Holiday eating: A tale of two approaches

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

Angela had just finished a round of Whole 30. She had diligently thrown out everything that wasn't on her approved list and only eaten items that were "clean," which sometimes meant having 5 pears at a meal just to satisfy her hunger and cravings. She had declined social events for fear of not following her plan and "falling off the wagon." Although she was making a bit of progress, the foods that were off limits kept calling to her like the pink elephant in the room, she couldn't stop daydreaming about them. She hit the gym 5-6 days a week and couldn't help but watch the Food Network as she trudged away on the elliptical.

By the time Thanksgiving rolled around she was done with her 30 days and couldn't wait to indulge. She tried every appetizer, side dish, and dessert, piled her plate high with turkey and washed it all down with several glasses of wine. She was painfully stuffed but somehow satisfied to finally be able to eat the foods that had been written off. She vowed to tighten up the next day and go back to her "clean eating," except the leftover plate of pie on the counter was calling her name, and she gobbled up the whole thing for breakfast.

Two days turned into a holiday season of saying yes to every food and drink, even the ones that were mediocre at best and crappy at worst. She skipped the gym entirely, feeling too tired and bloated to go. She vowed she'd start again on January 1st, and internally scolded and criticized herself for failing yet another diet.

Meanwhile, Lisa, having tried different stringent diets and realizing they only left her frustrated, confused and dependent upon someone else's rules, took a different approach during the past six months. She learned one small habit at a time, giving herself the time and space to work through each one and troubleshoot strategies to implement them in ways that worked in her life.

She finally felt empowered about her health and nutrition choices and was making decisions that felt good momentarily AND days after. She had even started strength training 3-4 days per week and felt strong and energized for the first time upon leaving the gym.

When the holiday season rolled around, she continued her habits at least 80% of the time. She was discerning about the treats she wanted to indulge in and navigated the middle ground between saying yes to everything and restricting completely.  She realized some indulgences were worth it, and she savored them slowly and mindfully, enjoying each flavorful bite while minding her hunger and fullness cues, and some were not, and she politely declined thoseThough some weeks she was getting the gym only 2-3x per week because of holiday social events, she planned ahead to make sure she didn't skip the gym entirely.

She knew after the season was over, she could use her new skills to dial up her exercise and nutrition habits because she had never abandoned them. She wasn't on or off a wagon, she was driving her own wagon in a way that finally felt liberating.

If you want to finally learn how to have a healthier relationship with food, shed unwanted pounds, change the shape of your body and feel peaceful, educated and grounded with your sustainable nutrition choices, don't dive into another restrictive temporary yo-yo diet this New Years. 

If you're someone who would benefit from daily support, accountability and making lasting changes one small step at a time instead of doing a 180 and unsuccessfully trying to change everything at once, consider trying a long-term habit based approach. 

If you, like me, have tried and failed repeatedly to approach your nutrition like Angela here has and want to learn how to eat like Lisa, check out my convenient online habit-based nutrition coaching program powered by Precision Nutrition's ProCoach.

Enrollment opens on Wednesday, December 27th and the program officially begins Monday, January 1st.

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