3 Ways Holiday Parties Sabotage Diet

December is the month for impromptu celebrations, potlucks and the back-to-back parties as the holidays and New Year’s collide.  May these tips help you jangle your way through the holiday season without any excess jingle come January.


1. The greater the variety, the more we eat.  Here’s a couple of excerpts from Brian Wansink’s research discussed in his book “Mindless Eating”:

  • Jelly Bean Study: Half of all movie goers were offered 6 different flavored jelly beans, divided into 6 separate containers the other half were offered the same 6 colors but mixed together in a large bowl.  Those who ate from the disorganized assortment ate twice as much.
  • M&M Study: A person offered 10 colors of M&Ms will eat 43 more M&Ms on average than their friend who is only offered 7 colors.  (Don’t they know they all taste the same?)

One of the reasons that cause you to eat more than you should is because your sensories become over stimulated.  When you eat just one or a few foods, it becomes easier to stop because your taste buds tire and if you are attune to your stomach’s signals, you become full.  When you eat a bunch of different colors, flavors and food items at the same time, your awareness of your fullness gets buried beneath all of the exciting messages being sent to your brain. Case in Point:  You have just finished a wonderful meal, are fully satisfied, but when the waitress brings around the dessert tray, your vision, taste and smell override your stomach’s desire to say no.

2. We eat more calories in a group because we are less conscious of what we are putting in our mouth.  The same thing happeds sitting in front of the computer, TV or while driving. Compound that with a little holiday cheer (insert wine glass) and your sense of discretion becomes quite dull. Research shows a 20% increase in calories when alcohol is added to the mix.

3. People who regularly exercise work out the least in the month of December.  Yet we know exercise helps us burn off the extra calories and is a great holiday stress reliever.


  • Remember that the mere variety of offerings and group setting may trip you into eating more than you should.
  • Have a healthy, light snack before heading out to the party to take the edge of your hunger.  Saving your calories for the party usually backfires as you arrive ravenously hungry. Try a piece of fruit, low-fat yogurt, string cheese or cup of popcorn.
  • Set a drink limit and stay away from creamy concoctions such as regular eggnog, 225 calories per cup and Bailey’s, 354 calories for a small, 3 ounce serving.  Water down your liquid calories literally by drinking a cup of water in between refills and drink responsibly.  Both your will power and your ability to interpret feelings of hunger and fullness signals will fade as alcohol short circuits the message.
  • Survey the entire landscape before you pick from the sweet and appetizer table. Limit your selections to the top few.
  • Eat slowly and really enjoy the special foods that (thankfully) aren’t tempting you on a nightly basis.
  • Sip a glass of water between cocktails to stay hydrated and reduce the impact that alcohol has on your appetite, calorie intake and will power.
  • Reset and Start OverMove away from the food table and enjoy the music and time with friends.   Lingering at the table can be a visual trigger that convinces you to eat even though you are no longer hungry.
  • Press the reset button the next day.  Get at least 30 minutes of exercise, drink plenty of water and lighten up your meals.

IMG_1328Enjoy the party.  Need an appetizer?  Check out one of my favorites.

Categories: Nutrition & Wellness

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3 replies

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