Unless you have insanely good willpower or you have allergies to everything under the sun, for most of us the holidays are a two- to three-week period absolutely filled to the brim with scrumptious goodies just itching to give us saddlebag hips, a spare tire, or thunder thighs. At this time of year, there aren’t just one or two parties for me to cautiously navigate without exploding — there are more like 5 or 6. I’m not yet at the point where I have work holiday events (can I please stay a student forever?!), but that’s a bridge I’ll be crossing before too long.
I’m honestly convinced that I don’t have the willpower to say “no” to holiday delicacies, so I have a few party “rules” — I use that term loosely — by which I try to abide so I don’t feel like a total elephant (with my pants surreptitiously unbuttoned under the table) after each and every event. It’s not that I want to offend any of my relatives or family friends who have slaved over their treats; it’s that while I’m still on my weight-loss journey (with 36 more pounds to go…) I don’t want to take one step forward and two steps back. This is what I mean when I say I feel like I’m losing the battle and the war.
Here are my party rules:
(1) If you’re not sure there will be anything nutritious and the event is potluck, bring your own goodness! I’m always the first among my friends to volunteer to bring the veggie tray. I load a platter up with celery and carrot sticks, broccoli florets, cucumber slices, grape tomatoes, cauliflower, and hummus. That way, if I start to feel overwhelmed by all the sugar, I can snack on my own provisions.
(2) Drink a glass of water before you arrive at the holiday party, and have another as soon as you’re settled in. If your stomach feels full of water, you won’t be as inclined to stuff your face with calories, carbs, and fatty guilt. Bonus! You can never go wrong with water, and hydrating yourself properly helps keep your digestive organs running smoothly so you don’t feel as sluggish after a big meal.
(3) This one I borrowed from my mom, but I’m claiming it as my own 😉 Don’t sample every single treat just because. If it’s Aunt Hilda’s world-famous fruitcake (gag me! Maybe someone out there somewhere likes fruitcake) or Cousin Marty’s secret eggnog recipe, then by all means. If you’re looking to cut a few corners, don’t eat what I call “everyday dishes” — chips and salsa, sodas, brownies, slice-and-bake sugar cookies, French onion dip, etc. Save your calories for special foods that aren’t available everywhere you go.
(4) If possible, fill a plate with dinner-type items first, and choose a separate, smaller plate for dessert items. If everything is piled together on one vessel, it may not look as if you’re consuming as much. If your salty and sweet items are separated by time and distance, it’s often easier to tell at a glance how much you’re eating and whether you really want four different types of fudge.
(5) When you feel full, stop eating. I know I am guilty at many events of feeling the need to clear my plate so as not to offend anyone, and because I feel compelled to sample everything. You’ve probably experienced that I-hope-I-don’t-barf-I’m-so-full feeling, and you don’t want to feel stuffed and miserable for the remainder of the party.
(6) Don’t stand by the food displays. Once you’ve put items on your plate, find somewhere else to munch and socialize. If you have to walk some distance to get back to the goodies, you’re less likely to pile your plate high again than if you were standing right next to them and could feed yourself practically from serving dish to mouth.
(7) After you eat, do something. Suggest that the group play a brain-teaser game, Apples to Apples, or a card game. If you simply sit for a few hours after eating, don’t be surprised if you feel drowsy or your eyes glaze over. Getting your brain buzzing will likely encourage your bod to move around a bit.
(8) If possible, exercise within a few hours of the event. Don’t fall into the health halo of “I exercised today so I can eat whatever I want,” but a good sweat sesh will raise your metabolism and energize you.
All that said, enjoy yourself this holiday season! Relish time with family and friends, and don’t stress yourself out about a cookie or two 😉