Set the plate
Expert advice

Staying on track during the party season

Yes, you can go to parties, enjoy life and still keep your weight loss on track, says accredited practising dietitian Kate Di Prima.

Set the plate


Often, there’s no bigger motivation for weight loss or a lifestyle change than an upcoming event such as a wedding, a holiday or a significant birthday – and sometimes a few of these Big Days seem to roll in at the same time – is it a spring thing? So how can you navigate these occasions while maintaining your weight and avoiding the dreaded regain once the dust settles and you’re back into the daily grind? Relax. We’ve got you covered.


Be prepared

On the morning of any big day, start off by exercising first thing – think a swift walk, swimming some laps or taking part in a group exercise class. Drink plenty of water through the day, particularly if you intend to consume alcohol.

Eat something filling that contains both fibre and lean protein before going out somewhere you know may not have healthy food. A salad with tinned fish, a handful of nuts and a piece of fruit, or an omelette will help to fill in the nutritional gaps and sustain your appetite so you don’t dive on the first deep-fried platter you see. If you know dinner is going to be a bigger meal, combine your breakfast and lunch into a filling brunch, then have a light snack, such as a piece of fruit, before you go.


What to do when you’re…

Invited to a barbecue or dinner party. Offer to bring a plate so you know you’ll have something healthy on hand. A fruit platter, dips with vegetable sticks, vegetable and lean meat skewers for the barbecue, a colourful salad or some dark chocolate-dipped strawberries for a light dessert will do the trick.

Having people over. Write up a menu that includes lots of fresh vegies served with lean meat, fresh fish or seafood. Limit canapés in favour of a more balanced dinner – think a slow-cooker curry, a baked potato station (with toppings such as homemade coleslaw, slow-cooked shredded lean meats and fat-free plain yoghurt), or barbecues with lean meats, salads, grilled corn on the cob and vegie skewers.

At a cocktail party. If finger foods are being served at the event, put everything you intend to eat on one plate for visual satiety. Or keep track of your intake by taking a napkin for every canapé you have, keeping an eye on your tally.


Keep tabs at the bar

Alcohol contains 29 kilojoules per gram, and it’s often served with added sugars such as soft drinks or mixers. But you don’t have to be a teetotaller. In between your drinks, sip plenty of plain or sparkling water and opt for a lower-kilojoule mixer with your drink, such as soda water and fresh lime.

If you’re having a wine or two with dinner, consider saying no to another optional extra: decline the bread basket, order your dish with extra salad or veg instead of chips or potatoes, or skip dessert.


Maintain healthy habits

While it’s great to feel comfortable in your favourite dress at a wedding or birthday party, or happy in your bathers on your beach holiday, your long-term health should always be a priority, with weight loss just a beneficial side effect. Try to improve your eating habits by thinking about what you can do in the long term to keep your weight within the healthy range.

Plan regular lifestyle check-ins with yourself to review your food intake and exercise and set some new goals if you find yourself slipping back into any old unhealthy habits.

If, despite your good intentions, there have been a few days of overindulgence, track what you eat and drink each day so you can get an overview of your current eating habits. It’ll help highlight when and where any extra foods may be creeping into your day.

And remember to keep active, too. Do some regular resistance exercise, such as a reformer Pilates class, a Pump class or some light hand-weight exercises, to help you maintain longer-lasting weight loss. Increasing your muscle mass helps to increase the metabolism, meaning you use up more kilojoules throughout the day.