How to Keep Your Sanity Around Holiday Meal Excess

It's that time of year y'all: party time!! Between now and New Year will be dinners, holiday parties, family get togethers (and birthdays for those unlucky people who get combo gifts every year).

This party season is especially tough for people who are on a diet or people who find success by regularly planning their meals. 

So how do you get through the holidays without completely going off the rails on your diet? I have a simple formula I follow. Let me share.

caloric balance = {[(kcal intake/24 hr time period)]# of days*3} - (kcal expended)*limxf(x)

Kidding! Kidding!

There are three basic types of diet challenges during the holidays

  1. the snacks people constantly bring to the office
  2. the holiday party you go to the takes a couple hours
  3. the big family parties that you host, or otherwise attend, that go on for days.

All of these present unique challenges but have simple solutions. Let's break them down.

Situation 1: The treats that people bring to the office during holidays.

Some people enjoy sharing goodies with coworkers, and others are just trying to get it out of their house so they themselves don't overindulge. Either way this will go on for six weeks. Brace yourselves.

But don't give in. A random plate of cookies is not a reason to splurge. It is not a special or unique time. You know this is going to go on for six weeks. The best way to avoid this trap? Just don't do it. Under any circumstance. Bring your lunch, plan your meals and don't give an inch.

Situation #2: The holiday parties.

These are some of the most fun holiday functions, and you can't avoid these even if you want to. Friends parties, work parties, spouse's work parties, they're all over December's calendar. Quick and easy, and fun to get done up for, but not worth blowing your diet on.

Here's how you enjoy yourself and don't blow it: eat a healthy meal beforehand. (Same rule applies as grocery shopping. Don't arrive hungry!) Make sure you have protein, fats, fibrous vegetables, and lots of water. Then, at the party, pick your two favorite indulgences and try those. If they're not that good, you don't have to finish them. Just don't look at these parties of blowouts. Remember, you'll go home in a couple hours. 

About drinks: alcohol isn't evil. It's not inherently good or bad. It just doesn't bring you toward any fitness or health goals so be aware of that. If you really are nailing down every calorie you eat, you'll want to choose a liquor with a non caloric mixer. For example, gin + tonic has fewer calories than wine or beer. No matter what though, don't drink and drive. Ain't nobody got time for a DWI.

Situation #3: The big family parties!

These are most challenging situations to diets and exercise routines, simply because extended family get togethers usually involve travel for a few days.

What's the key to diet success? Planning! What's the hardest thing to do when you're in a different city staying at someone's house eating meals you didn't plan? Planning! 

It's also when you have all your favorite family specialties. I come from a family of great cooks and bakers. When we get together, it's food for days. The one-of-a-kind pralines, cheese ball, gumbo, taco salad, and other indulgences that you really don't get all year round. And you're surrounded by it! 

What do you do? 

First, you be proactive and bring the healthy stuff. Bring the good source of protein. Bring that awesome baked chicken you've perfected. Bring those bacon brussels sprouts that you make taste wonderful and hearty.

Second, try to retain some semblance of eating meals, not grazing all day.

Finally, make a game plan. Mine is the same as before an evening party: get enough protein, fill up on vegetables, make sure I'm hydrated with water or tea, before I add indulgences. When you're getting enough of the healthy stuff, you won't binge.

After the turkey is put away and the last touchdown is scored, be the ringleader of taking a walk around the neighborhood later. Do the waddle if you have to. Just do something to keep your feet moving.

Last and certainly not least, be thankful that we are able to make all these decisions for ourselves. Having an abundance of healthy choices while surrounded by family and friends is truly a blessing.

Happy Thanksgiving, all!