Holiday Diet Tips: Don't Fear the Holiday Weight Gain
It's that time of the year again. Thanksgiving first, then Christmas Eve and Christmas Dinner, new Years for all the drinkers out there, and soon approaching is Valentines Day. What does this entail? Food, Drinks, Candy, Cookies, and all the things we seem to avoid because we try to isolate our food sources and enhance our bodies with better food sources while enjoying some moderation (Depending on your overall goal at the given time period and if you are preparing for a contest/photo shoot of some sort).
So what can we do with all of these holidays approaching and how can we survive the nasty fears of those holiday parties while attending them and trying to salvage our physique at the same time? After reading this article and putting together the big picture over what a single meal or a day or two can do, you will be sleeping a lot deeper and not stressing over what one meal may mean in the grand scheme of things when looking at the weekly or monthly progress you are trying to attain. I will shed light on some tips that have made me realize that enjoying social outings, and parties should not be negated regardless of the situation.
There are several things we should put into context for the day when preparing for a meal out or that may deviate from your diet program given you have no Idea what will be served at this party and what it may do to your overall diet for the day; so how can we go about planning for this?
The first tip I would suggest is that you know that you are going to attend a party or meal where you have no idea what is going to be served therefore the majority of the time it will be appetizers, drinks, or food that is not always low in fat or low in carbs but usually a mixture of both of those in very high quantities with minimal protein. Lets think about Chips, Cheese, Crackers, Full-Fat Dressings for salad, Meatballs made of 80/20 meat, Dark meat which is a lot higher in fat, lots of pasta, Potatoes covered or cooked in butter and loaded with gravy, sweet potatoes with tons of sugar and marshmallows, and the list could go on and on depending on the holiday and what is being served. This is not even counting what is served after the main entrée with cookies, cakes, pies and the things that can rack up thousands of calories in a heartbeat.
Don’t stress, so many people think about it all day long about “What am I going to do? I am attending this party and its not going to have chicken, lean beef, broccoli, rice, or my normal diet foods that I always eat. This is a sign that your thought process is not healthy for one, and two it shows over complication. The majority of people who are stressing over this meal are ones who are just trying to eat a better diet and workout to achieve a better physique because it is a hobby they enjoy. What the individual does not factor in here is the big picture. You are only attending a holiday dinner or party a few times a year. Think about that, if you are invited to 5 separate parties over the year there are 360 other days where you can perfect your diet or get that single meal nailed down that you want to. So can you really tell me that 5 meals eaten that break your diet plan out of the countless others you may eat in a day or week are going to kill your progress or your physique? It wont happen. Most people want to be very narrow minded regarding the situation and a meal and work themselves up way more than they need to. Go to the party, eat like you normally would and eyeball decent portions: have a bite of this, grab some of that entrée, grab a small appetizer, and have a slice of cake, and just move on. Don’t keep going up for seconds and thirds because that second and thirds wont taste any better than the first plate you had.
The term “Law of Diminishing returns” comes into play here regarding that the satisfaction of the second and thirds you go up for will not satisfy your cravings as much as that first plate, so in essence what is the purpose of going up so many times? Not much, nobody else is going to suffer or complain to see you unload at the dinner table, but in the end it will only set you back and make you feel guilty if you are trying to avoid the holiday blues of overeating.
Speaking of overeating, that leads me to tip number two, which is embracing your need to feel like you have to feast at this meal. While looking at the dinner table and seeing all of the food being served, think to yourself "what do I really want?" While its great to see four to five different appetizers, six to seven different small dishes for entrées, and then the dessert table, think to your-self lets just have a small portion of what we want and move on. My advice to big outings like this is just like what I tell my clients or individuals that need diet help on how to setup for a cheat meal. I suggest splitting an appetizer with a friend/family member. For instance you go to a party with a girlfriend or a family member and you want to split two different things you could sample off each others plate some crackers/cheese, and then try a few bites of a dip and chips and then move onto the entrée. The entrée I let the individual have to themselves, if you want a prime rib steak by all means enjoy it! Pork chops, have a few pieces and move on. If it's spaghetti and meatballs have a portion of pasta and grab a few meatballs and call it that etc. Next up is dessert. This is where some people have bigger mouths than eyes. You cut yourself a small slice of cake and say to your self “that’s it” but is that really what happens? For some yes, for others that may not be the case. They devour that cake in a few bites, and then start eyeing the cookies and candy lying around the table as well and think “well that felt like nothing lets try something else” Not so fast. Limit yourself, be wise in your decisions, and think to yourself do I really need to continue going on and on with all the different things on the table? Portions are key here. If you are going to have a very small slice of cake then having a cookie on the side or splitting a cookie and candy with others will help you satisfy your cravings while holding back and saving calories on eating the entire amount. This is generally the hardest part for the individual because like I stated, their mouths and eyes are bigger than their appetite. Desserts are usually very light on the stomach compared to the entrée but generally do the most damage calorie wise. Be wise and think about what your doing before you throw it down your throat. A Small entrée split someone, a dessert or few desserts split and an entrée to your self and call it a party and back on the grind the next day!
The guilt of overeating as explained above can really lead to mind games for the individual, so how can we overcome this? Well, as explained above you can go in with a game plan which I did outline, but as stated most people may want to cut back during the day which is what I get into on my next upcoming tip, there may be some things to consider that can be beneficial for some but can backfire on others.
The third tip is planning ahead, you know the bulk of your calories will be eaten in this meal because your portions will have to be cut back due to the caloric intake of what may be served (but you never know what may be there that could not kill your diet). Earlier in the day try to stick to protein rich meals and cut back on your carbohydrates and fat to help balance the surplus of the day towards this later meal. For example, instead of eating a lot of carbs for breakfast, and lunch, try to skimp on them due to the amount that will be eaten later in the day, this way at the end of the 24 hour period you will try to maintain your total intake but factoring the majority of your fat/carbohydrate intake towards that later meal. While it may not be ideal to do this daily, it is a one-time occasion or something that happens say 4-5-6 times a year out of the 360+ days where you can factor the majority of your intake to your desire.
For some this works out well, but for others it hurts them. They skimp on calories and they start feeling very hungry because of what they are doing and its against their nature and their feeding pattern. Therefore they go into the party with a huge appetite and end up finding it impossible to resist all of the different offerings, and in large portions. Under eating can be a beneficial tool for those who have a stronger psychological response to controlling their appetite, but for some it can be an absolute disaster. There are a few things that could help them control their appetite that I have found worked for me and for many others. The first would be chewing sugar free gum. While this may have a few trace carbohydrates per stick it could really help mimic the eating between meals to help curb their appetite and move onto the next meal without thinking about food. After consuming the major meal at the party, the individual would pop a few pieces of gum to continue feeling like they are eating food but only wasting a 30-50 calories depending on how many pieces you chew on to savor flavor and pass on eating more than you need to before feeling guilty later on for going overboard.
Gum may work for some, but others are just not gum chewers so my other suggestion would be try a few diet sodas during the day (2-3 perhaps) the carbonation from the diet soda will settle a bit heavy in the stomach (to some not to all) and may help kill cravings. I know for myself when I do have a diet soda it does settle a bit heavy and can help kill cravings or food pains.
Last but not least, some people don’t have an issue with the food, but do themselves in with the alcoholic beverages. Now do not get me wrong, moderation is the key to success, but lets remind ourselves of the law of diminishing returns. Having one drink, you get the satisfaction of the taste as it hits your taste buds, and you remember what it does taste like to have your favorite drink. Now the second time you have that drink the same taste hits your mouth, is it as satisfying as the first one you had? Not as much... why is this? Because of the law of diminishing returns, you felt the satisfaction the first time you had it so the second time will not be as beneficial, and the desire to continue to drink may slowly lower as you continue to pound down beverages. Again think to yourself here as you continue to have a few drinks how much is actually beneficial and what should I do to control myself? Have a drink and alternate with a water to also help quench your thirst and cut back on having consecutive drinks and added calories.
Overall I hope you can take away a few key points from this article, and the biggest one being do not fear holiday parties and think that touching "party foods" will destroy your progress. If you can go into the party or meal with a plan and execute it kudos to you, but if you fail then realize it was a mistake and you will live and learn from of it.