Heading into the holiday season, with its big buffet dinners and lengthy mingling sessions, can be intimidating—especially if you’re worried about what others will say when you turn down a calorie-laden appetizer or walk around with an empty glass. That’s why being able to anticipate your actions and responses is key. “You know when those food-heavy, family-focussed holidays are coming,” says Steven Ledbetter, an expert on behavior change and co-founder of Habitry. “Which means you can plan ahead, and develop a strategy to not only get through them, but also stay on top of your health and fitness goals.”
The best way to come up with that plan: “Have a practice Thanksgiving!” says Ledbetter. “Invite your family and friends over for a potluck meal and practice how you will respond when faced with difficult choices,” he says. Here’s what you’ll learn when you get everyone together before the festivities really begin.
Turning Down Dessert Isn’t So Hard
Often, social pressures steer you toward tasting a certain dish or taking a second helping. But it’s possible to politely turn down a scoop of candied yams or a slice of caramel cake without hurting anyone’s feelings. “When you practice eating together, you can see it’s not so hard to make good choices,” says Ledbetter. Fill up on the healthy options and then offer a simple, “That looks delicious, but I’m already stuffed,” for everything else.
You Can Participate Without Food (or Alcohol)
Standing around at a party with empty hands, or sitting at the table with an empty glass or plate, can feel uncomfortable—especially when others keep lifting their cups to toast the season. But you don’t have to fill the void with a fistful of food or another beer. “Practice what you’ll say or do when you’ve finished eating and drinking,” says Ledbetter. “How will you respond when someone offers you another cocktail, or when you find yourself standing next to the dessert tray without someone to talk to—practice!” It’s easier than you might realize to top off your water glass and find a fun conversation to join.
You’re Not the Only One Trying to Make Healthy Choices
When you invite everyone over for a practice Thanksgiving, let them know why you’re doing it. “Family obligations don’t have to be pitfalls,” says Ledbetter. “Chances are there are several people in your life who share your goals, and practicing how to be healthy together can take the guilt out of the holidays.” When you realize the people you practice with are the same people you actually party with, it will be that much easier for all of you to make healthy decisions.