Festive Free-For-All

Is there anything better than loading up a huge plate of food, shoving it down, and feeling like shit after? And then drinking heavily to console yourself?

No, not really. But sadly, this is exactly what we do during the holidays.

We actually look forward to the holidays precisely for that reason. We get to stop being so rigid, discard the need for willpower, and relax into a downward slide that ends in feeling bloated, exhausted, and — for lack of a better word — fat.

We view holiday celebrations as some sort of massively tempting experience, where the food laid out in front of us is impossible to resist. And we get super excited about letting it all go and blowing it out.

Which begs the question: If we didn’t have to use so much willpower the rest of the year, would eating in a normal way be that difficult to do during the holidays?

Forcing yourself not to eat certain foods — in other words, dieting — makes them that much more desirable. So during the holidays, we load up our plates with all the stuff we’re not “supposed” to eat. (By the way, this is one of the worst things you can do: load up your plate with enough food for five people. If there’s less on your plate, you will eat less.)

But the worst thing about a free-for-all attitude is that if you blow it out at Thanksgiving you will continue right on through New Year’s. Here are some strategies to help you do things in moderation this year.

1. Bring a second healthy dish. Whatever dish you’re bringing to the gathering, bring an extra one that’s healthy. Make a fruit salad — and not the one that’s as boring as watching paint dry. Add some chopped cilantro or ginger for more flavor or pomegranate seeds to make it crunchy. Bring some veggie sushi for everyone to try. You can start with a small plate of your own healthy dish before you even eat anything else.

2. Have a good workout that morning. This puts you in the right frame of mind, and it makes you feel energized instead of sluggish, which means you’re less likely to say eff it and go binge. Start your day out this way, and you’ll probably continue doing more healthy things, like drink a bunch of water, pick something more healthy to eat, and eat less.

3. Drink less. I know, I hate the cut-down-on-drinking tips as much as you do. But it’s true that the less you drink, the less you eat. Here are some strategies for drinking less that you can combine with the ones you probably already know (drink water every other drink, etc):

  • Drink sparkling water on the way there (or at your house while prepping if you’re hosting), and meditate on why it’s not worth it to binge drink all day. You’ll eat way too much, you’ll be hungover the next day, and you’ll probably regret saying at least one thing. Plus, pre-loading on water makes you feel healthy, which again makes you do more healthy things the rest of the day.
  • Talk to someone you like while you’re drinking. Only drink while you’re talking to people you enjoy — you’ll be more relaxed and you’ll drink more slowly. If you’re stuck with a nightmare relative, drink water while you try to make conversation and pretend to listen. Side note: if the only way to get through a conversation with someone is to drink, you’re talking to the wrong person.
  • Drink water if you’re doing something active or stressful. If you’re busy playing hostess or making all the rounds when you arrive, you’ll stress drink and won’t pay attention to how much you’re drinking. Wait until you’re relaxed before you have a cocktail.

There’s no reason to view the holidays as a free-for-all where you “get” to binge eat and binge drink. I like to use Halloween as an example. I used to go insane with my kids’ candy when they weren’t looking. Then I realized that I could just go up to the grocery store and buy all that crap if I really wanted it that bad.

Seriously, you’re not getting some unbelievable opportunity to do something truly special. Unless you’re at the Moet and Chandon champagne house outside of Paris, you’re not missing out.

Do you have any tips you use to keep from blowing it out during the holidays? Leave a comment and let me know.

Go ahead and enjoy the holidays, because you deserve to. But try to do things in moderation. Even if you do just one small thing, that is progress. And when the temptation to say “I deserve to binge” comes up, just remember that you deserve to take care of yourself more.