Wednesday, December 21, 2011
With the holiday season in full swing, last week was a crazy one for me. For a lot of us here, social events and the food and drinks that go along with them pose major challenges. We have parties and events all year long, but rarely are so many gatherings condensed into one month as they are in December. On one of my SparkTeams, a question was posted in our forum seeking tips on how to handle all of these gatherings. As I typed my response, the list of my methods grew a lot longer than I anticipated, so I thought I would share my tips here as well.
I'm certainly no expert, but I had five events last week, consumed a half pound of peppermint bark and still managed to lose 2 pounds, so there must be something to this strategy. Here are my party suggestions:
1) Eat less, earlier in the day. Don't starve yourself or it will backfire, but cut back a bit depending on how much you plan to consume that evening.
2) Do not skip any meals; just make your meals smaller earlier in the day (assuming it's an evening event).
3) Exercise more, preferably shortly before the event/party. I try to work out, shower and then head to the party/event. I'm more mindful of my goals during the party if I can still feel that I worked out earlier. Plus, it may give you a little "glow" while you are socializing.
4) Eat something immediately before the event that will fill you up. I either eat this right before I walk out the door or on the way to the party. A Slim Fast Meal Bar, chicken breast or other low-calorie nutrient-dense snack works great.
5) Bring something healthy to share. If you are bringing something to share, be sure to bring something really nutritious and low in calories. There will be plenty of high-calorie, nutrient-free options (you don't need to add more).
6) Arrive late. I can never seem to leave a party early, so this last week I've been trying to arrive late instead. This isn't always an option. But, when it is, it helps on two fronts a) as a whole you have less exposure to all of the food/drink temptations and b) the least healthful foods will probably be picked over. Don't worry; the veggie tray is almost always the last to go.
7) Skip the food if it's a short event. If your get together is only an hour or two, you may be able to skip eating there altogether. I had one event last week that was a graduation ceremony. There was cake and punch, but the event was short enough that I was able to go without. Sometimes, once you start, it is hard to stop. I had my snack before I left for the ceremony and ate something else when I got back home.
8) Track your food. Just because there's a party doesn't mean you need to throw everything out the window. Since I have a phone with the SparkPeople app on it, I usually track as I go. If you can't do that (sometimes it isn't convenient even with a smartphone), just jot down what you eat on a piece of paper. The problem with the paper method is that you may not realize you've eaten a half pound of peppermint bark until it is already too late. Still, the act of writing it down will slow your pace and keep your eyes on the prize.
9) Veggies. Measure them. Bring them. Eat them. This is super important because there's always the chance that there will be absolutely nothing to snack on that fits into your plan. Bring some veggies (pre-measured baggies or containers if you are not at your own house). Women will probably find this easier to do than men because they have purses. I use one of those insulated reusable bags. I find a spot for it when I get to the event and fill my plate as often as necessary. Most people won't notice, and those that do really won't care. It's important to have some pre-cut veggies available at your own house as well. Have enough for your guests, but also have a reserve for yourself if you end up getting hungry later on.
10) Limit your alcohol consumption. Obviously, there are many reasons to do this. I originally thought that the main reason would be calories, but in hindsight it is even more important so that you don't lose sight of your goals and keep your food consumption in check. It's a lot easier to go overboard when you are under the influence. And, the alcohol hits you harder when you are eating less. Bring your own diet soda if that will help. Otherwise, don't be afraid to ask the host for some water.
11) Find your "golden" snack. It's the holidays, time to be merry. But, rather than mindlessly eating a bunch of different foods that you like, pick something that you LOVE and enjoy that. My selection was peppermint bark last Tuesday and a couple pieces of pie on Sunday night. Sure, I could have had cheesy potatoes, casseroles, meats and cheeses, fudge and other candies. I like them. But, if I ate them all, I could only have a very little bit of each. Instead, I skipped them all, ate my own healthful food and saved my calories for the stuff that I really, really love. When the night is over, you'll feel more satisfied (at least I did).
And, don't forget to slice it! My pie and peppermint bark were both divided into multiple smaller servings. By slicing, breaking or dividing your "golden" snack into smaller servings, you can extend your special treat into multiple servings that will help you feel like you are getting more than you actually are. You may get lucky and find that you don't even want to go back for that additional portion.
12) Forgive yourself. If you do overindulge, just remember it is one day, one week, whatever. One night of indulging isn't going to make or break your weight loss journey. Forgive yourself and get over it quickly. Life is short, enjoy it.