6 ways around holiday party health shaming

You’re hosting guests or you are a guest. It’s bound to happen over the holidays. You’re served a cocktail, encouraged to try someone’s new dip, or told to “live a little.”

It’s an all too true scenario with increased functions during the holidays. Even daily routines can be hard to keep on track. If you’re feeling like a salmon swimming upstream, consider the following.

Invites go out at the office for the holiday party. Your face falls when you read the details. You’re forfeiting your workout and you’re going to a restaurant where nothing on the menu fits the way you’ve been eating. OK you compromise, one missed workout this week is not a big deal. You can shift it to tomorrow and if not, you’ve been doing great.

At the party however — politely passing on the cream cheese heavy dips and bread crumb covered casseroles you know will sabotage the last few weeks of diligently dumping sugar and starch — you’re under attack. “You deserve to live a little,” your co-worker tells you. “You’ll work it off tomorrow,” says another.

As if change wasn’t hard enough. Temptation is everywhere all the time. As in vogue as active wear is… and as abundant as the health risks are, there still are more people not engaging in healthy habits. Those of us who do are outnumbered. So how do you handle the saboteurs?

  1. Mentally prepare. Know resistance is coming. It may be threatening to someone that you’re changing and perhaps leaving her behind. Others may be defensive, imagining — however unreasonable — that you’re judging their behavior.
  1. Invite others to join you. Rehearse this if it’s still new to you. Treat your exercise ritual as an appointment. If you have house guests over the holidays, or are a house guest yourself, let others in the house know that you will be going for a walk (or insert your activity) in the morning. Would anyone else like to join you?
  1. Plan ahead. Food sensitivity is a real “thing” today. If you’re turning down the fresh-baked wheat bread at breakfast it might mortify the host who remembered you once loved it. Forewarn a host that though she needn’t go to any extra trouble that there are a few things you have to avoid and you’ll bring something with you — like this delicious dairy-free dip.
  1. Use humor. There comes that moment at the end of a meal. “Would you be interested in dessert?” “Yes, we’re very interested but we’re not going to have some.” Who doesn’t want dessert? You answering first can break the ice and avoid a negative comment.
  1. Rehearse your lines. “Thank you, but that doesn’t agree with me.”
  1. Three bite rule. If you want it, that changes things. Go for three polite bites and leave deprivation behind you. You came, you tasted, and you left without going crazy. Those will be your morning-after thoughts. No one ever died, or gained five pounds from three bites (on a small fork).

Ironically, with cigarettes we’ve swung the other way. At one point it would have been odd to turn down a smoke. Now, you don’t expect someone to light up in your home without asking. Food and exercise acceptance still lags behind.

We’re still in a culture though where if you suddenly start declining a cocktail or saying no to dessert eyebrows go up. If you hit the gym regularly, you’re a health nut. You’re “so good” or even “no fun.” Ask about the non-gluten label on the menu items and someone may think you’re on a fad diet.

At the Friday After Class (FAC) events in college, I didn’t drink. Thirty-some years ago that was abnormal and since most FACs occurred at a bar it was just easier to say I was diabetic. Peer pressure and questions stopped immediately! In reality, I just chose to abstain, but for the first time in my life I was a minority.

You may have to concede that you’re the salmon swimming upstream for now. Do what Dory does, and just keep swimming. The holidays can be stressful enough. Compromise on things that don’t matter; your health is not one. I wouldn’t recommend telling someone you’re pre-diabetic or have thyroid disease to make her feel more comfortable about your food choices but it’s always an option.

Eventually, energy, radiance and a trimmer waist may be contagious for your friends. For now, you’re the one who needs to sleep at night and be at peace about defending herself. Be your own hero.

Debra Atkinson

By Debra Atkinson

Debra Atkinson Is the founder of the Flipping 50 movement and host of the Flipping 50 podcast and TV show available on your iphone, ipad, and Apple TV. She is the author of four books including You Still Got It, Girl! The After 50 Fitness Formula For Women and Navigating Fitness After 50: Your GPS For Choosing Programs and Professionals You Can Trust.

Debra is a contributing blogger on the Huffington Post, ShareCare, Prime Woman, and Livingbetter50. She provides solutions for women approaching 50 or who have already turned the corner on what to eat, how to move, and the mindset for lifestyle change with hormone balance that will make the next years as the best years. Find her resources here.