How to be a smart party animal


I have to break client confidentiality and just share this.

Ok here it is: some of my clients are freaking out because the holidays are coming.

It started with Halloween, but the closer it’s getting to Thanksgiving and Christmas (and the yummier the food gets), the more they express concern and almost want to ‘’start over’’ after New Year. The thought of eating well and facing parties is too much, and I understand. But this is not my first holiday season and we’ve tested some strategies that work very well, so you can stay sane, fed and healthy and still reach your goal weight.

1. It’s one party. It’s not going to blow all of your efforts. Even if you end up eating foods that are a not a part of your weight loss plan, it’s still just one meal. The truth is most people feel bad about that meal, and end up skipping breakfast and lunch the next day, only to eat a box of cookies while they are grocery shopping in the evening. Now that’s enough to make you quit! Remember, it’s not the party meal, it’s how you handle the rest of the week. In a typical week you get about 28 meals, 1 is statistically insignificant if you play your cards right the rest of the time. Stop seeking for excuses to quit and call it what it is – it’s just a party! Flexible people are able to stick to their plans, extreme dieters aren’t. Be flexible.

2. Don’t go hungry. That’s the worst case scenario. Getting somewhere with your blood sugar already plummeting to dangerous (and stupid) lows is going to sabotage your ability to choose well and you will end up eating the sweetest, most carb laden item you can get your eyes on, and you will eat lots of it. ‘’You are not you when you are hungry’’, like that Snickers commercial says, so to become you, make having a snack a part of your party get ready strategy. Dress? Check! Shoes? Check! High protein snack? Check. Go for a few hard boiled eggs, or a cup of cottage cheese, or 2-3 oz of meat, alongside some raw veggies and you are set for success. If you are going to the party straight from work, stop at a gas station and grab a bag of jerky.

3. Put protein and water first. When you get to the party, make sure your first two glasses of drinks are water or seltzer water and then have some protein/fat rich food. That will allow your body to deal better with alcohol if you have some later and will also help you feel full so you don’t eat too many sides and desserts.

4. Strategize your position. We’ve talked about how proximity to food determines how much you will eat in previous articles. At the party, get a small plate with food and walk as far away from the serving area as you can, preferably where you cannot see the food. Hanging out near the cookies is asking for trouble. If you are sitting at a table, ask the host to place the bread far from you, and to only serve you once (you can arrange that in advance).

5. Alcohol never helps. Honestly. As much as we enjoy an occasional glass of wine and gluten free beer, we will be the first to admit that we have to be very careful with alcohol consumption. Alcohol gets you a few different ways-first it lowers your inhibitions so you will reach for everything that’s usually off limits, second it will result in a blood sugar crash that will make you crave sweets and desserts, and third it will decrease fat burning that you desire so much on your diet. Should you choose to drink, have plenty of water between drinks and limit yourself to one or two only. The best choice is to volunteer for designated driver and just stay away.

6. Be picky. If you are going to a party and you know you won’t be eating your usual foods, at least break the plan with delicious items. Skip pretzels, nuts, sugary cookies and muffins or sandwiches, and go for your favorites: homemade mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy. Only you know what your favorites are, but don’t settle for anything that’s not an absolute favorite. If you taste something you don’t like, don’t waste your calories on it and choose something else.

7. Are you here to party or to eat? If I asked you to describe what goes on at a party you would say fun, dance, drinks, laughs, music, food, cake, conversation, games, handshakes, balloons, fireworks…so many things make a party a party. No one goes to a party to eat and drink only, so why are these two things the center of our enjoyment and attention? Make a conscious effort to have conversation (hard to chew while you talk), make new connections, dance (even harder to chew when you dance), get to know people or play!

8. Make the party day a workout day. Most of you are probably already using this strategy, but by planning a really hard workout on the day of your party you will actually replenish muscle stores of glycogen and allow better recovery other than store extra food where you don’t want it! The sad truth is, at the gym where I work, we see the opposite – as the holidays come people start coming less and shopping more, they start getting off their diets and then come back in January ready to start from zero. Don’t be that person, be a smart party animal and stay in shape!





6 thoughts on “How to be a smart party animal

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  2. Dana Zia

    Great tips! I agree with all of the above. And yes, I’m freaking about the holidays too but it is more that just the parties it is this loop that my mind is getting into. I can’t stop thinking about the foods I want to create and share. I also feel this underlying urge to eat what ever I want, like it is hard wired into my molecular memory. Fascinating when I can divorce myself from it, terrifing when I’m in it.

    1. Galina Ivanova Denzel

      Thank you for sharing. You know food is such an amazing way to express emotion and show who you are. Creating and sharing food is like art – and there is nothing wrong with that 😉 How much you eat and whether you use food to express impulsiveness, spontaneity, joy, etc is up for exploration and self discovery. We have way too much order in our lives, and it’s no wonder during holidays we let loose. It’s perfectly fine as long as it doesn’t make you feel guilty, bad about yourself, or change the way you perceive your body. Allowing yourself to have something delicious, and not too much of it also explores your ideas about how much is enough, how much it takes to satisfy you and how much you take care of yourself and your emotional needs. My two cents – hope it sparks some thoughts 🙂

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  4. Cass

    Love these!!! Especially the part about your agenda at a party: to eat/drink or dance and be social 🙂 It’s easy to forget, especially when so many people use food to ease social anxiety. It doesn’t fix anything, just creates a problem with yourself! So put yourself out there with new people!

    1. Galina Ivanova Denzel

      Amen! You know I often think of smoking as something people use back home to ease social anxiety. Then they quit smoking and gain weight 😉 Dancing can be so therapeutic 🙂 You should come up with a party dance class, lady!


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