Next week – a week from the day of this writing – marks the beginning of the holidays in the United States. In just a short week, many will be gathering with family and/or friends to partake with gratitude a Thanksgiving feast. Then it’s off to the races, as cocktail parties follow shopping and cookie swaps take the place of our Saturday workout.

Normally a single feast day does not cause lasting damage to your waistline or your health, and, in fact, can be good for your mental health. Where the holidays tend to get us in trouble, however, are the numerous social festivities. Each occasion is as warm and as welcoming as a fire in the hearth, but too many can force us to pull out our stretchy pants way more often than we care for.

I live in athleisure – I’m a personal trainer and get paid to work in workout clothes. I love my stretchy pants as much as the next girl. But to be forced out of my favorite jeans during my off hours by overindulgence is something I can’t abide by – and neither should you. Why should we erase months of hard work in the gym with a month of festivities?

I’ve compiled these 9 strategies to help you celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, and every party in between, without succumbing to the Yuletide Bulge.

Parties:

  • Eat light, small balanced meals throughout the day. Don’t save all your calories for the party! That’s setting yourself up for disaster. But do avoid temptations during the day; save your treats for the main event by eating planned meals and snacks made up of vegetables, lean proteins, and fresh fruits.
  • Hydrate well throughout the day. Add a bottle or two to your usual water intake, to help combat sodium and sugar in the holiday treats that will be at the party.
  • If there’s more than one cocktail party on your social card in a week, decide in advance at which party you will imbibe. The added sugar in most mixed drinks packs a big caloric wallop that you shouldn’t try to absorb more than once in a week. Instead, stick with soda water and perhaps a glass of red wine at one, and enjoy your cocktail of choice at the other.
  • The same goes with baked goods, fried appetizers, and holiday sweets. An occasional treat is encouraged; daily treats are sabotage. We know this in our daily lives, but the holidays? Somehow, somewhere, a mental switch flips and with all the frivolity and festivity, caution flies out the window. Don’t let that happen to you. If in doubt, bring a dish or an appetizer to add to the buffet that you know you can eat without sabotaging your health. Other partygoers will also benefit.
  • Punctuate cocktails with a glass of water. You’ll have something in your hand, you’ll hydrate (which will help mitigate your chances of a hangover) and you’ll slow yourself down (which will likely eliminate a hangover). You’ll cut your calorie and sugar intake as well – bonus!

 

Family Feast Gatherings:

All of the above apply, as well as:

  • You don’t owe an explanation to anyone concerning what is on your plate. You owe them love and joy. And you’ll be asked many other questions that may make you uncomfortable, like “How’s that job going?” “How’s your love life?” “When will you give me grandbabies?” oy. No need to stress yourself further with trying to explain why you’re not taking seconds of Grandma’s pull-apart bread. Instead just smile graciously and change the subject.
  • Rouse the crowd with a post-meal walk, or sledding, or other physical activity. Bundle up and sing to the neighbors on a caroling stroll. Take the kids out on a wintery scavenger hunt. Initiate an energetic game of Holiday-Edition Charades.
  • Finally, if you’re still tempted to overdo it, even with all of these strategies in place, think ahead before you forge ahead. Think about the consequences of eating more than you should: the furry mouth from the sugary treats, the discomfort of a distended belly, the carb coma. So. Not. WORTH IT. Feeling the future discomfort slows you down enough to talk you out of a second trip through the buffet. Believe me, your future self will thank you.

Most of all, enjoy! Food is meant to be celebrated, and so are friends and loved ones. Don’t deprive yourself or punish yourself with guilt. Just use a bit of moderation. Feel free to sample small tastes of it all, guilt-free and with a smile.

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