Is Every Holiday Party a Splurge?

We see it EVERYWHERE and while the exact numbers vary from study to study, one thing remains true:

The average American gains a significant amount of weight between Thanksgiving and the New Year each year.

When I was losing weight, I’d normally pick one time during the week to go all out with food/drinks and use it as a cheat meal/day/night. Since I was weighing in on Thursdays, it would normally be Thursday immediately after weigh in, and I’d eat any and everything I wanted until I went to bed that night. If I had a happy hour/party going on sometime during the week, I’d usually change it up and move my cheat day to the day of the event. This strategy helped me to stay on track for the rest of the week while not feeling deprived because I still had my splurge time in the week to eat and drink anything I wanted.

The problem with this strategy is that now that the holiday season is upon us, we all get SWAMPED with parties, luncheons, happy hours, and events, involving everyone from coworkers, to friends, to family. If I end up going all out with eating/drinking for every single holiday event I have, I will definitely end up several pounds heavier and start the new year in much worse shape than I am right now, which is not something I’m willing (or able!) to do.

When I was leading my second Weight Watchers meeting a few weeks ago, the topic was Budgeting for the Holidays, and how to make the most of your PointsPlus during the holiday season. We talked about different strategies for holidays and when I asked the group what their strategies were in approaching the season and managing their points, many people had great ideas.

    • Make it a point to get a workout in the day of a party so you earn extra Activity Points/burn extra calories to prepare for the event.
    • Don’t go to any events hungry – eat a snack beforehand so you’re not starving when you get there.
    • Alternate alcoholic drinks with seltzer or water so you’re staying hydrated/not getting as tipsy.
    • Bring a clutch that you have to carry (as opposed to one you can sling over your shoulder) so you only have one hand free for food or a drink, not both.
    • Focus on the company and people there, rather than the food/drinks (easier said than done).
    • If it’s a potluck, bring a healthy dish so you know you have at least one “safe” option.
    • If you’re hosting, use Weight Watchers recipes for some of the dishes but don’t tell anyone because they’ll never know.

One of my favorite tips that was given was this:

“I try to remember that not every holiday party is a splurge. I take a look at my week/month, and pick the events where I really want to go all out, and then try to stay on track for the other ones.”

While that idea makes PERFECT sense, it’s something I really struggle with executing because I tend to have a hard time not thinking about parties/gatherings as splurges. Sometimes, I’d rather avoid going to a holiday party all together rather than try to be moderate at it. Even typing that out sounds ridiculous – like I don’t trust myself after all this time to “behave” at events!

So this year, I am really going to try to adapt this strategy and realize that I can still have a fun time if I don’t eat and drink too much.

My first test was last night. I had a holiday party a good friend of mine was throwing for her colleagues/clients/friends. I have several events going on later this week, including holiday parties on Friday and Saturday, so that one was not the one I wanted to go all out for. I wanted to have fun of course, but wake up feeling good about myself today rather than feeling guilty for overdoing it when I didn’t want to.

Here’s how it played out:

I had to go to a Weight Watchers training thing right after work/before the party, so I brought a significant snack with me to eat while at the training (a 5 pt+ Chocolate Chip Cherry Torte Larabar – YUM) so I didn’t show up famished to the party.  I got there and ordered a glass of seltzer with lime and walked around saying hi to everyone that I knew. I had never thought to actually wait a minute to get a drink, but it really made a difference!

After making the rounds, I switched to a glass of white wine (3 pts+) and then went over to assess the food situation. There was a tray of fresh fruit, plus an antipasto plate that was loaded with eggplant, artichoke hearts, tomato mozzarella, and marinated mushrooms, so that’s where I put most of my attention. I had a few plates loaded up with the fruits and veggies, and then threw out my plate and fork and called it a night eating wise.

I ended up switching back to seltzer after the first glass of wine, and realized I actually felt pretty good and decided to stick with seltzer. I think that’s the first time ever, in a party setting, where I actually managed to have just one drink and feel good about it! I stayed at the party until just after 9, and then I headed home feeling good and not stuffed or even a little tispy.

Some of the tricks that I used to make last night’s party a success:

  • As cheesy as this sounds, I actually visualized myself having a good time at the party WITHOUT overdoing it with food/alcohol. Visualization is one of the “tools for living” that Weight Watchers uses, but I had never really tried it before. I normally just picture myself elbow deep in the buffet, throwing back glasses of wine like it’s my job, but this time I really pictured myself being moderate, and I think it helped!
  • I actually rode my bike to the party because it was the quickest way to zip around from work, to Weight Watchers, to the party. Being mindful of the fact that I had to bike home really helped me to not overdo it.
  • I signed up for a 7am Body Pump class this morning, which as I’ve mentioned before is really hard to get into, so having that class in the back of my head helped too.
Overall, I am really impressed with myself for actually exercising moderation. I still had a great time, had a glass of wine, ate the food at the party, hung out with friends I hadn’t seen in a while, but managed to leave feeling good about my decisions health-wise, too. That’s the first time I’ve done that in this type of setting in I can’t even tell you how long. Yay!

What is your holiday party strategy?

24 Comments on Is Every Holiday Party a Splurge?

  1. Sarah S.
    December 14, 2011 at 8:51 am (8 years ago)

    I actually never have a strategy so this really helps! I’ve been trying lately to switch off between the alcohol and water, that seems to help but I need to get better on the mindless snacking. I find myself walking by a table and just grabbing something. I know i can handle food so much better if I grab a plate, sit down and eat and then call it quits for the night.

    Reply
  2. Sara
    December 14, 2011 at 9:04 am (8 years ago)

    That is AWESOME! I’m really proud of you and motivated that I can do this, too! So far I’ve already had one holiday party at which I wasn’t exactly thrilled with how I handled it but now that I see other people have the same challenge and can get through it, it gives me hope I can stick to my plans, too! 🙂 Great job!

    Reply
  3. Ericka @ The Sweet Life
    December 14, 2011 at 9:10 am (8 years ago)

    I’m so much better than I used to be but I STILL struggle with this and all your tips are great. I think I need to focus more on the visual thing. One of my problem is just feeling like there is no end to the food/drinks. There’s so much and it’s just sitting there. This happens to me on family holidays too…I just keep eating and drinking and eating and drinking until I’m nearly sick. I hate the feeling out “out of control.” This year, I need to set guidelines BEFORE and stick to them while I’m there. It’s not always easy to “stop” but once you do and get used to the feeling, it will start feeling more natural. That’s what I’m telling myself and really hope the whole strategy makes my holiday events more enjoyable overall.

    Reply
  4. Annie Ormiston
    December 14, 2011 at 9:16 am (8 years ago)

    Good for you! and Thanks for this post! Really helped, I love vodka sodas (W/Lime!) and sometimes think its just the motion of having one but if I just eliminated the vodka, it would be SO point friendly!

    Reply
  5. Jennifer
    December 14, 2011 at 9:30 am (8 years ago)

    You did great!! Yesterday at work our entire floor was treated to sweets made by this incredible local bakery. I ate a light breakfast and lunch and told myself I could choose 2 things that look most appealing (they are generally one or two bite type things) and be done. And that’s what I did.

    I’m going to follow your strategy for a party I have tomorrow night. I’ll have 1 glass of wine but otherwise water or some other non-caloric drink. I’ll eat a clif mojo bar so I don’t arrive hungry, and choose fruit, veggies, and other healthy options to nibble on.

    Thanks for reminding us of these great strategies!

    Reply
  6. Jenny
    December 14, 2011 at 9:50 am (8 years ago)

    Great strategies! I also use the selzter trick – I have mine cut with a bit of cranberry plus lime!

    Reply
  7. Lee
    December 14, 2011 at 9:52 am (8 years ago)

    I know that everyone says to eat beforehand, but I find that for me, when I do that, I end up eating twice!

    Great job though and I think that having a non-alcoholic drink first is a great idea!

    Reply
  8. Karen
    December 14, 2011 at 9:53 am (8 years ago)

    “I normally just picture myself elbow deep in the buffet, throwing back glasses of wine like it’s my job” This just cracked me up. It’s so true! I don’t think I realize that this is what I am doing but it really is.

    After Thanksgiving I had a major slide backwards and realized that I had told myself I could splurge, but had actually just been on a binge. Not cool and also not enjoyable! I want to enjoy and savor the holidays, not roll out of every party feeling worse and worse! I love your idea of sticking with seltzer first.

    Reply
  9. Bridget
    December 14, 2011 at 9:55 am (8 years ago)

    This is great and a honestly real inspiration as I sit here eating 3 sugar cookies and coffe for breakfast! Thanks for the tips I will definitley keep them in mind!

    Reply
  10. Liz
    December 14, 2011 at 10:06 am (8 years ago)

    I successfully resisted the annual cookie exchange yesterday at work.

    I told myself that if any of the cookies looked AMAZING, I could certainly try one. I budgeted the points and everything. However, NONE of them looked so awesome that I just had to try one, so I ended up not having any! They just weren’t worth it. And lord knows that I’ve eaten enough cookies in my life. 😉

    Reply
  11. Heather
    December 14, 2011 at 10:21 am (8 years ago)

    Great job! Those are all good tips too. I have three holiday parties this week. I think I’m going to splurge food wise today, and allow myself a few drinks at the one on Saturday. The one on Friday is for work, so that automatically helps me stay in check. I don’t want to make a jerk out of myself in front of co-workers!

    Reply
  12. Sarah
    December 14, 2011 at 12:05 pm (8 years ago)

    Congrats on waking up feeling good!! Sounds like you had a pretty awesome strategy. I know if I only want one drink, I order beer because it takes me couple hours to finish a beer. Or I chew gum which keeps me from eating or drinking.

    Reply
  13. Anna
    December 14, 2011 at 12:35 pm (8 years ago)

    Hi. I just found your blog a week ago and have really enjoyed reading! I am a lifetime member above goal, trying to get my groove back. I am curious as to how you track. Do you track on line or use the paper tracker?

    Reply
    • Beth
      December 14, 2011 at 12:57 pm (8 years ago)

      Hi Anna! I’m so glad you found me and are enjoying reading! I use E-tools to track and also have the WW App on my iPhone which makes tracking so easy! I sometimes bring a paper tracker with me when I’m on the go, but now that I have the iPhone app I probably won’t do that anymore.

      Reply
  14. Anna
    December 14, 2011 at 12:39 pm (8 years ago)

    One more question…are your meetings in the evening or in the am?

    Reply
    • Beth
      December 14, 2011 at 12:58 pm (8 years ago)

      I work one meeting in the evenings on Thursday, but will be transitioning to a different once after the new year as a Leader!!!! 🙂

      Reply
  15. Lisa
    December 14, 2011 at 12:53 pm (8 years ago)

    Good tips! I’ve used a lot of those. Some of mine are to bring healthy dishes to potlucks, salads or veggies, so I at least have that. I also limit WHAT I drink. I skip the eggnog or mixed drinks that are high in calories and stick with 1-2 glasses of wine.

    Reply
  16. Lauren @ Oatmeal after Spinning
    December 14, 2011 at 1:02 pm (8 years ago)

    Sometimes you write a post that just really hits home with me- and this is one of them! Thanks so much for sharing these tips- they are really great. I especially like the drinking seltzer tip- and that’s one that I always employ.
    I have a weakness for eating too many sweets and parties, because I rarely ever eat things like that in my every day life, and go a little overboard when I “allow” myself to have them.
    And I’m guilty of avoiding a party all together because I don’t want to face temptation. Sad, but true!

    Reply
  17. Ang
    December 14, 2011 at 3:22 pm (8 years ago)

    I have an unfair advantage…I just assume everything has gluten in it and don’t eat at parties. Larabars are my lifeline. I eat one before any event where the food situation is uncertain.

    Reply
  18. The Mrs @ Success Along the Weigh
    December 14, 2011 at 8:08 pm (8 years ago)

    Wonderful tips. I think our holiday gatherings pretty much fall on our usual high cal days so we’re okay except for our Christmas Eve spread with my mom but I’m making everything from scratch so I have control over sodium and reducing fat.

    Reply
  19. Kim
    December 14, 2011 at 9:45 pm (8 years ago)

    Great post! Thank you so much for sharing. Those are great tips that I’m definitely going to use this weekend at my holiday party.

    I have a party at my boss’ house on Saturday. I asked my co-worker/friend if she was going to the party and she started naming the people that wouldn’t be there and how lame it would be. I said, “Uh hello, I’m going.” She said, “Well, you’ll have one glass of wine and that’s it.” Isn’t that terrible? Instead of supporting me in the better choices I’m making, I’m considered boring. :\

    Reply
  20. Caitlin
    December 15, 2011 at 4:03 pm (8 years ago)

    So cool to hear visualizing works for you. I’m the same way, I always expect it to go poorly (and see myself eating everything in sight!) so I’m sure that negative outlook doesn’t help! I am kind of an all or nothing person – either I will go and not eat much at all and stick to a drink or two, or I’ll go way overboard. I have a holiday party this weekend so I’m going to try visualizing moderation!

    Reply

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