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Happy December, everyone! I love this time of year so much… the lights, the music, the general cheer and coziness… It makes me so happy. And part of the cheer and merriment comes in the form of about a bazillion holiday parties. It can feel like every weekend in December has another party or three going on, which on one hand is wonderful! But on the other hand, when you’re trying to get through the holidays without gaining 10 pounds, it can be tricky territory. So today I’ll share with you how to navigate the holiday party overload, while keeping those health goals in mind!

Pre-party steps:

Step 1: Prioritize healthy meals outside of the parties

Even though the party frequency goes up tremendously this month, it’s still probably less than 10 meals out of the whole month. You’ll eat roughly 100 meals in the month, so the parties are really only about 10% of your meals.

This means that no matter what you indulge in at the parties, if you don’t say “screw it” and end up indulging for the other 90 meals of the month, you’re going to be totally fine! So when it comes to your non-party meals, stick to the regular healthy basics (see How to Eat Healthy Without Dieting and How to Meal Plan if you need some assistance here). You’ll give yourself a solid foundation that the increased parties can’t topple.

Step 2:  Plan ahead for the indulgences which are most important to you

Yes, I know I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but planning ahead is probably the most helpful strategy in pretty much any situation. When you know you’ve got three parties in one weekend, planning ahead will make things as easy as possible.

There will very likely be desserts (and plenty of them) at every party you go to. If you’re not wanting to eat every dessert item you come across, try to pre-decide which ones are most important to you. If store-bought cookies aren’t really something you actually enjoy, pass them by in favor of something that rocks your socks. If there are tons of options that look delicious, take a small sample of the ones that look best, taste them all, and then only finish the best one(s).

Check out my post on managing sweets in a healthy way:  If There are No Good/Bad Foods, Why Manage Sweets?

Mid-party steps:

Step 3: Tune in to hunger/fullness

Parties tend to be graze-fests. The food is out for a long time and therefore is staring at you for what could be hours. That makes it incredibly easy to keep nibbling all party long, whether you’re actually hungry or not. Try to avoid the constant nibbling, and shoot for eating in one sitting.

Let yourself get hungry before going to the table to make your plate. Then, think of it as just another meal: build your plate from what’s available, then get away from the food to eat what you picked. Eat til you’re comfortably satisfied, or at least try to avoid getting stuffed and uncomfortable. If dessert comes out later, and you know it’s coming, just save some room so that having it once it’s there won’t push you into discomfort-land.

Step 4: Build your plate with the most nutritious options first, then round it out with the other stuff

Parties aren’t known for their healthy options, and the food that’s there will likely be out of your control. Don’t shoot for perfection, just do the best you can with what’s available. If there are veggies, be sure to get some. Then be sure to get some protein too in addition to the carbs (don’t worry, there will plenty of carbs).

Don’t put anything off limits to yourself, you’ll just make it even more appealing. Focus instead on what you *do* want to eat (like making sure to get veggies and protein), not what you “shouldn’t” eat.

Step 4: Focus on the socializing, not the food

Parties are for fun! We make it about the food, but it’s truly not. It’s about the people! Spend time with the folks you care about, that maybe you don’t see very often. Get lost in conversation, laugh until your cheeks hurt, and take lots of photos. The food is only one piece of the experience. Don’t let it take over. Enjoy the people who make the party great!

Wrapping up

Don’t spend this joyous time of year overanalyzing the food. It’s just food after all! Enjoy the ones that are most enjoyable, keep defaulting to healthy meals in general, and you’re going to greet January with a level head and no desire to take off holiday pounds with some crazy fad diet.

This time of year can be so fabulous, and I wish you a very merry holiday season. Keep your focus on all the great stuff: the random acts of kindness you witness (or do!), the people who warm your heart and make you smile, the friends who make work tolerable, the days when snow shuts down the world, etc. Put your focus on all the joy. That’s what I plan to continue doing, and I hope you’ll join me.

Happy Holidays!

How to juggle the overload of holiday parties without gaining ten pounds OR over-restricting yourself! Get through the holidays healthfully by using easy strategies to navigate it all with grace.

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