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The holiday season is all about parties, stress, and sweets. Don’t let them derail your progress! A little pre-planning can ensure you enjoy the get-togethers to their fullest while also maintaining what you’ve worked so hard for. We’ve put together a little holiday guide full of tips and tricks to help you through the party season.

Assess your goals

If you have a race coming up in January or early February, you’re going to have to be more rigid this holiday season than maybe you’ve been in the past. But if you aren’t currently training for anything or have a race in March or after, you can certainly afford to slide into “maintenance” mode for the next few weeks. It’s all about planning and flexibility.

Make a plan

Put events on your calendar for now through the holiday season to help you prioritize your nutrition, and stay on track with your goals. Pay special attention to the get-togethers that are really important to you, and plan around those. Focus on food with memories (i.e., non-store bought dishes) and eat mindfully. Maintain other habits – veggies, protein, cooking when you can, movement/N.E.A.T. and then create your intentions for the month. (Maybe even write them in your journal as reminders.) For example, “I’m going to have two of my mom’s special cookies today” but not the whole tub, or “I’m going to have seconds of my mom’s sweet potato dish” but then make sure to eat lots of veggies earlier in the day. Whenever possible, keep a well-balanced plate and stop eating when you feel full.

Stay in the moment

Celebration doesn’t mean that you need to drink or eat everything. When you’re at the party or event, focus on enjoying the company and being at the event, instead of what you’re going to drink or eat. Also, don’t feel like you have to have a drink or that you have to eat the hors d’oeuvres that are being passed around. Prioritize the things that really bring you joy when you eat or drink them, and don’t feel like you have to give in to social pressures. For example, plan to have a couple of drinks when you’re with close friends but limit the sweets. Plan to have mom’s homemade pie at the family get-together but opt for soda water instead of alcohol. It’s all about balance… and remembering why you’re there.

Plan for the party days

Before the party, fill your day with some kind of movement or activity and eat healthy all day. (Minimize carbs and fats thought the day to save them for when you go to the party.) Consider having a meal or substantial snack before you go – close to the tome you’re leaving – so you don’t arrive at the party starving. If you’re asked to bring a dish, bring something healthy you can enjoy like a fruit tray or veggie tray. Then, you can go back and have seconds of something healthy without feeling guilty.

Develop smart habits

While you’re at the party, prioritize and be intentional with food choices. If Aunt Sally makes her famous pecan pie, then consider skipping a carb-loaded side dish like mashed potatoes at dinner. You don’t need seconds of everything on your plate. Just go back for the 1 or 2 items that are special and that you really enjoyed. At a party? Minimize grazing as much as you can. Move the conversation away from food so you’re not tempted. Nibbling can happen because you’re chatting and not paying attention, which can unfortunately add up to a lot of calories. Move from the kitchen to the living room and take a few friends with you. Have a sweet tooth? Share a dessert with someone instead of eating the whole portion, or cut the portion in half or in a smaller piece while at the dessert table. Lastly, don’t leave the party with leftovers – especially sweets. If the host insists, you can take them to your local homeless shelter, or organization feeding the hungry. If you’re hosting, give the leftovers to guests when they’re leaving to minimize what’s left in your house, or give to the homeless.

Drinking tips

There are fun non-alcoholic options at any party. Hot tea is a great one to look for. Or, squeeze a lime in regular water or soda water or add some berries from the fruit tray – especially if you feel pressure to have a drink. Your guests will probably think you’re having a vodka tonic! If you do have a drink or two, remember that clear is always better – not only clear alcohol, but clear mixers. Opt for soda water with fruit added instead of juice and other sugary mixers that can add up to lots of calories. Also, make sure to mix in a glass of water in between drinks to stay hydrated and help limit intake.

Traveling for the holidays

If you’re traveling to see friends or family, bring your own snacks with you. Cut up veggies and fruit, and bring beef jerky, bars, protein powder for a shake, etc. If you’re also staying over with family and don’t have control of the food choices, make the best of what’s available. Offer to make lunch or breakfast so you have control over one of the meals that can fit within your goals. Then, for the other meals, use portion control and the other tips we talked about above.

Stick to the basics

On non-party days, it’s important to stick to your schedule as much as possible. Go to the gym, get your steps in, take a yoga class, eat lean protein and veggies at every meal, stay hydrated, and get plenty of sleep to get your body back on track. If you don’t let the party attitude linger on, it will be much easier to maintain what you’ve worked for all year.

The bottom line is: Don’t get caught up in the food and the alcohol being the reason you’re at the event – remember you’re there for the memories and the people. So, enjoy the holiday season and celebrate yourself and all you’ve accomplished. We’re celebrating you!

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