So many people throw in the towel on their fitness goals this time of year. It’s dark, it’s cold, and there are so many parties with so many cookies making it hard to keep your nutrition on track. Everyone is having fun, so what’s another slice of pie?! Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we shall diet, right? Wrong! There is a better way. With a little planning, it is possible to make it through the holidays without your diet going completely off the rails. Here are eight tips for how to navigate the challenges of parties and get-togethers and keep your nutrition on track.
1. Don’t arrive hungry
Eat regularly the day of a party, and make sure to have a small meal including some protein and healthy fats before you go. It’s so much easier to be discerning about what to eat if your body is properly fuelled and not starving. This is key if you’re going to keep your nutrition on track!
2. Plan ahead
If you’re going to a restaurant, look up the menu online or call ahead and ask what’s on offer so you can get an idea of what you might want to eat. If you have dietary restrictions (for example, if you’re avoiding gluten and/or dairy), you can find out if there will be options available. If you’re going to someone’s house and you know the hosts, you can ask what they’re planning to serve.
3. Bring something healthy you will be happy eating
If the venue is appropriate, bring a dish to share that you know is healthy and you will enjoy eating. Guacamole or hummus and sliced veggies are great options. Bring some roasted nuts, a fruit salad, or maybe make your own healthy sweet and spicy pecans. The more control you have, the easier it will be to keep your nutrition on track.
4. Let the hosts know if you have dietary restrictions
Don’t be afraid to let your hosts know if they’re serving a meal and you have dietary restrictions. Most hosts would rather know you avoid wheat or dairy due to health issues so they can have food you’ll eat rather than have you refuse the lasagna when it’s served!
5. Watch what you drink
It’s ok to enjoy some alcohol, but a couple of cocktails or beer can rack up the calories and sugar really quickly, so stick to wine or spirits with low sugar mixers.
6. Plan for some treats
We really don’t need to make a religion out of our diets. It’s ok to enjoy some of your favorite holiday treats without totally derailing your nutrition. Think about what treats really make the holidays for you, and which you can take or leave. Maybe you love mom’s pecan pie, but Aunt Mary’s peanut brittle isn’t that special to you. Or maybe you have smaller portions of each. You can enjoy your favorite foods and leave not feeling deprived, without going overboard on foods that you don’t actually care that much about.
7. Don’t punish yourself
If you go a little overboard, just get back on track at your next meal as if nothing happened. Don’t skip meals the next day or eat nothing but egg whites and spinach to make up for it. Just continue on your normal healthy eating. Punishing yourself sets up a cycle of deprivation followed by inevitable bingeing again, and you don’t want to ride that carousel. Your consistent choices and behaviors are what will determine your fitness, health, and body composition, not that one meal where you overdid it.
8. Get back on track
If you ate all the things, you might feel like you might as well just keep indulging and start again on Monday, but that’s counterproductive. Change your mindset: you’re not either “on plan” or “cheating;” it’s just food and every time you eat is an opportunity to move towards or away from your best health. You can have treats whenever you want; you don’t need to go crazy today because you’ll be back to behaving or dieting tomorrow. Focus instead on what you consistently do, day in and day out, and simply return to the choices you’ve always made to keep your nutrition on track.
At the end of the day, it’s all about enjoying the social and fun aspects of holiday events while still being able to wake up the next day feeling really good. Part of the lifelong fitness journey is figuring out what you can get away with and still function at your highest potential. Because that’s what the fit life is all about, right? Taking care of the bodies that move us through the world and allow us to experience and achieve all the amazing things we want to in this incredible life. Get really good at balancing momentary sensory indulgences like eating treats with keeping your physical machine in its best condition. You get more space and freedom to enjoy life and feel your best without ever feeling deprived. What strategies do you use to navigate the holidays without your fitness getting derailed? Will you try any of these tips the next time you have a party to attend? Please share in comments!