It's already extra difficult to stay on track with healthy eating and workouts over the holidays, but it's even worse if your loved ones don't really have your back.

By Jessica Cording, MS, RD, CDN
November 20, 2017
Photo: Caiaimage/Robert Daly/Getty Images

The holidays are a great time to connect with people over food and drink. But if you've worked all year to lose weight, maintain your strength gains, or any other healthy lifestyle habit, the holidays can be stressful.

All those holiday parties, work obligations, and family-time travel make staying on track that much harder. As if the balancing act of enjoying yourself and staying committed to your long-term health goals weren't challenging enough, couple that with friends or family who aren't exactly supportive of your initiatives, and it can be a recipe for disaster.

It might sound harsh, but it's actually a pretty common issue. Before the holidays, I spend time with my nutrition clients walking through the anxiety-producing scenarios they anticipate, so they can go into them feeling calm and confident rather than panicked or defensive. Many friends and family members may be coming from a good place, but don't realize the impact their unsupportive actions or comments can have. Regardless of what hurdle you're dealing with, here's how to handle the holidays-the food, the cocktails, and the family dynamics-this year.

Really listen.

Consider where someone's comments are really coming from. For example, if your cousin is on your case for not eating grains, maybe she's actually subconsciously concerned about whether it's going to affect your annual pizza and bowling night. If your mom sees you lacing up your sneakers Christmas morning and asks why you're going running on a holiday, she may be questioning how special the day actually feels for you.

This is a good time to check in with yourself, too. Ask yourself if any part of what your friends and family are saying is actually valid. Is your clean eating or intermittent fasting habit tiptoeing dangerously close to disordered eating? Is it possible that your diet really is overly restrictive? Are you allowing yourself to enjoy the holiday?

Calmly explain yourself.

It's possible your loved ones don't support your efforts because they don't understand them, what your goals are, or how these changes will help you achieve them. If you calmly explain how the habits they are mocking or questioning actually enable you to reach your wellness goals, it may help them see why they matter to you. This is also a useful way to turn the tables to ask for their support. That could simply be encouragement or more tangible things like asking your mom if she could pick up a particular food item to have on hand when you visit. You could also cook healthy holiday recipes together or get the family in on a local Turkey Trot run.

Accept what can't be changed.

If you've listened, you've explained, and you've even tried to get them involved, there will still be those people who just don't get it. While you might not have been able to successfully change their opinion, you can change your own response. So, rather than freaking out because a relative can't accept that a slice of homemade pie falls lower on your crave list, just smile and change the subject to something you both enjoy. Whether it's politics or pie, it's always good to be armed with neutral talking points during family get-togethers.

Make adjustments.

Remember: The holidays are a time to celebrate with those you love, so don't let your health goals take over the season. If you need to, scale back your workouts a bit, change the time of day you hit the gym, or find other ways to be active such as by taking a walk with your siblings or streaming an online yoga flow in the guest room. Invite friends in the area to join you for a fitness class before your annual catch-up brunch. If you're struggling with tempting foods and can't avoid what you'd normally keep out of your own kitchen, allow yourself to enjoy one worth-it indulgence per day rather than white-knuckle it trying to resist everything. Remind yourself that the situation is temporary-you'll soon be back to your usual environment and day-to-day routine.