As this gets posted we have 8 days until Christmas Eve and Hanukkah so let's get ready to party the new way - without a food hangover and potential alcohol poisoning. You get to choose how you want to spend your holiday spirit - frazzled or relaxed? Not trying to be Dreadful Debbie, but for many holiday seasons I bought into the version where I'd have a smile on my face and inside I felt like the crazy professor, spastic and wired; hair on end! I'd find myself singing inside my head - the lyrics to my version of rainy days and Mondays "Talking to myself and feeling old. Sometimes I'd like to quit, Nothing ever seems to fit (so appropriate for this time of year)" and here's where I take some liberty "snowy days and holidays always get me down". I've slowly tried to change that attitude, and well, this year I'm going to join those of you who do a lot of fa-la-la-la-la -ing! Seriously though, how can we destress and enjoy the traditional holiday table offerings without the traditional holiday spread (talking hips and belly)? We'll get to that. Right now, let's talk about hosting, how can we make that more enjoyable? Here are some tips: Simply, keep it on the DL. People love food! They do! But, guess what? Everyone is getting together for the pleasure of it. Host a low key party. You will enjoy it more and so will your guests. If it's just family, who do you have to impress? Leave that to the one person in your family who always needs center stage! Make the evening focused around games, telling stories or singing christmas carols! Serve appetizers and ask everyone to bring one to pass. Forget the big meals that weigh you down - literally. If you truly love to cook and that's your therapy, go for it! Everyone will enjoy how you spread the love! However, if you truly dread the decisions about what to make, dread the mess it makes, and get stressed over having everything come out of the oven at the same time - make a reservation - with a catering company, of course! Life doesn't have to be a cluster of senselessness.
Hosting to friends and family? Unless you have a friend with a wait staff that you can borrow from or you are personal friends with Martha Stewart, again, keep it low key. It's amazing how stringing lights all over the house can make it feel festive, and those don't need to be hung perfectly. Anyone who notices the imperfection probably isn't a close friend anyway, so what are they doing at your house on the holiday? Candles, greens thrown around the table, and a little hint of red somewhere and you're set!
Let's talk about ways to have a healthier holiday without the weight gain. Here are my tips for this year: Cooking the meal? Add in healthy, simple options like grilled or raw veggie platters (see the one above made with broccoli florets, tomatoes, pretzels, cauliflower, and cut up yellow pepper for the the star) with a healthy option dip or two. Cook with good fats like olive oil, coconut oil, and grass fed butter. Think avocados! Using mayonnaise in your dip? Use avocado mayonnaise or guacamole for healthier options. Eat your meal when everyone else does - don't take samples of your cooking as you prepare it. A little picking here and there can add up to a meal pretty quickly. Again, ask others to bring something to put out. Ask them to make it healthy or assign them a specific side dish/appetizer. Wear dress up clothes and I don't mean a ball gown or tuxedo. Dress in way that tells you it's a special occasion. If you don't normally wear cologne, spritz a little on (please, not too much), and wear form fitting clothes that are comfy but won't allow you to over eat. Wearing yoga pants and moo-moos will have you fooling yourself about how much food and drink you take in. In a couple small studies, holiday weight gain was shown to stay on after the holidays and add up from year to year. Here's how to avoid the extra spread: Drink water before the party - this will fill you up, leaving less room for overeating.
Like yourself - don't self sabotage - if you overeat from the cookie tray, vow to be good to yourself and get right back on track! Stop the pattern of beating yourself up for one mistake by not taking it to the next level (two, three, four)! Plan - to enjoy other things besides the food. Before you go to the party, knowing who will be there and most likely the kind of foods that will be served, write down your plan. It will only take a few minutes. List the things you will enjoy that don't involve chewing. Maybe quality time spent with an individual you see a lot, but conversations are usually hurried. Take the time to really talk and enjoy each others company. Maybe for you it will be putting your feet up somewhere and watching others enjoy the day/evening or listening to a holiday playlist. Possibly playing a friendly but competitive game with a sibling (and winning) or giving love and feeling loved, playing games or holding your child or grandchild in your arms - you get the idea! Write it down! Be selective - before you host or attend the holiday festivities, decide how many items you want to indulge in that aren't normally things you would eat. Here's a trick that will work! For instance, if you decide you are going to have 5 treats (say 1 alcoholic beverage, one serving of bread, 1 not so healthy serving of salad dressing, and 2 cookies), put 5 lucky pennies in your purse or pocket. As you partake of each treat, put that lucky penny out in an inconspicuous location (high enough where a little child can't grab it). When your pennies run out so do your options! Someone will find them the next day and happily add them to their change jar. If you're an outdoors type (and even if you're not), bundle up and take a walk. It's invigorating and healthy. Plus, it's a good time to share with others. Something about walking and talking that makes it feel right! Remember there is a spiritual side to holidays - enjoy the observation, prayer and mindfulness of your traditions. Having faith in a time when Santa seems to have a bigger role, can bring you peace. Let others see the reflection of the light inside you because it will add to their well being too! Feel like you're losing your promised self-control? Turn around and walk away...quickly...from the table where the foods are being served. Go directly to the location furthest from the foods and liquor. It's so much easier to eat and drink mindlessly standing before a table full of food, and mind altering drugs. Out of sight, out of hand! A little side note. If you have pets, confine them to a comfortable space in the house while you have guests. Give them their own holiday safe treat and toys to play with! Parties usually have a lot of non pet friendly foods around. It would be a shame to have your time ruined by a sick pet and a big vet bill! But, not too merry! Lastly, keep your time fun, but not a blur due to overindulgence in alcoholic frivolity! It's no fun if you can't remember how much fun you had, right? Right! So limit libations. Drinks put on the weight quickly! After one or two, consider switching to a tonic with a twist of lemon, club soda with a couple strawberries thrown in or water with some mint. All very good, and having that in your hand will make you feel like you're still part of the party! Now, don't forget to be Merry! Pssst! Yea, you. Come closer. If you really are friends with Martha Stewart, please add me to the guest list. I will forever be indebted! How fun to be surrounded by picture perfect foods and decor! Oh, to feel like I'm in a winter haze of merrymaking! I'm sure my family won't miss me for more than a minute anyway.