Anyone trying to take care of their health is probably feeling frazzled and guilty at just the thought of what is to come during the next couple of months. Your macro counting friends, your Paleo co-workers, your vegetarian aunt and your calorie-counting cousin are all in the same sinking boat. You get an invitation to another Holiday cookie exchange and an internal battle arises…
Should I go, resist the temptations and feel deprived?
Should I go, eat the food and feel guilty?
Should I skip the party all together and feel lonely at home?
We forget that we are not the only person at that Holiday party thinking the same thing. Most people won’t admit it, but I can guarantee you are not alone.
You can read and prepare yourself with articles and strategies. How to avoid sugar? What are the best tactics to gently let down your aunt trying to spoon feed you fruitcake and how to stick to your goals in the face of alcohol induced temptation? But as I sat down to write about the strategies I was going to share with you this Holidays season I got to thinking about why blogs and articles like these are written in the first place.
For one, a lot of people have goals.
And two, a lot of those people get highly stressed during this time of year because social events revolve around food.
Not just any food, but the most decadent, calorie-laden, fat bombs, delicious, but goal sabotaging food. You pair that with social pressure and suddenly the Holidays aren’t so jolly (womp, womp, womp!).
Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could realize that everyone else is just as worried about Holiday junk food as we are? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could support each other in our health goals, instead of brainstorming ways to “survive” parties? Doesn’t it get tiring to constantly make excuses and defend your choice to skip out on the cookie tray? Santa is watching and he knows if you’re lying even for the sake of your waistline.
So I have a crazy idea, what if this year we were a little more honest and stressed each other out a little less? What if this this Holiday season you took charge and planned your own Holiday gathering without the food?
GASP. Yes, I said it.
Does that make me (or you, should you chose to be the party planner) a traitor to the American Holiday tradition?
No, you are just finally doing what others are secretly hoping somebody else will do.
And you will be surprised at how many appreciate it. By planning a party that does not revolve around food, suddenly all the attendees can focus on what these celebrations should really be about. Spending quality time with people we love and care about, experiencing the true joy of the Holiday season.
Food is the centerpiece of Holiday parties, so planning a food-free get together will require a little creativity. Be clear about what you are planning, so your guests come prepared. Also think about your guest. What will they have fun doing together? Let them know they won’t need to bring food or alcohol and remind them to eat before. Food is what keeps our hands preoccupied when we are striking up conversation with someone new, so what will keep people distracted? Offer a variety of sparkling waters, coffee or tea. If kids are invited, set up an area for coloring, games, stickers, etc. Finally have a plan for the “main event” since that will not be a meal.
The Main Event: Food & Guilt Not Included
Here is the fun part! Pick one or a combination of these activities when planning your get together.
Head out into the community to give someone else a piece of holiday cheer. If you want to volunteer with an established program register early since these opportunities fill up fast. A few ideas:
- Help an elderly neighbor with grocery shopping or chores around their house.
- Make and deliver gift cards for children in a pediatric ward at your local hospital.
- Participate in a food drive or a collection effort for gently used winter clothes.
- Adopt a family by collecting gifts, providing groceries or even a single Holiday meal.
Pinterest Craft Night & Ornament Exchange
My Pinterest boards are out of control with Holiday craft ideas and maybe yours are too! Pick one or multiple Holiday crafts such as ornaments, wreaths and picture frames. Instead of bringing food, have everyone bring the supplies and instructions to make their simple craft of choice. Have fun creating your own holiday decor! A new kind of ornament exchange.
Classic Movie Night
Holiday Classics such as White Christmas, Home Alone and It’s a Wonderful Life are must-see movies every year in my house. What are your favorites? Share these with your friends and family. Cuddle under the blankets and enjoy a relaxing evening in. Many local theaters will show these on the big screen, so check listings and show times to see if you can get a group to go together!
Hiking isn’t just for the summer: when there’s snow on the ground or when the weather changes, you can see animal tracks much more clearly and enjoy a new perspective on a favorite park or nature preserve. Even walking through your neighborhood can feel magical at night with all the decorations up.
Live in a place where you can go and pick out your own Christmas tree? Head to your local tree farm with all the kids in tow! Many have activities such as riding in a horse-drawn wagon, Santa appearances and crafts!
Get a group together, and head out to a local ice rink. Sometimes they have special holiday-themed skate nights with lights and carols. This is a great active way to get the whole family moving or a romantic way for a couple to spend the evening holding hands together.
Games are my jam! No Holiday parties required for me to pull out my favorites, but if this is not something you typically do for entertainment now is the time. There is a game out there for every age, skill level and interest. Play marathon monopoly or have a giant group Bunco tournament. Have guests bring their favorite games and have multiple games going at one time!
Decoration Scavenger Hunt
Instead of taking a walk around the neighborhood, make a “scavenger hunt”. One person is the designated “mastermind,” and comes up with one or more tasks to complete or objects to find. All others compete to see who can complete the tasks the fastest. This can be done individually or in teams.
- Find and photograph the most interesting seasonal decorations in a 1-mile radius. Winner is picked for finding the best decorations and for taking the most creative picture.
- Find and photograph all of the following: three different reindeer, five different Santa's, two elves, and one snow fort (or whatever other items you choose).
If you want to get really fancy and plan a party around the scavenger hunt, you could create a series of holiday-themed clues and have big prizes.
Stop wrestling your Christmas tree alone and spending hours detangling endless strings of lights. Instead get together with friends and tackle your houses together. Not only are you helping each other out, but enjoying each other’s company. Make the process less painful and more fun!
These are just a few ideas to get you started. Maybe these sparked a creative main event idea of your own. The idea is less stress surround what you will and will not be eating and more joy with the people you love. Make this Holiday season a little lighter, in more ways than one!
Have another party suggestion? Comment or share it on our Facebook and Instagram pages! We would love to hear what you are doing this season!