (maybe also because I and my brothers didn't grow up with candy and ice cream -- lucky us!).

This comment was last edited on 11/29/2017 05:46 PM


11/29/2017 09:18 PM

Having just made it through the minefield which is Thanksgiving, I've been trying to envision my optimal behaviors as the Nutritarian Christmas Season unfolds this year. Most tempting to me are the holiday favorites, such as cookies made only at Christmas, which I know do not align with my better, healthier goals for eating well. Thank you for the wonderful suggestions about how to delicately yet self-respectingly navigate the upcoming social events in which special foods will be center stage.


11/30/2017 08:10 AM

When we attend our family get together, I bring my own food which are my favs and stick to that. I'm not temppted that way and feel the boundaries for me are clear. Our Thanksgiving was all of our ETL favs and we did not feel deprived at all...just satisfied and peaceful instead of stuffed and guilty. It was so much better than eating SAD.

Thanks for the tips!

Anne Schroeder

07/29/2021 08:34 AM

These are great tips, Would you get specific on dealing with Halloween time. What are the steps of thinking when revising a plan of trick or treating family traditions, and still feel like your are part of the social event. 

rll2747 replies:

10/10/2022 09:58 PM

This is an older post, but I wanted to respond for Anne or any others who may read this article in the future. There is becoming a broadening trend of people putting a teal pumpkin outside of their house if they are a candy/ food free home. They usually are handing out little toys, stickers, etc for the kids. In reverse you could be the teal pumpkin home and buy those types of little toys instead. I did a quick search on Oriental Trading CO. and they sell sets of assorted Halloween trinkets. It may turn out to be more expensive, but it would be fun to get creative and source or make something of your own. This teal pumpkin system started for kids who have allergies, particularly nut allergies. You could do the same if you were hosting a party, you could use real foods for the snacks (I have seen people chop bananas in half and use raisins to make ghost mouths or small clementines with celery stuck in the top to make them look like pumpkins).