Thanksgiving marks the official start to the holiday season and by now you may have received a holiday party invite or two. Holiday parties are full of laughs, ugly sweaters, exchanging of gifts and lots of food and drink. It is a great time to celebrate but also presents a challenge to a healthy lifestyle. In this article, we will share a few tips and tricks to help you be part of the celebration while staying close to your nutrition plan.
“The person who has a plan has their battle half won”. These are important words for anyone who wants to be successful at anything. By now, hopefully, you are taking time on the weekends to look at the week ahead and are planning your meals. If you have a holiday party at the end of the week, you must first decide if are you going to be able to easily stay on track or will you need to make adjustments.
For example if it’s an office party where the boss is buying pizza and everyone is bringing their favorite Christmas cookie is much different than ordering lunch from the menu of a local restaurant. If pizza and cookies are going to be a big challenge for you then just have a plan. Giving yourself time ahead to decide how you will deal with situations like this is much better than making decisions when you are staring down a slice of pizza.
Every decision, from what to wear or what to have for breakfast, zaps willpower. A simple strategy to use would be to eat a nutritious breakfast that morning full of protein and vegetables then take a big salad to have along with a slice of pizza. As for the cookies, do you really love cookies or is it just because they are “Christmas” cookies? If you have a favorite Christmas cookie that you can only eat this time of year then decide that you will have one and enjoy it mindfully.
It seems that most social events are centered around food and the holidays are no different. Whether it’s a neighbor’s or a friend’s party, there will be plenty of good food to share. Usually, the host has a central gathering place for food where everyone hovers about eating mindlessly while socializing. Suddenly, you glance down at a bowl of chips and realize you alone have eaten half of them. Next, you think- oh well there goes my diet and the wheels fall off leaving you feeling like a failure again.
A better approach would be to use the plates typically provided and take small portions of what you want to eat. This will help you to once again be aware and in control of your decisions. Stand nearby but away from the food table and socialize with everyone. Prior to attending, eat a meal high in protein with plenty of vegetables so you don’t go to the party hungry. This helps curb your appetite and your impulse to snack. Check in with yourself asking “Am I really hungry or am I eating just to be social?” It is also a good idea to take something to share that you are comfortable eating so you have a healthy option.
From a nutritional standpoint, alcohol falls in the category of empty calories. You consume alcohol only to enjoy how it makes you feel in the moment, not for it’s nutritional value. Alcohol contains 7cals/gram which is more than protein or carbs and second only to fat. It breaks down into ethanol, which is a fuel source that must be burned first when combined with food. All the food that you consume while drinking alcohol will be stored for later use.
Another downside to alcohol is it lowers inhibitions making it difficult to call upon willpower when faced with temptation. You definitely need a plan going in if you decide to have a few drinks. A strategy to use is to know that you will limit yourself to one or two drinks. Sip water between these drinks to stay hydrated and eat a meal high in protein and vegetables prior to attending the party. Again, this helps fill you up before hand and will dampen your appetite to snack.
If you find yourself snacking while drinking, choose protein and vegetable sources only. Beware of high-calorie mixers that are loaded with sugar and add to the calorie load.
Let’s face it, holidays and parties are a fact of life. They are meant to be enjoyable occasions to spend time with family and friends. They should not be a source of stress and anxiety for your nutrition or exercise plan. It’s what you do consistently along with building good habits around exercise and nutrition that will help you in the long run. Remember that the changes you are making need to last a lifetime, not just for today.