You’re headed to one of the many holiday parties at the office, your grandma’s house, or your friend’s place. While you’re looking forward to catching up with friends and family, there’s also an ounce of nervous anticipation and self-awareness. What kind of food will be there? What will my coworkers think of my recent accomplishments? How can I stay on track when there will be a ton of tasty treats available? What will my friends think of my body, outfit, and hair?  What will I eat? How will I respond if someone pressures me to eat more or asks why I’m not eating dessert?

Tips to survive Holiday Parties

If any of this sounds familiar, you’re not alone! Holiday gatherings can trigger stress, especially for anyone with a background of dieting or disordered eating. In order to bring you back to a space of enjoyment, here are some tips to help you navigate holiday parties.

1. Survey the options at holiday parties


Especially if there is a buffet or potluck, you may want to take a look at all of the food options available before making a choice. There is no rush to make your plate and taking your time to choose will help you to be more mindful and intuitive. There is no point in taking foods you’re not a fan of! Save room for the options that you truly enjoy.

2. Plan in dessert.

Holiday Parties

Chances are, at this holiday party, there are going to be some tasty desserts. Instead of telling yourself “no,” when it comes to these treats, try giving yourself permission to have dessert. The more you put dessert off limits, the more you are doing to start craving them. Maybe experiment with the opposite! Tell yourself it’s okay to have 1 or 2 of your favorite desserts.

3. Fuel yourself throughout the day

Make your meal into a dining experience!

Even though you have a big holiday party coming up in the late afternoon or evening, it’s still important that you have meals and snacks during the earlier part of the day. If the party is in the evening time, it definitely makes sense to have breakfast, lunch and 1-2 snacks. Or, if the meal is in the afternoon, breakfast and lunch should do! If you try to “save up” calories, you put yourself at risk of overeating at the party. Plus, your body deserves to have proper nutrition throughout the whole day.

4. Focus on eating intuitively

Holiday Parties

dessert tacos (photo by Kaitlin Eckstein)

While holiday treats are delicious and should be enjoyed, attending events that are overflowing with yummy morsels can be stressful if you still feel the need to control food. As a REBEL, you know that food is only one important part of your life, and your body will guide you with its hunger and satiety signals. Thus, be sure to fuel your body with food throughout the day, knowing that you can eat as much as you want at the party. Depriving yourself to “save up” for that holiday party will only lead to compensation later on, which you probably know from experience doesn’t feel very good.

While at the party, enjoy the food and drinks. Take the time to look at them, smell them, chew them, and savor them. Eat as much as you need to feel satisfied, and then focus on building memories that include more than just what you ate. Remember that you can always go back for more. Say no to food pushers, offering to take leftovers home if they don’t want to give up. If you leave feeling a little hungry, that’s okay. You can eat more when you get home or tomorrow.

5. Come prepared with conversation starters for holiday parties

Along with appearance, diet and exercise may also be stressful discussion topics. In order to focus your conversations on other (much more!) interesting ideas, come to the party prepared with quick conversation starters. What’s going on in pop culture? Have you read any new books, cooked any new recipes, learned any new skills?

If caught in a rut, direct the conversation to the other person. Have they done anything fun lately? Traveled anywhere interesting? What are they currently watching on Netflix? If you know them well, bring up some old memories and reminisce on past times. Once again, if they don’t seem to want to drop the uncomfortable topic, set a boundary by saying, “I would prefer not to talk about that.” Don’t be afraid to excuse yourself to grab a drink or see if the host needs help.

6. Remember that your body is your paintbrush, not your masterpiece


If you struggle with an increased awareness of your appearance, preparing for a holiday party can be difficult. Choosing an outfit and styling your hair may seem particularly draining. If this is the case for you, try to remember that your body is your vessel to live your life — it is not the masterpiece of your life. Choose an outfit that you feel comfortable in, style your hair and make up in a way that makes you feel good, and then turn your attention to the festivities — not the body you are doing them in.

When engaging in conversation, don’t bring up appearance, neither yours nor others’. Talk about the actual substance of your life, and leave your body out of the conversation. Topics can include anything from that new movie you saw or your upcoming work project – both of which are much more interesting than your appearance! If someone does comment on your appearance, politely guide the conversation in another direction by saying you’d prefer to talk about something more interesting.

7. Focus on the moment at holiday parties

Holiday Parties

Holiday stress (or any kind of stress, really) causes us to focus most of our mental energy on the source of the stress: food, our appearance, what others think of us, etc. By focusing on these worries, we are giving them the power. Take back the power and choose to focus on the moment. Focus on how amazing your grandma’s homemade cookies taste.

Holiday Parties

Focus on the wonderful conversation that you had with your old friend. Or maybe, focus on how amazingly soft your new sweater feels. Or, focus on the beautiful decorations and the comforting holiday music.If you’re having difficulty letting go of those stressful thoughts, take a moment to journal about them. Write down all of the feelings you are having. Accept them and know that they are only temporary. If you need further release, partake in another form of self-care: movement, meditation, or a relaxing bath.

8. Breathe

Practicing better sleep hygiene can make for a better night's rest.

Remember that one of the simplest ways to relax your mind is to breathe. Even if you only have time to focus on taking one deep breath, it will do wonders for your mindset. Try counting as you breathe in and again as you breathe out, or simply focus on how it feels to fill your lungs.

You can employ this breathing exercise while alone or even while at a holiday gathering. After all, everyone breathes, so no one will probably notice. By focusing on your breath, you distract your mind from those stressful thoughts, which helps bring you back to the present so you can enjoy the holiday cheer.

For a more personalized approach, take a look at our NOURISHED: 10 steps to happy, healthy eating!  

Nourished: 10 ingredients happy healthy eating book


Contact us to learn more information about our nutrition programs and how we can support you in navigating the holidays.


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Dana uses her advanced training in functional nutrition and food sensitivities to help her clients love and trust food again as they heal from years of painful symptoms that have dominated their lives. Co-author of Nourished: 10 Ingredients to Happy, Healthy Eating and Cooking with Food Sensitivities Survival Guide.

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