So, a few years ago, I wrote one of my favorite posts ever, where I joked about holiday dinners and trying to be a better eater at these giant smorgasbords of food.
I mean, there are people who train all year just so that they can scarf down a little bit of everything at Thanksgiving. And, trust me, I’m not hating. I wish I could get on your level.
But, until that day comes, I’ll be out here. With my broccoli… and my tears as I stare at the sweet potato pie lovingly.
Just kidding! You’d better get to that pie before I do, though.
Since my last post about the holiday weight gain/New Year’s Resolution cycle, I’ve become a bit wiser about dining out with friends and family. I’m used to people asking me questions about what I eat and why I “chose [this] instead of [that],” or trying to make me eat more than I want. I’m not here for these people, but I’m here for you.
If you’re looking for a smarter system for making it through the holiday season, I think I can offer you a bit of support. Here’s a few tips to help you ease up on the weight gain, and still have an enjoyable few weeks of good food and holiday cheer:
1) We do this guilt-free. And I do mean guilt-free. This is the time of year when people – well, at least, me – bring out the skills. A lot of these gatherings are with great people we truly adore but don’t get to see very often, and we come together over good wine, good eggnog (I’m personally focused on the eggnog), good meals, great desserts, and amazing company. Don’t feel guilty about partaking in it. It’s important to be mindful, but it’s even more important to trust yourself. The food is good, the company is amazing, and you’re mindfully tasting Mom’s Fried Chicken That’s So Good You’ve Almost Slapped Yourself… the chicken you haven’t had since last Thanksgiving? There’s no reason to feel bad. You’re not overdoing it – you’re enjoying it and being mindful of not stuffing yourself. There’s no reason to let guilt enter the equation.
That being said…
2) Eat before you go. Not every meal, outing, or gathering is going to have good food worthy of indulging, and you know it. And, if you have low expectations of what’s going to be offered at the next outing? Eat in advance. A quick plate of quality protein and lightly cooked vegetables will fill you up enough that you won’t overindulge on nonsense – you’ll have enough space to eat a little of the good stuff and be full enough to say no when you truly feel like it’s time to push away from the table.
3) No means no, and I wish you’d mind your own plate: This is also the time of year that differing perspectives converge and battle it out. If you’re being more mindful of how much you eat at each affair, you’re kind of throwing a wrench in the plans of people who use this time of year to go nuts. So, when someone asks you if you want more, and you know you weren’t even thinking about it… don’t even consider it. Be swift with your “no.” Not “maybe later,” not “Ehh,” just “no.” And practice your “no.”
Time and time again, research has proven that the mere thought of “more food” can make you hungry for “more food” regardless of how much you’ve already eaten, especially if you’re an emotional eater. You have to be swift about your “no,” and your “no” has to mean business when you say it.
I’m also of the mind that people who insist upon pushing food on you – especially when they know you’re trying to change your eating habits – are violating your boundaries on purpose, because of reasons that have nothing to do with you. Don’t let outside pressure – yes, this is that high school peer pressure all over again – push you to do something you don’t want to do. If your first instinct was to say no, go with that and stick to it.
4) Choosy eater, girl I’m so proud of you…. I know you chose veggiiiiiiies, baby baby….uhh, I digress. When you build your plate, think protein first. Then veggies. Then the other stuff. Get a large enough portion of protein – for me, a third of my plate is devoted to protein – and another third devoted to veggies that are as close to their natural state as possible. Roasted, raw, whatever – not candied, not braised (otherwise known as boiled all the way down), and not fried.
This isn’t about nutrition – and, in fact, your grandmom’s collard greens (with the fresh cornbread to sop up the pot liquor? yes!) are probably the healthiest thing you could eat. However, when it comes to being filling, the fiber in the veggies is weakened by the higher temperatures, and so is its ability to fill you up. So, when you consider your veggie portion of your plate, the candied/fried/laid-to-the-side veggies wouldn’t go here.
You do have one final third of your plate that you can devote to whatever you truly love, miss, and don’t otherwise get to enjoy the rest of the year.
5) Eat it slowly, mindfully, and appreciate it. (Publicly registering my childishness.) You’ve decided to get that sweet. So, get it. But savor it. Enjoy every bite. The textures, the flavors, the individual spices on your tongue, the tangy taste, the creaminess…. look for it. Discover it. That is how you make it worth it. Don’t just scarf it down – if you’re hungry enough to still be scarfing food down, eat a plate of quality protein and veggies first. Let that sweet top off your meal, not the thing that fills you up.
6) Slow down. Since it takes approximately 20 minutes for the stomach to signal to the brain that you are full, do what you can to eat slowly. Sip your water in between bites, converse with your family and friends – chat them up, crack jokes, talk about your lives together. Share more than the food. Not only will you slowly become more of a social butterfly, but you’ll naturally avoid feeling deprived and become fuller faster. The time will breeze by, and you’ll feel great about the entire affair, and not just the food.
7) Go easy on the drank. Outside of the fact that there are mad calories in alcoholic drinks, being intoxicated impedes your ability to detect when you’re full. You’ll find yourself waking up the next morning with a headache and a stomach ache. It’s 2014, almost 2015. We’re not here for that.
8) Be forgiving. If you’re new to this, and you “slip up” – however you define that for yourself – guess what? The world will keep spinning, and you will have a new opportunity to think about how you react in these situations. Mistakes are opportunities for reflection, not for shaming yourself. Hindsight is 20/20, and this is to your advantage – if you misstep, ask yourself “where did I go wrong? How could I have handled this differently? What’s the best way for me to handle this in the future?” You have to find ways to manage social situations with food that will make it easier for you to sleep at night, metaphorically speaking. But, by no means should you stress over it or shame yourself. You deserve better than that.
9) Keep a packed social calendar….full of training and events. Races, races, races! Spartan races, Color Runs, Turkey Trots, Tough Mudders….keep a packed schedule full of classes, events, and training dates. Just like you hit the party scene, hit the training scene, too.
10) This tenth tip is the most important: No one needs commentary on their plate in relation to their fitness goals. I’ve always despised people who insist on playing the role of “food authority,” standing over people and telling them what should be on their plates. You have no idea how someone else’s plate plays into their fitness goals, and I find it manipulative to try to shame someone into doing what you think is best for them. If you don’t have the kind of relationship with someone where they would take your kind words in the spirit you intended, and unless you are asked, you should keep your thoughts to yourself.
I answer to no one but my elliptical and my squat rack about my eating habits, and as I explore my personal relationship with eggnog, I don’t need telling me about how bad it is for me. Neither does anyone else. No one will ever deny you of your right to remain silent. Just sayin’.
What’d I miss?