This article is written by Frankie Wallace.
The pandemic has kept the entire world apart for over a year now. Social distancing guidelines, quarantines and canceled events have left everyone starving for social interactions.
Why the desperate need to see and interact with others? Because humans are social creatures — especially when it comes to bonding as a group over some delectable food. It’s a fact that anyone living with a chronic illness already knew far before a pandemic tore the world apart.
Now that restrictions are starting to lift and group events are coming back into focus, it’s leaving many with the age-old question: how can you attend a party — especially one laden with deliciously tempting junk food — while still sticking to your healthy living goals? Here are a few tips to help you find an answer uniquely suited to your own situation as you begin to venture out and attend events once again.
The first rule of attending parties with a health restriction is to plan ahead. The last thing that you want to do is spend days curled up on the couch in pain because you didn’t think things through and thoughtlessly ate something that inflamed your Crohn’s symptoms or something similar. A few recommendations for ways that you can prepare beforehand include:
- Eating first: This may seem counterintuitive if you’re heading to a party, but we’re not talking about gorging here. Eating a modest, healthy meal beforehand can take the edge off of your hunger and make it easier to make wise choices while you’re out.
- Ditch unnecessary ingredients: Things like alcohol and refined sugars can wreak havoc on your body. They are also extremely popular at parties. Do your best to automatically rule out party foods with these stronger ingredients.
- Stick to your schedule: From sleep to eating to meds, if you’re on a schedule, don’t use a party as an excuse to abandon it. Instead, consider beforehand how you can stick to your currently scheduled activities. Set reminders in your phone, show up at the right time, and leave when you should, as well.
The simple act of planning ahead can empower your party adventures. It allows you to tap into the fun without paying for it later.
Know Your Limitations
This may sound obvious. After all, if you’re living with a chronic health condition, you’re likely very well acquainted with the limitations that it presents. However, it’s easy to lose track of these restrictions when you’re at a party.
With that said, consider how your limitations can impact your time at each particular party. If you’re headed to a Super Bowl shindig, do you need to worry about sensory overload? If you’re attending a barbeque, will eating red meat set off your arthritis? Reviewing your limitations and considering how they could be challenged at each event is an important part of incorporating parties into your regular schedule.
Be Strategic with Your Decisions
No matter how well you prepare, there will come a time when you’ll be at the party, making decisions on the fly. Once you have food choices and activities presented to you, it’s critical that you slow down and think each decision through.
For example, it might not always be food that is tempting. If you’re at a party where skin products are being used, such as a face mask or a cream, think through if you have a history of sensitive skin. Skin allergies can be uncomfortable (or sometimes, outright dangerous), and it’s important to be able to identify what could cause an allergy to flare up while at a party.
When it comes to foods, you can do more than simply avoid allergic reactions. Try to look for protein- and fiber-rich foods like eggs, chicken, and veggies. These are good for your digestion and can help to control your hunger.
Also, keep that all-important rule of portion control in mind. If your host offers you something that you can eat, don’t use it as an excuse to binge. Instead, take a modest helping. If it isn’t enough, you can always go up for seconds if you’re feeling up for it.
Remember to Focus on Interactions
Finally, make a mental effort to prioritize why you’re at each party. You can always eat, whether you’re with someone or not. Sure, food is a wonderful bonding experience, but at the end of the day, it’s merely a facilitator.
You’re really at each and every party for the human interaction aspect of the gathering. As such, make sure to keep your priorities in order. Don’t opt for harmful or excessive food choices. Instead, treat the food as a side effect of your desire to see and talk with others.
Incorporating Parties into Your Healthy Living
When living with a chronic illness, it’s very important that you stick to your lifestyle. Nevertheless, parties don’t have to set back your healthy living goals. If you can prepare beforehand, make wise decisions while at each event, and keep your priorities straight, you can absolutely use parties as a positive influence in your life.
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