Plan for success at your next social gathering

When your upcoming calendar includes social events such as family reunions, work potlucks or holiday gatherings, don't worry about falling off the healthy habit wagon. Read these healthy tips to help you stick to your health goals.

By Melissa D. Mapes

Most people are familiar with what they need to do to make healthy lifestyle changes stick: Think about what you really want, set specific goals, find support and accountability, and put a plan in place. But then a high school reunion or a family cookout comes up, and everything you've put into practice the months prior seems to fall apart. You might feel like all of your previous efforts have been ruined and you have to start over. But do you?

An increasingly popular topic among behavior change specialists and psychologists is self-regulation: the ability to manage emotions and impulses — in other words, to think before you react. For instance, to prevent overeating at your next social gathering, you could plan to socialize with people away from the food table.

Or if you have an obligation that conflicts with your favorite exercise class, restructure your day so that you can still fit in a workout. Imagining yourself behaving differently and having that specific plan in place before the event is a critical part of the process.

Want to leave your next gathering feeling proud of your choices? Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Pick one behavior you'd like to change. You'll have greater success if you focus on one thing at a time. For example, if you're someone who tends to drink too many "liquid calories," plan to enjoy one alcoholic or non-alcoholic cocktail. Then switch to club soda with lime.
  • Be a detective, not a critic. After the party or event, reflect back on the situation in more detail by curiously asking yourself how you would have approached the situation in the past and what successes have you had in this situation. Think about any habits or stumbling blocks that may have gotten in your way, and what you could see yourself doing differently.
  • Anticipate future hurdles. Sometimes the best-laid plans don't work. Identify your backup plan in case you need it. For instance, if you see that it might rain during your usual evening walk in the neighborhood, look for ways to be active earlier in the day.
  • Don't worry about being perfect, just aim to do better. Successful behavior change takes time, patience and practice. Every attempt is a learning opportunity.

Forward thinking is the springboard for success. Anticipating challenges ahead of time and seeing yourself follow through with your plan can lead to greater confidence in your ability to sustain healthy choices.

Dec. 10, 2016 See more In-depth

See also

  1. 3 ways to get closer to achieving your goals
  2. Make healthy habits stick
  3. 5 do's and don'ts for staying motivated
  4. 5 ways to avoid secondhand smoke
  5. 7 signs and symptoms not to ignore
  6. Energy management
  7. Animal bites: Do you need a tetanus shot?
  8. Are you doing everything you can to stay healthy?
  9. Belching, intestinal gas, gas pains and bloating
  10. Bone health tips
  11. Cancer-prevention strategies
  12. Cellphones and cancer
  13. Colon cancer screening
  14. Plastic surgery
  15. Do adults need shots?
  16. Don't save leftover pain pills
  17. Exercise: Check with your doctor
  18. Find meaning in the small things
  19. Flu Shot Prevents Heart Attack
  20. Functional fitness training
  21. Overcome obstacles to your goals
  22. Healthy holiday habits: How to get back on track
  23. Hand drying
  24. Hand-washing tips
  25. Healthy habits that boost happiness
  26. Healthy heart for life: Avoiding heart disease
  27. Heart attack prevention: Should I avoid secondhand smoke?
  28. Home Health Hazards
  29. Brown fat
  30. How social support spurs you
  31. Break the busy cycle
  32. How well do you wash your hands?
  33. Injury Season for Snow Blowers
  34. Investing in yourself
  35. Is antibacterial soap a do or a don't?
  36. Keep the focus on your long-term vision
  37. Liposuction alternatives
  38. Lost in Space
  39. Making progress towards your goals
  40. Mammogram guidelines: What are they?
  41. Make over your mindset to make time for your health
  42. Measles vaccine: Can I get the measles if I've already been vaccinated?
  43. Medical family tree
  44. Infographic: Organ Donation Donate Life
  45. Infographic: Paired Donation Chain
  46. Personal health records
  47. Personalize your wellness journey
  48. Posture: Align yourself for good health
  49. Posture check: Do you stand up straight?
  50. Reach your goals, track your habits
  51. New Year's resolutions
  52. Secondhand smoke
  53. Creating a wellness vision
  54. Sitting risks: How harmful is too much sitting?
  55. Good posture tips
  56. Back exercises
  57. Proper lifting techniques
  58. Stop multitasking and focus
  59. Thirdhand smoke: What are the dangers?
  60. Want good health? Build a solid base
  61. The benefits of gratitude
  62. Travel Safety
  63. Triclosan
  64. Using if-then statements
  65. Vaccines for adults
  66. What are superbugs?
  67. What are superbugs and how can I protect myself from infection?
  68. Air purifiers and smoke