Holidays, whether mid-year or year-end, are usually associated with one thing: food.
Plenty of it.
And if you're a chronic over-eater (like I was) with a tendency to lose control when faced with a buffet line, this season is also associated with plenty of anxiety, fear and guilt.
Having struggled with not being able to stop myself from reaching for third, fourth and fifth helpings that would leave me red in the face and feeling sick in the gut (as well as overweight for obvious reasons) for years, I finally said "enough is enough" one morning after a particularly nasty, "why-am-I-doing-this-to-myself" food bender.
Hungry (pun fully intended) to put a stop to it, I came up with this seven-step holiday-eating survival guide that's helped me to not stuff my face silly in buffet-line settings for years now.
Of course, it doesn't mean that I don't enjoy eating as much as I want of something I love now and then, but I do it in a way that doesn't make me want to beat myself up and wave the white flag of diet defeat the morning after.
Here's how you can, too.
Step 1: Stave off feelings of starvation.
I never, ever head to a party or dinner feeling like I could eat everything in sight.
Why? Because I know myself well, and my super-hungry self is WILL eat anything and MORE of everything in sight when she's missed breakfast and lunch.
So if I know that I'm headed to a foodie event later in the day, I make sure to have satisfying meals that really hit the spot earlier and then snack before heading out so I don't feel hangry and deprived just when the buffet spread makes its appearance.
Step 2: Have a pre-party plan in place.
Setting an agenda for myself that I can follow throughout the evening helps stop me from eating mindlessly. For example:
- 7:00-7:30 p.m.: Have a glass of wine and catch up with friends or family
- 7:30-8:00 p.m.: Eat one serving of starters
- 8:00-8:30 p.m.: Eat one serving of mains
- 8:30-9:00 p.m.: Eat one serving of dessert
- 9:00 p.m.: Stop eating
By doing this, I know when to start eating, how much to eat and exactly when to stop. It also means that I don't have to rely 100 percent on the fickle friend called willpower.
As Benjamin Franklin once said: "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail," and the same applies when it comes to taking control of your eating.
Step 3: Have a post-party plan in place.
The purpose of my post-party plan isn't to dissect everything I ate or didn't eat the night before and place moral judgments on my actions, but to ensure that if things don't go exactly according to plan, I don't fall into a negative, downward spiral of, "What the hell, I overdid it last night, so why bother stopping today?"
I typically ask myself: "What can I do to make this better and get back on track?" Then, I put my plan into action and keep moving forward.
Step 4: Ask for help.
If I'm not feeling confident about making it through the evening without overeating, I'll enlist the help of someone I trust who's going to be there.
This way, I'm accountable not just to myself, but to someone else, which makes it a lot harder to let myself mess up.
Step 5: Go for quality, not quantity.
Before you put something on your plate, ask yourself this question: Is it something you truly enjoy eating? If your answer is "no," leave it where it is and move on to the foods that you do love to eat.
By doing this, you'll narrow down your available options, often significantly, and nip mindless eating in the bud before it even begins.
Step 6: Take a breather in between bites.
This is by far, my most effective strategy for eating what I want without eating too much of anything. I take a bite, put my fork down, breathe (smell), chew (taste), swallow and chat with my dinner companions before picking up my fork again.
Rinse and repeat.
I give myself 20 to 30 minutes to finish my meal, and by then, my gut and brain would have had time to communicate and cooperate to make an important decision: It's time to stop eating.
Step 7: Focus on conversation.
When you take your focus off the food and put it on the people around you, something miraculous happens: You end up being so caught up in conversation that you forget to convince yourself of why you need that third helping of crème caramel.
Another benefit of zeroing in on great conversation rather than the food at a dinner party? You'll be more likely to go home with more meaningful memories and stronger bonds, not indigestion and a truck-load of guilt.
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Photo credit: Jay Wennington
This article originally appeared on michelelian.com
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