Holiday party guilt can put a big damper on the winter season. If you’re trying to watch your weight or maintain a healthy eating regimen over the holidays—the many office party toasts, cookie exchanges, holiday family feasts, and edible gifts from your Secret Santa can quickly land you on the “naughty” list.
Luckily, we have seven ways to help you avoid those holiday party weight gain no-no’s…
1. Starving Between Parties
Many folks who plan to overdo it when it comes to rich foods at potlucks plan to starve themselves between parties. However, this crash dieting method will only leave you ravenous come party time.
Starving yourself will cause your body sugar to crash, resulting in insatiable cravings and the tendency to binge at the feast. Starvation diets also lead to a slower metabolism. Do yourself a favor and bridge the gap between parties with light meals that focus on fresh produce, lean proteins, and complex carbohydrates.
2. Not-So-Sweet Deprivation
While some of us can really overdo it with the sweets and rich foods offered at holiday parties and feasts, there are those of us who emulate Scrooge, depriving ourselves of even the tiniest holiday indulgence.
Yes, the true meaning of the holidays is spending quality time with family and friends—not binge eating your way through Aunt Sophie’s gingerbread house. However, allowing yourself the satisfaction of a tiny slice of a holiday cake or “just one shortbread” will avoid a potential binge fest later on. So savor that snicker-doodle, and then get back to the socializing.
3. Ravenous Arrival
The idea of not eating all day so you can enjoy the office potluck is rather foolish. You already know the outcome. You’ll arrive only to hightail it right for the buffet table where you will start scarfing down everything in sight.
Instead, have a small healthy yet filling snack a few hours before the party kicks off. Focus on a snack high in fiber, protein, and appetite-surprising fats, which trigger the release of ghrelin, a hormone that staves off hunger.
4. Don’t Follow the Buffet Line
The problem with forming a respectable line and following the leader, one-by-one as you spoon butter dishes and sweet desserts onto your plate—means you’re prone to selecting a little bit of everything in sight.
Instead, approach the buffet using the “big picture” view. Take a thorough look to see the entire spread and select the healthy dishes first with a few choice “treats” only.
5. Rushing from Party to Party
The funny thing about stress is that it causes us to eat more — in fact way more than we usually would under non-stressful circumstances. That’s why holding off on eating and rushing from work, to your daughter’s Christmas concert, to the work party may be a terrible decision.
Instead, take a breather between obligations. Arriving a bit late is totally fine. Chronic stress will only increase levels of cortisol, the appetite-stimulating cortisol, a hormone that encourages binging on high-fat, carb-rich goodies.
6. Deskbound All Day
Getting some mild exercise pre-party will go a long way to help you increase your metabolism and energy before you drink and dine. Make time for a gentle form of physical activity between all of that shopping and running around.
Even a brief 20- to 30-minute walk, yoga class, or stretching with meditation can help counteract some of the calories you’ll consume at the party. Plus, a brisk walk will increase your energy and focus so you’re not mindlessly shoveling food down your proverbial chimney.
7. Empty Alcohol and Punch Calories
A sparkling punch certainly seems like a nice way to quench your holiday thirst. However, alcoholic (and virgin) cocktails made with soda, sugary juices, creamy liquids, and syrups are chocked full of empty calories.
Throwing back the wine, bubbly, beer, and mixed drinks may also cause you to overeat. Instead, counteract every glass of wine or beer with a tall, cold glass of water, and be sure to count on a taxi or designated driver if you’re over your limit.