Surviving the Office Holiday Party

In the past week and a half, I had not one but THREE work-related holiday parties to attend. Add that my own family’s Christmas celebrations and Evan’s family’s Hanukkah parties and you potentially have one big, fat diet disaster.
Knowing that, I made sure to take time last weekend to plot out meals and workouts for the week. Oftentimes, if I have a post-work social engagement, I consider that a rest day in terms of working out. Although I managed to create a morning workout routine last winter, for some reason, this winter, my body is protesting. Sleeping seems to be priority these days and a 11pm to 7am sleep schedule seems to be best for me.
Last Monday was our office holiday party. Traditionally, we have a potluck at a colleague’s house and do a White Elephant swap and a Secret Something-or-Other gift swap (this year it was a calendar swap–loved it!). I wasn’t planning to go to the gym since I knew I wouldn’t get out of there until 8ish, but I decided at the last minute to pack my workout clothes and sneakers. When the party ended, I asked the hostess if she minded if I used her bathroom to change into my workout clothes. I was able to fit in a 30-minute wog at the gym! This allowed me to take a day off later in the week when I made plans to meet a friend for dinner and a movie.
Of course, I wasn’t a complete angel. The hostess and her fiance made their own wine, so I had a glass of that as well as a 4oz serving of eggnog (homemade, with booze) in addition to my meal which included:
  • salad with homemade dressing
  • soup
  • 1/3 cup of italian mac and cheese
  • 1/4 cup of a yummy pasta salad with spinach, tomatoes and olives
  • 1/2 oz sage cheddar on a wheat cracker
  • 2 pieces of salami on a wheat cracker
  • 1/2 oz of brie with cranberry relish on a slice of baguette
  • 1 piece of peppermint fudge the size of my thumbnail
  • 2 cookies
Not great, but certainly not bad. I skipped snacks that day so I could indulge but I was a little hungry after the gym. I made half cup of skim milk with a half scoop of protein powder (~60-80 calories) to tide me over and help me fall asleep.
Quite honestly, this holiday party win got me thinking more optimistically about the potential for maintaining consistent weight loss throughout the holidays. ‘Tis the season for everyone to bring in a buttload of store-bought frosted sugar cookies in every holiday shape imaginable. You want reindeer? Santas? Snowmen? Gingerbread people? Dreidels? Stars of David? It’s all at your fingertips and is often at least one co-worker’s contribution to the office holiday party. And then there’s the cohort of people who are making those recipes that they got off the back of a box of cornflakes or some other packaged food three decades ago. (Side note: what a great marketing ploy. Develop something simple, like, say, Jell-O or Chex that you can eat as is but then develop hundreds of recipes to get people to continue to consume your food in new and different ways.)

Our office is no different in that we celebrate the holiday and with a potluck. And, while there are foodies in the group who love to cook and who make fabulous things that I don’t mind indulging in because they’re good and they’re only around once a year, we sometimes have a handful of people who probably use their kitchen cabinets to store boxes of cereal and maybe some extra books or clothes. No joke.

No matter what kind of holiday party you have at your job, there are simple things you can do to watch calories and prevent it from ruining your diet.

1. Take advantage of a potluck by bringing a dish that’s healthy, delicious and filling. I made a spinach salad with roasted butternut squash, craisins, walnuts and roasted onions, and I also made two different salad dressings (maple vinaigrette and cranberry vinaigrette). Although the salad dressings aren’t low-cal, they are very tasty (so you don’t need a lot) and they’re made with clean, pure ingredients. You won’t find preservatives or high fructose corn syrup in these! I also made a low-fat, high fiber butternut squash soup. This all sounds like tons of work, but I swear it took 30 minutes from start to finish (minus clean-up). I made a double batch of soup and froze half of it in single-serve containers for meals on the go and I was hoping to bring home leftover salad, but all that was left was two measly spinach leaves.

2. Chew gum. If you go to one of those appetizer-y, dessert-y soirees that has a host of finger foods ripe for the picking, chew (subtly!) a piece of gum to keep your mouth busy and minty fresh.

3. Socialize. One of my colleagues told us that she heard a radio segment that said you need to take the opportunity to shake hands and schmooze at company holiday parties. You can’t eat too much if you always keep your right hand empty and ready to shake someone’s hand. Nor can you socialize effectively if you’re always eating.

4. Follow my favorite rule from Krissie. Don’t indulge in things that you could purchase yourself. That will allow you to splurge on the really good things (like my mom’s Italian anise cookies and a friend’s pizelles) and leave the red and green M&Ms for someone who could stand to gain a few.

5. Plan ahead. Sundays are always my day to plan my meals and workouts for the week, but I’m extra methodical about this during the holidays. I sit there with the supermarket salesfliers, my schedule for the week, the class schedule for the gym and my fave cookbooks and I plot out my meals (including snacks) and workouts. Any food prep is done on Sunday BEFORE I get distracted and busy at work or with social engagements. ‘

6. Skip the baking. My mom is lucky enough that she LOSES weight in the weeks leading up to Christmas thanks to the calories she burns wrapping gifts, baking dozens and dozens (no joke) of cookies, shopping and decorating the house. I don’t bake enough to lose weight. I bake just enough to gain weight. Truth be told: I really don’t need to bake just because it’s a holiday and I definitely don’t need to bake if I want a cookie. Enough people around me are doing that, so I can take that time I would normally spend baking and go to the gym instead. This is the first Christmas I haven’t baked and while I kinda, sorta miss it, I like the other things I’m doing much more.

What techniques do you use to stop the holiday calorie insanity?

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4 responses to “Surviving the Office Holiday Party

  1. Wog, I love it! A combo walk/jog, right? I think I may start using the term (after giving you credit), ok?

    These are really good tips, especially the one about not overindulging something that you can buy or make yourself. That’s so true.

    Hope you had a good Christmas.

  2. I wish I could take credit for it, but it’s a term floating around blog-land. (And yes, walk/jog combo!)

    Happy Wogging, Bella!

  3. Britttttttttttt C

    meeeeeerry holiday season tina! i was wondering… do you own a food scale? any recommendations on one? i heard about mini scales you can carry with you… ever heard of those?

    happy new year! also i got the biggest loser simple swaps book so if don’t already own it, maybe i can swap it to you for my vegetarian cookbook haha!

  4. Yes…you need your veggie book back. I’ve already peeked through the BL book at B&N and jotted down important notes. Some of it was repetitive from other books I’ve accumulated.

    I have this Escali food scale in chrome. I love that it’s affordable, easy to use and functional. And it comes in tons of colors!

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