Written by : Gretchen Rubin

10 Ways to Enjoy the Season Without Regrets

Holidays are a lot of fun, but for many of us, our enjoyment of happy times can be marred by feelings of remorse. Happiness expert Gretchen Rubin offers 10 ways to stay in control of holiday indulgence.

People clinking wine glasses at a party.

Don’t let regret overshadow your holidays, says Gretchen Rubin

Holidays are a lot of fun, but for many of us, our enjoyment of happy times can be marred by feelings of remorse about what we’ve had to eat or drink. So, what are some ways to stay in control of holiday indulgence?

Here are some of the idiosyncratic methods I’ve used over the years to help keep my holidays happier by controlling my eating and drinking:

1. Make tempting food inconvenient

Put gingerbread cookies in a hard-to-reach spot; set the freezer to a very cold temperature so it’s hard to spoon out ice cream; store goodies in hard-to-open containers.

2. Use smaller plates and bowls

Research shows that we eat less when our place settings are smaller.

3. Dish food up in the kitchen

Don’t bring serving platters to the table (except vegetables).

4. Don’t get seconds

I pile my plate with everything I intend to eat and stop once that food is gone.

5. Wear snug-fitting clothes

6. Skip the add-ons

When my family goes out for a holiday meal, I tell the waiter that I don’t want the side of fries. I feel like Sally from When Harry Met Sally as I quibble about how my food should be served, but oh well.

7. Don’t eat food you don’t like

No one cares if I have a serving of asparagus or cranberry sauce.

8. Signal when you're done eating

I brush my teeth, clean up the kitchen and turn out the lights.

9. Realize that some things are not better in moderation

“Abstainers” are people like me: We’re all or nothing. We can have none, or we can have a lot, but we can’t indulge in moderation. “Moderators,” by contrast, do better when they indulge a little bit. But while moderation works for many people, I’ve learned that it’s far easier for me to skip cookies, bagels and chocolate than it is to have a sensible portion.

10. Pass on the hors d’oeuvres

When tempted, I remind myself, “I might get food stuck in my teeth, it might make my breath smell, and I might spill on my clothes.” A friend said to me, “That’s no way to enjoy the holidays! Live a little. Life’s too short not to eat a candy cane.” But I’ve realized that to live a happier (and healthier) life, sometimes I choose to say “no” to something, or to ask more of myself, to get the most happiness over the long run.

While it can seem festive and carefree to indulge in lots of treats, in the end I feel guilty and overstuffed. Which doesn’t make the holiday happier. It’s a secret of adulthood: By giving myself limits, I give myself freedom.


Gretchen Rubin is the bestselling author of The Happiness Project, Happier at Home and Better than Before. She is considered one of the most influential writers on happiness today, and has become an in-demand speaker and keynoter. You can read about Gretchen's adventures at GretchenRubin.com.

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