It’s November and you’ve worked all summer and fall to reach your fitness goals. Maybe you’ve started to see those abs again, just purchased jeans a size down, or finally have traps that reach your ears. But now it’s November -and the workplace is flooded with discounted Halloween candy and co-workers who insist that their homemade chocolate chip cookies truly are THE best. And don’t get me started on the holiday party invitations that just won’t stop or the fact that you’re expected to consume a minimum of 2 Thanksgiving dinners in one evening. Let’s not forget that daylight savings has never made hitting “snooze” more tempting than it is now, so your morning sweat sessions have quickly turned into an extra REM cycle. How are you supposed to keep from falling into this gut-inducing blackhole known as the holidays while still upholding a social life?
Picture this: it’s a Saturday morning in December and you have a holiday party tonight. 8:00 am and you’re already dreading the full you’re certain you’ll feel 12 hours from now. Well fret not because I’ve compiled a simple list of guidelines to keep in mind the day of those parties so you don’t end up channeling Violet Beauregard in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Keep this list. Print it out. Staple it to your forehead if that’s what it takes because frankly, I’m guessing you don’t have an army of Oompa-Loompas to roll you out of your host’s house once the festivities have come to a close.
Get Quality Z’s
Hopefully you slept well the night before and if not, try to find a time later in the day to take a nap for 20 – 30 minutes. Please read the preceding sentence once more. 20 – 30 minutes, not 2 – 3 hours. Holiday survival starts with quality Z’s – trust me. If you are low on Z’s, you may just find yourself face first in the dessert table mid-party seeking a sugar induced energy boost.
2. Don’t starve yourself
Start the day with a nutrient dense breakfast that will keep you satisfied until lunch and/or fuel your workout for the day. It may be tempting to deprive yourself of food to save calories until party time or to help you get into a pair of pants that are just a little too small, but it will likely backfire. Restricting your food intake leading up to the event will mess with your blood sugar levels and likely cause you to gorge at the buffet table, leaving you wishing you hadn’t squeezed into those pants in the first place. Be smart. Eat a solid amount of protein and as many colored vegetables you can during the day.
3. Schedule your workout
Sign up for a group class or head to the gym with a friend going to the same party. Whether it’s 20 minutes or an hour, it all counts – just move your body in some way. Let me point out that running around the house in search of that one shirt you swear you left on the chair that is home to more clothes than your actual closet doesn’t count, sorry but it just doesn’t. Aim for something more along the lines of a brisk walk around the neighborhood, intervals consisting of compound movements, or a lift with moderate weights and reps. Keep the intensity level moderate. There is nothing worse for recovery than alcohol, sugar, and decreased sleep, so don’t make your most intense session of the week a mere 6 hours before you down 3 cocktails.
4. Eat before the party
Yes, I said it. Eat before the party that has more tables full of festive food than it does guests. A small snack with a combination of protein and fat will help keep you satiated, so at the party, you end up eating what you actually have an appetite for instead of one (or 3) of everything.
5. Drink water
Upon arrival to a party, make sure you know where the water is and if there are bottles, even better – keep one near you the whole time. Drink a water before your first cocktail or at the very least, alongside it. Drinking water between every one or two drinks is easy to forget, but if you stay on top of it, your “tomorrow-self” will be forever grateful.
6. Grab a small plate
When tackling a holiday smorgasbord, try not to act like this is the last meal you’ll be offered for a week. Balancing three plates in one hand is rarely successful and you don’t want to be the guest dumping gravy all over your host’s oriental rug because you couldn’t show an ounce of restraint at the buffet table. Chances are, you’ve eaten buffalo chicken dip before, so don’t pretend like you’ve never seen it. (Side note: if you have never indulged in some buff chick dip, we need to have a different conversation altogether). Grab the smallest plate available and fill it with veggies first. Then, choose one or two of the best homemade looking dishes/apps, put it on your plate, and walk away. If you let yourself linger around the food, you may end up eating another plateful without even realizing it.
7. Make mindful booze selections
Beware: the buffet table is not the only danger zone. There are a lot of calorie dense, and even worse, sugar dense mixers that are not waistline friendly and are even less friendly the next morning, if you get where I’m headed with this…A general rule of thumb with cocktails and mixers is: the clearer the better. Not to mention, less is more when it comes to concoctions – so ditch that 15-ingredient signature cocktail and try optioning for a simple vodka soda or gin and tonic. You may be deemed the party’s Scrooge for not indulging in the holiday themed cocktail, but I think we can all agree that’s better than rocking a gut reminiscent of Old Saint Nick.