Holiday Party Survival Guide How to be merry without blowing your wellness goals
Thanksgiving through New Years is the most party packed time for the majority of us, and what starts off as enthusiastic “Yes!” RSVPs can quickly become a chorus of “Oh no!” as you see your healthy habits fall off a cliff.
You feel stuck between wanting to enjoy your holiday season and all the parties and social events that accompany it, and keeping on track for your goals by sticking with every healthy habit you’ve built.
While it’s certainly easier said than done, this post is a practical guide to finding that sweet middle ground of having your (fruit)cake and eating it, too!
Be Selective With Your RSVPs
It starts off innocent enough, your BFF’s White Elephant party, your spouses office holiday happy hour, but it’s easy for your social calendar to fill up with shindigs you simply aren’t enthused about. You want to be in the holiday spirit and say yes to every invite, but keep in mind you don’t have to.
- When you get an invite that you’re not insanely excited about, give it at least a full day before you respond.
- Weigh the importance of making an appearance against allowing yourself the evening off.
- Listen to your gut. Will you regret not going or regret the time spent away from your family and me-time?
Eat Like Any Other Day
It tends to be people’s instinct to restrict their calories and eat super healthy (i.e. bland and boring) the day of a holiday party in hopes of offsetting the surplus of calories and indulgences they’re sure to have later.
This tactic backfires time and time again yet we never learn! You’ll arrive to the party famished and end up eating more than you would if you ate reasonably throughout your day, and on top of that you won’t truly enjoy those choices since you aren’t savoring them, rather stuffing them into your face.
You’re also making the food the focus of the event, which isn’t why you’re there in the first place. When you’ve spent the day obsessing over what you’re eating or not eating and what you’ll eat at the party, you build up the expectation of the food and go crazy when you arrive eating anything and everything because you “deserve it”.
Be sure to eat a fueling breakfast with lots of protein and healthy fats, like:
- Peanut butter oatmeal (not instant oatmeal but homemade like this)
- Low-fat yogurt parfait with fruit and nuts
- Whole grain English muffin with avocado or peanut butter and honey (savory or sweet!)
- Scrambled eggs with ricotta cheese mixed in
It’s also a great idea to have a small snack an hour before the party so you arrive with fuel in the tank and don’t feel the need to beeline for the buffet. Here are my favorite bars for on the go!
Dress the Part
This strategy is more mental than the others, but can be just as effective. Wear something that makes you feel confident and positive about your body. It doesn’t have to be form fitting, the important thing is that it makes you feel good about yourself.
Feeling comfortable and confident in your body instantly makes you hold yourself with better posture and treat it better with what you put in it. Think about when you feel down on yourself how much quicker you reach for comfort foods, but when you feel positive about your body you don’t rely on a carb and sugar quick fix.
Eat What you Love
No matter what type of party you go to – happy hour, catered dinner, or pot luck; work, friends, or family – there’s going to be a variety of food, much of which likely isn’t part of your regular diet. Some dishes you only see at parties, and others only make a seasonal appearance.
Either way, finding the balance between enjoying yourself and keeping your nutrition in check, is taking a moment to determine what’s worth it. Filling your plate with a little of every single thing may seem like a good plan (and it’s easy to do that when you’re loading your plate while chatting), but I find a better approach is getting a little more of the items you’re really looking forward to, and ignoring the rest.
For example, at Thanksgiving I most look forward to my grandma’s sweet potato casserole and stuffing. I get a good size serving of those dishes, but skip over the regular mashed potatoes, gravy, and rice because I’m just not excited about them. I have mashed potatoes year round and I only like rice incorporated into dishes so I’m not going to waste plate or stomach space on them.
My point is, be thoughtful and picky about what you indulge in. Make it worth it and savor every bite! You won’t regret having your aunt’s famous chocolate peppermint bark, but you just may regret stuffing yourself with chips and store brand cheese dip.
Pick a Party to Indulge
When you have multiple events close together, think about which one you want to give yourself permission to indulge in and treat the others with more caution.
For example, you may have your close friends’ gift exchange that you look forward to every year, and your office holiday party that is a midday potluck in the conference room. Instead of having drinks and more sweets than usual at both, reign it in at the office party and give yourself some more wiggle room at the party you’re truly excited about.
Just like the food choices, make more room on your social plate for the anticipated parties, and let the mediocre functions take a backseat. This way you can fully enjoy yourself at the ones you’re looking forward to without having additional less-than-ideal food choices add up.
Be Merry and Mindful
Lastly, keep in mind why you’re at the party. It’s not the food and drink, it’s the people and the season. Go in with the mindset of enjoying the company of those you don’t see frequently, or those you don’t get to casually hang out with often.
Make conversation and connection your focus instead of hanging out by the food and obsessing over what you should/shouldn’t eat. When you shift your attention from the food and drink aspect to the ambiance of the party, you’ll enjoy yourself more and end up eating more intuitively.