With Thanksgiving behind us, the holiday season is now in full swing. As we plan to celebrate with friends and family in person this year, parties filled with decadent foods and beverages can be a real source of anxiety for those of us looking to stick with our health and fitness goals.
Many of us anticipate the comforting holiday dishes that await filled with loads of fat, sugar, and calories. To prepare, we starve ourselves all day, skip meals, or try to make up for the impending treats by killing ourselves at the gym. When it’s finally time to “reward” ourselves with the meal, the best of intentions goes right out the window, and we typically leave feeling regretful and with a belly ache.
It’s finally time to break the restrict-binge-regret-repeat cycle and learn to enjoy what the holidays are all about with the following Holiday Party Survival Strategies.
Quit Restricting- It is important to let go of the notion that there are “good” and “bad” foods, as any food can have a place in a balanced diet. While we may feel that restricting food on the day of a party can help make up for what lies ahead, this often leads to overeating. Instead, on the day of a gathering, eat your typical breakfast, maintain your usual level of exercise, drink lots of water, and arrive at the event without being ravenous. A pre-party snack can be a wise strategy! This allows for more awareness around the foods that you put into your body.
Choose your Favorites- It is much easier to be satisfied when we mindfully indulge in our favorite dishes, rather than chowing down on all the so-so dishes we can get our hands on. Before filling your plate, do a lap around the buffet table to scope out your must-haves. Add a small portion of these to your plate filling the rest of the space with lean protein and veggies. Most people find that food starts dulling in flavor after about three full bites, so a little bit does go a long way. Once you clean your first plate, pause, reevaluate your hunger levels and then decide which dishes are worth round two.
Move the Sweets- We tend to thoughtlessly munch on candies, chocolates, and other sweets about 70% more when they’re placed in a clear container within reach. If you’re hosting a party, place the sweets in an opaque container or if you’re a guest, move your mingling far from the dish. If a craving hits, take out a proper serving on a plate, and enjoy each piece away from the rest of the sweets.
Keep the Evidence- It’s difficult to feel satiated when eating appetizers and snacks at a party, compared with sitting down to a formal meal. We tend to “forget” about all the bites, tastes, and sips. Unfortunately, a few mini mouthfuls of indulgent apps can equal the calories of an entire meal. To help combat this, keep evidence of the snacks you’ve eaten by holding onto the wrappers, shrimp tails, wing bones, etc.
Switch up your Dish- Studies show that seeing empty space on a plate can feel unsatisfying, leading us to fill our plates to the brim and then overeat the massive portions we dished out. Use this illusion to your advantage by picking up the smallest cocktail, appetizer, or dessert plate for your meal. If only the large plates remain, line the bottom with veggies or lettuce leaves to cover up the white space and trick your brain.
Choose your Drinks Wisely- It is easy to overdo it on the adult beverages at a gathering, which can add tons of extra calories and sugar. Additionally, as many of us know after knocking back a few too many, alcohol can certainly interfere with our ability to listen to our hunger cues and lower our inhibitions for snacks and desserts. Stretch out drinks by making a wine spritzer by adding seltzer, mix cocktails with a no or low sugar added mixer, add extra club soda to a mixed drink, choose a lower alcohol-containing beverage, and always enjoy at least one or two glasses of water between each alcoholic drink.
Slow Down- We’ve all heard this many times before, but it takes at least 20 minutes for your brain to recognize you’ve had enough to eat. Trick yourself into slowing down by eating with your non-dominant hand, putting your fork down between bites, sipping water between bites, or trying to pace yourself with the slowest eater at the table. Once you’ve finished your first helping, wait at least 20 minutes before assessing your hunger levels to go back to the buffet.
And most importantly
Remember what the holidays are about- It is wise to keep in the mind the whole purpose of the holidays- being with those you love. Make the day about your friends and family and focus on making memories and connections. Interestingly, it has been shown that facing the buffet table or standing in front of the snack tables makes mindless munching too easy, so engage in conversations with your loved ones far away from the snacks while you catch up and enjoy everything the holiday season has to offer!
At Merritt Clubs, our Nutrition & Wellness Department is here to help you stay healthy and active throughout the holiday season and into the new year. Reach out to Sherri Lively at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to schedule a complimentary Wellness Assessment!