Doesn’t it seem like there’s always a party happening, while there is still cake left over from the party that just happened? Do you feel like there’s constantly someone handing you drinks and desserts, acting like you’ll spoil the fun if you don’t partake? Has the Pinterest era driven us to too many celebrations and overly-decadent desserts?
It’s something that most people probably don’t think about, but constant sugar-laden parties and gatherings are especially vexing if you’re trying to lose weight or stick to healthy habits. There’s something about the way humans treat food that makes people want others to join them in their indulgences. In some ways, it’s similar to the way people don’t like to drink alone. If you’re eating cake, candy, and alcohol with others, then it’s a party and not an excuse, right!? And how about just a slice of cake? Surely one can’t hurt, can it?
Well, there are a few problems just a cupcake or cookie or slice of pizza during a special occasion. First, the portions are usually completely out of control. One piece of cake tends to be a giant cube instead of a small square. Next, it’s really easy to fall off the wagon as soon as you eat something non-nutritious and decide that you’re just going to take a “cheat day” and go back to your healthy habits tomorrow. For some people, one junk food meal can be enjoyed very rarely and then the person gets back on track. For most people, it doesn’t end after that first treat. A single over-indulgent snack or party meal can turn into another and then a full day and weekend and then, “I’ll go back to eating healthy Monday.” By Monday, you’ll feel terrible from all the nutritiously-empty fat and sugar, lack of motivation to exercise, and so on.
Another problem with having unnecessarily junky celebrations is that it links happiness with unhealthy food in your brain. Those of us who grew up with parents who celebrated events with lots of sugar and non-nutritious foods can have a really hard time separating those foods from happiness as we get older. It can happen to adults, too, even if you’re used to a healthier lifestyle. When you’re around people who use sweets to treat everything from a bad day to a birthday, junk food becomes strongly linked with emotions, both positive and negative.
The “I deserve it” attitude is problematic for some people, too. Just as it is hard to separate food from emotions, it can be difficult to get over the idea that being “good” or successful means that you’re entitled to junk food. For instance, I’ve seen people start on a healthy, motivated path of plant-based eating, exercise, and stress management, just to sabotage themselves later because they said, “I’ve been good!” and celebrated with an unhealthy meal that stirred positive emotions in them and simultaneously made them feel guilty about not showing love for the health of their body.
SO! Let’s talk about how to handle some of these special occasion pitfalls. Trust me: if you’re prepared with the right tools in your healthy toolbox, you don’t have to worry one bit about parties and celebrations, no matter how often they arise.
First, never skip your healthy meals. Is it possible to turn down a piece of cake when you’ve skipped lunch? Sure, but it’s not easy! Making sure you’re full of your Plant-Fire foods means that it will be much easier to turn down food that you don’t actually want, and easier to have just a small portion of a treat if you decide that you want it.
Next, become a master of the “no, thank you.” This skill is something that all sorts of people have to learn. From recovering alcoholics to pregnant women to vegans to those with celiac disease—there are a number of reasons that someone will turn down food or drink. It takes some effort to do it with grace, but just be polite, and change the subject if you have to! Some women I know have even said they’ll show up a few minutes late, or offer to cut the cake so no one bothers them. It’s a little silly, but if you really don’t want to eat a bunch of butter and sugar, it works!
If you have time, offer to bring your own party treats. It can be a great way to not only start conversations with your friends, but also to be sure that treats are available that will make you (and everyone else!) feel great and energized later instead of sleepy and bloated.
Finally, pick other ways to celebrate. Yes, it’s common for our species to celebrate around food and drink, but if it’s your party, then you can party however you want to! Invite your friends to some group yoga, a walking tour, or shots at a juice bar. It will be way more fun and engaging than cake and soda!
Make sure you take the opportunity of celebrating to pause and show your gratitude for your blessings and opportunities, as well as the wonderful people around you. Celebrations shouldn’t be a struggle. The focus should be love (and self love!), appreciation, and joy for whatever the occasion.
Have fun and enjoy!