Let’s face it. Social gatherings and parties such as weddings, Christmas, Chinese New Year, brunches and casual dinners with friends are some of the biggest joys in life! Hanging out with people we love around good food uplifts our mood and puts a smile on our faces.
Thing is, these events can be challenging on the ol' diet, as food overload is often part of the Instagram story. Sometimes #foodcoma. The average American gains a full pound of bodyweight per year, most of it during the holiday season, so there is a direct link between holiday overeating and weight gain. These are NOT the gainz you are looking for.
The easy answer is to just skip the party. Be that guy. Downside? Being that guy. Late nights on the town and holidays with the fam are key elements of a happy and fulfilling life. Non-negotiable.
So besides being a total prune, what can we do?
Try these four habits on for size:
- Budget the binge
- Pre-party fuel
- Buffet strategies
- Track what you eat
Budget the binge
Whenever you have a social event coming up, and food is involved, think about calories like money. How much are you willing to splurge for the event, given you will have to give up elsewhere? Think of your daily target calories through the week. Say for example you have a friend’s wedding coming up on Saturday. To plan ahead, adjust your target calories to be lower the day before and after the wedding.
DAY BEFORE/AFTER: Cut 80g carbs and 20g fat = 500 calories less per day
WEDDING DAY: 1,000 calories more to play with! Chocolate fountain FTW!
WHOLE WEEK: Exactly the same as usual!
This works even if you're trying to lose weight when you tally the calories on a weekly basis. Literally having your cake and eating it too. Of course, all of this assumes you're counting your calories and have such targets to begin with!
Flexibility and variability are the spice of life. That goes for nutrition as well as mental health. Eating broccoli and chicken breast three times a day may work for a few bodybuilders, but to keep your sanity and goals in check you need a sustainable approach. Eat something you like regularly, pretty much. That you can do forever, amirite?
Having said that, it's pretty easy to go from a little extra gravy on the side, to drinking from the gravy boat. We've all been there #sorrynotsorry.
So what can you do?
DO NOT GO TO THE PARTY HUNGRY.
OR EVEN WORSE, HANGRY.
This is so simple. Drink a few glasses of water, and grab something small that's rich in protein to keep the beast at bay. Now, at the party, you can dip a few Cheetos in that bowl of whipped cream, and be satisfied with a handful. Rather than say, all of them. With that extra water in your system, you won't be hitting the booze for thirst either, but pure enjoyment! #winningandgrinning
BUT WAIT... I SEE A BUFFET!
Calm down, let's strategize.
Start with some salad and veggies. Yes, that's the nerdy end of the table, but it'll get the edge off whilst not murdering all your gainz.
Then grab some of that sizzling steak, or any kind of protein for that matter, with a side of some more veggies. The proteins will fill you up nicely, leaving you satisfied after a full meal. Now you can sit back and focus on being the life of the party again. #dadjokes
When the cake comes out, and the saliva starts dribbling down your cheek, you'll be cool. Please be cool. You've already had a full healthy meal, and at least won't be hitting the frosting as your main course. Have a piece, don't make a big deal of it, and focus on the party around you. Talk. Laugh. Dance. Enjoy food as part of the social context, not as the party in your mouth.
BUT... BOOZE. I WANTS IT.
Yes, alcohol is on the table. Sometimes, under the table. #lastfriday
For many, there simply is no party without it. Let's face it, it's embedded into most cultures by now. After all, 50 Cent isn't sipping Shirley Temples whilst In Da Club. It's just not the same. But hey, there's nothing inherently awful about having a glass now and then.
TOP TIP: Avoid sugary mixers in your drinks, such as fruit juices and sugared sodas. That's what really gets you in terms of calories. Usually, there's a sugarless alternative. One shot (40ml) of straight up rum or vodka is around 100 calories, so if you only have a few, mixed with say Coke Zero, you'll be just fine.
Of course, calories aren't the whole truth. Alcohol will impact your body in many negative ways, so avoid it particularly around your training days. Don't leave the gainz in the empty pint!
Track what you eat
If you measure it, you control it. Simple as that.
You could bring a digital food scale to the wedding, but that could get some dirty looks in the buffet queue. Instead, sneak in your favorite food tracking app as your +1. MyFitnessPal is a hot date!
Even if you don't get it down to the gram, (discreetly) adding your portions in said app will keep you in check. That way, you can pick & choose all sorts of goodies within your budget of 1,000 calories. Maximum pleasure, minimum swipes!
Next time the big day is approaching, give these ideas a try. If they work out for you, these simple strategies might even become habits that form naturally around enjoying the party and the company of your friends & family!
That's what it's all about after all, isn't it?
Wishing you a brilliant day!