I don’t know about y'all, but I love to celebrate American independence with all sorts of unhealthy options. Flag cake. Ice cream sandwiches. Potato salad. Open bags of Lay’s BBQ potato chips.
The list is as endless as the tables it’s piled onto.
Years ago, I didn’t think twice about a hot dog, baked beans, macaroni salad and a serving (or four) of Paula Dean pound cake topped with sugar-soaked berries and Cool Whip.
Today, though, times have changed. When I began eating healthier and getting serious about fitness, I first changed my daily habits. That was fairly easy because I had some control over my food and always had healthy options to choose from. But then, the inevitable holiday would roll around and healthy choices were harder to come by. I’d find myself face-to-face with a table full of crockpot mac & cheese, brownie bars and fancy cheese platters.
If you’ve ever struggled to maintain a healthy diet during a holiday, you feel my pain. In the almost six years that I’ve been maintaining my weight loss, though, I’ve developed a few tips and insights into not just getting through holidays but enjoying them without binge eating and having to ride home with my pants unbuttoned. I do that just to embarrass the kids.
Here are my Top 5 Tips For Healthy Holiday Partying:
Pick Your Poison - You have to choose how you splurge all the time, but especially on holidays. There are just too many options for going off the rails. There is alcohol. There are sweets. There is cheese. Endless options to go off plan. The thing is, pick one. Just one. This serves two purposes: you have a clear idea of what it is you’re splurging on ahead of time, and you get the satisfaction of looking forward to that splurge. It’s so much more mindful than promising yourself you won’t touch a cookie or cocktail and knowing, deep in your soul, that you’ll do exactly that. When you pick your poison, you get to look forward to the treat, enjoy it and keep the other stuff in the corner, where it belongs. I’m tempted to put in a Dirty Dancing joke here, but I’m going to refrain. Because that's how I roll.
Channel Your Inner Scarlett - If you know you’re heading to a BBQ or party where all those treats will be staring you in the eye, plan ahead! A good offense is the best defense, Heifers. Remember that scene in Gone with the Wind, when Scarlett is going to the BBQ and she’s instructed to eat beforehand so she won’t disgrace herself with unladylike public binging? Yeah. Do that. Have a high protein snack before you head out, and add some fat to that to keep you full. Then, when you hit the buffet line, you won’t be shaking and faint, grabbing for the first spoonful of pasta salad you can reach. Drink some water, too. It fills you up and keeps you hydrated, which is important not just for good food choices but also so you don’t pass out after the beer bong. I mean….so I’ve heard. #afriendtoldmethat
Know Your Weakness - We all have a weakness, that one thing that gets us every time. I have a friend who, after one cocktail, physically attaches herself to the food table and leaves claw marks when her husband finally pulls her away. Alcohol is her weakness. If she just sips lemonade, she can eat reasonably. If she swigs a Moscow Mule? Curtains. I have a weakness for sweets, myself, so I have to be careful near the dessert table. One brownie turns into two and then three and then I talk myself into the cookie display because I’ve already trashed my diet so….why not really celebrate? Yeah, so I have to know ahead of time that I’m going to steer clear of the dessert table. My friend knows to have the lemonade or sparkling water. You might have to turn away from the cheese platter. Whatever your weakness, identify it ahead of time and steer clear. This way, you get to enjoy the other stuff without opening the proverbial floodgates.
Know When It’s Not About the Food - Social functions can be landmines of anxiety and awkwardness. I know it’s hard to believe, but I’ve felt out of place myself a time or two (read: often). When we don’t know anyone or we’re uncomfortable or we don’t know what to say, sometimes it’s just easier to eat. It soothes our nerves and fills a void when social anxiety hits, and I think it can hit for even the most social among us. If this might be a possibility, just think about it ahead of time. We’ve got options here. We can try to find someone we know to hang out with if it’s a new crowd. We can talk to our spouse or friend and ask not to be left hanging for an hour while they talk shop. We can think of a few topics for discussion to arm ourselves with, which sounds totally cheesy and like I got that tip from my therapist, but it works. Whatever we do, it’s good just to go into social functions aware of how we’re feeling and whether or not we’re tempted to use food to deal with those feelings. When we’re aware, we make better choices. It’s cheesy and it’s legit.
Chew Gum - When all else fails, chew gum. I know: you think I’m weird. That may be true, but aside from that, chew the gum. It gives you that little bit of sweet you might be craving after a meal, and it keeps you from swiping another brownie bite on your way to the bounce house. I do this at home, too, when I have to give my kids snacks or when they’re eating yet another meal outside of designated meal times. I chew gum. It’s really hard to eat Cheezits and Trident together. Trust me on this one.
That’s it. I think the theme here is just being aware and, with that awareness, planning ahead. Holidays are fun. BBQs are a good time. I love a well-made brownie, or a slice of brie slathered on a Keebler cracker.
I don’t love waking up the next morning with a hangover: alcohol or food induced. So, I use these tips to ward that off but still enjoy myself and celebrate.
Do you have any tips you use to get through holidays with your good intentions intact? Leave me comments, tips, suggestions and questions below.