Vacations. Holidays. These special times will come and go, and often revolve around a lot of eating and drinking. It’s simple to say “take the focus off food” or “don’t use food as a reward or to handle stress” but the fact is, indulgence happens sometimes.

Some of you may have said “I’m off my diet this week”. The problem with the word “diet” is that people often misconstrue the term to mean something that is a temporary practice. That is, “I’m on a diet”; “I’m off my diet”. In reality, we are all on a diet every day of our lives. Our “diet” is what we eat and drink. If you are concerned about your health, then you should be “on” a weight management program for life. Even those who have never been obese are on their own version of a weight management program; otherwise they would add themselves to the growing obesity statistics.

This is a time of year when we are faced with special challenges in our weight control efforts. As you move toward the holiday season, you may eat out more often, choosing higher calorie foods. You may also drink more alcohol or other high calorie beverages. Your exercise routine may change or by non-existent (even though I often recommend getting more exercise, the fact is, time is at a premium right?).

Eating challenges during the holidays are similar to those when you are on vacation or handling other special occasions (e.g. a family wedding). Your regular meal patterns and exercise patterns change.

So what can you do? Well, certainly we cannot stop life from happening; that would not be any fun, nor is it realistic. You can maintain your weight while you enjoy all of these special occasions; it simply takes a bit of planning.

Tips to help you maintain your weight when “on holiday”:

1. If you enjoy dining out for dinner, plan light breakfast and lunch. If there is a breakfast buffet that you want to enjoy, you either have to choose to eat lower calorie items from it, or enjoy it as a “brunch” and eat very lightly for lunch.

2. If you want to just sit and relax, that’s fine. This is the purpose of vacations and holidays! But, if you also want to enjoy food and beverage, then you have to balance it out. Sure you burn some calories just sitting there, but if you work in a little bit of activity, you can really enjoy the fine dinner you will be having in the evening. So try to plan to move slowly in the morning and plan an activity for mid afternoon. Perhaps just take an after-dinner walk, or do some sightseeing on foot.

3. In other words – have a plan. Plan to eat lighter at one meal, or during one day, so you can balance out the week. When things get hectic, a little bit of planning goes a long way. Even a simple dinner in, cooked from scratch, can keep things balanced and healthy.

4. Have healthy snacks on hand. Even if you are in a hotel room or your sister-in-laws spare bedroom, stop at a local grocer and purchase some apples, nuts, pretzels or low fat crackers to keep on hand when hunger strikes. You are bound to get hungry, so if you have some good choices on hand, you will likely make better choices than if you were only to resort to the vending machine, fast food, or a snack bar.

5. Alcohol can overload your calorie limit. If you enjoy a cocktail, be sure to limit the quantity, and drink water or club soda in between. For instance, have one cocktail and one glass of wine with dinner, and lots of water.

Don’t feel guilty about eating or splurging. Just keep working on balance and moderation, and continue to find ways to increase physical activity, and eat less.