Holidays are on the horizon, and the requisite parties and annual celebrations are about to commence. But this doesn’t have to mean ditching diets and revoking routines until resolution time comes in the New Year. There are tried and true ways to successfully navigate holiday parties while having fun, making memories, enjoying the company, all while staying healthy!
1. Begin with a pre-party
This doesn’t mean what it meant in college! Holiday pre-partying includes ensuring you are hydrated and not showing up to gatherings overly hungry. The ‘never grocery shop when you’re hungry’ rule applies to parties as well. Having a small, healthy snack before you leave can offset the knee-jerk reaction to dive into the chips and cookies. When you do arrive, opt for healthier choices like raw vegetables with hummus. Having a pre-party snack will ensure you don’t overindulge and will help you get in some healthy foods prior to the celebration.
Should you choose to partake in drinking alcohol, make sure you’re keeping hydrated throughout the day. This can also help offset increased sodium consumption that’s common in holiday fare.
2. Don’t forget movement
Making sure to move during the holidays should be high on your priority list. This may take some pre-planning, so put it into your calendar or planner, or find a friend (or Health Coach!) to assist with accountability. Research shows that only 30 minutes of exercise can reduce your junk food cravings!
3. Sleep is super important
It’s easy to get stressed, both from “good” and “bad” sources, especially during the holiday season. Giving your body adequate rest is important at all times of the year, but even more so when there is a greater chance of getting run down. Make sure to find time to relax throughout the week and if possible, ditch the drinking a few hours before going to bed to try to ensure a more restful night of sleep.
4. Bring your bestie
Your best choice of foods, that is. Offer to bring along a dish and ensure that it’s a healthy option. This will (selfishly) give you a solid selection to choose from, but others will also thank you! Healthier dishes tend to offer lots of fresh colors, and you can be mindful of sugar, salt, and other aspects when choosing and making a dish.
5. One and done
Fill up one plate and be done. But know this up front—make your choices wisely knowing that this is the plan.
Peruse the food choices prior to making your selections so that you are aware of all the offerings. Mentally plan with what looks the best and what you’d like to enjoy. Remember to include lots of color and variety. It’s okay to enjoy some goodies —try small bites of one or two and see if that fulfills you. Balance is key!
6. Liquid calories count
Whatever choices of beverages you choose to include, know that they count towards the “big picture” as well. If alcohol is your thing, know that lots of holiday cocktails are often full of sugar from fruit juices, soda, and liqueurs. Opt for a simple glass or wine, or even a wine spritzer (half wine, half sparkling water). If you prefer hard liquor, mix it with sparkling water and a slice of lime or lemon.
7. Give yourself grace
Beating yourself up after overindulging is never a winning tactic. Fasting, over-exercising, or practicing other restrictive tactics to make up for what you may consider to have been poor choices lead to feelings of inadequacy and lower self-esteem.
Instead, practice self-compassion and remember all the positive behaviors you have incorporated into your lifestyle thus far. Attempt to get back into your routines as soon as possible after the holiday party season and remember that it’s the long-term practices you put into place that best benefit your well-being.
The Bottom Line
Health is a journey, not a destination. There will be bumps in the road, and yes, many of them can potentially come during holiday season. Remember that you are in it for the long haul, and this is just a different time to navigate. With the above suggestions, I'm confident that you can successfully navigate holiday parties this year and every year – you got this!