Erin Lopynski, RD, is a registered dietitian at Inova Well.

The holidays have come and gone, and you can barely button your jeans. You realize now that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound (or five) of post-holiday diet and exercise. But alas, you’re past the point of prevention this year.

What can you do? First, shake off the guilt. What’s done is done, and there’s no use beating yourself up. Instead, channel that energy into taking steps to get back on track.

1. Get SMART. To start shedding extra holiday weight, set “SMART” weight loss goals — that is, goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-based. So instead of telling yourself “I’m going to eat healthy from now on,” you might say, “I am going to lose 5 pounds by St. Patrick’s Day by not eating dessert or snacks after dinner and exercising one extra day per week.”

2. Keep it simple. Your goals should be specific, but not overly complicated or unrealistic. You know yourself better than anyone, so pick a goal you can stick to. Some examples of healthy, achievable goals:

  • Aim to avoid feeling “overfull” (limit yourself to no more than once per week)
  • Cook healthy meals in bulk to grab throughout the week
  • Add a salad or extra vegetables to your dinner each night
  • Make sure every meal contains a fruit or veggie
  • Add in an extra day or two of exercise
  • Always start the day with a healthy breakfast
  • Drink 8 to 10 glasses of water a day to stay hydrated and keep hunger at bay

3. Be realistic about resolutions. Some research suggests that less than a quarter of New Year’s diet resolutions last into February. It’s okay to make New Year’s resolutions, but keep them realistic so you’re more likely to stick with them. And remember: It can take 2 months or more before new behaviors become habit. Try to keep going even if you don’t see immediate results.

4. Take it one step at a time. Trying to completely overhaul your diet and exercise habits all at once is a recipe for disappointment. Making small, gradual changes is the best way to maintain your weight long-term and make healthy habits a lifestyle.

5. You do you. Weight loss is personal, and everybody is different. Do you want to use an app to track meals, or focus on filling your plate with veggies? Are daily weigh-ins motivating or mortifying? Does a small piece of dark chocolate every night keep you satisfied, or does it just fire up your sweet tooth? Figure out what methods work best for you.

6. Think quality. Quantity definitely matters when you’re trying to lose weight, but so does quality. Build a healthy diet that includes a balance of the food groups. That means lots of non-starchy vegetables, of course, but also protein, fiber, healthy fats and complex carbohydrates.

7. Remember successes. Reflect on other goals you’ve achieved in your life. What helped you reach them? Do any of the lessons from that success translate to your weight loss goals?

8. Get help. Some people find it easier to succeed in a group setting. If that’s you, tap into your support network or recruit a friend.

9. Invest in success. Many people find it easier to succeed if they’ve made a commitment like joining a gym, signing up for a run, hiring a personal trainer or otherwise putting money on the line in some way.

10. Make it fun. Find a way to make the journey enjoyable, no matter how challenging the goals you’ve set for yourself. If you like swimming more than running, find an indoor pool. Love to dance? Sign up for a class. Regardless of the weather, there’s always a way if you are dedicated to meeting a goal.

11. Give yourself a break. Remember to be forgiving to yourself. Don’t talk down or harshly criticize yourself if you slip up. You’re only human, after all. Staying positive will only help you reach your goals.

12. Take the long view. Unfortunately, losing weight usually takes a lot longer than gaining it. But if you start now to build healthy habits, you’ll set yourself up for long-term success. And when the season of holiday indulgence rolls around next year? You’ll be ready.

If you need more guidance with healthy eating and losing weight, it’s always a good idea to seek help from a professional. Find a registered dietitian or contact Erin at

To hear Erin discuss healthy holiday eating, check out our Facebook Live conversation from December 5.

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