As I turned my page on the calendar this month I realized the awful truth … it is the start of the “official holiday eating season”. Following on the heels of “summer barbecue season” it pretty much starts with Thanksgiving (in October here in the Great White North), skips happily through to Halloween, and then gets totally out of control through Christmas and New Years. It lulls us into a false sense of getting back on track until Valentine’s Day and culminates with Easter.
How can anyone even hope to succeed on a weight loss plan when even the calendar and the changing of the seasons are against us? Gaining weight during the holiday season has become a national pastime. Year after year you put on an extra pound or two (or more). That’s not so bad (honestly!) as long as you get back on track right after the big meal … the problem is most of us keep the weight permanently.
Believe it or not … people do maintain and even lose weight despite holiday dinners … and we can too! One meal does not a diet break!
Thanksgiving does not have to sabotage your weight. The only thing that should feel stuffed at the dinner table is the turkey!
So how do you survive Thanksgiving Dinner?
Plan ahead. Get a survival plan into place and into your head and do you very best to stick to it. Some helpful hints …
Sometimes we think we can “save” calories for the big meal, but experts say eating a small meal in the morning can give you more control over you appetite. Start your day with a small, yet satisfying, breakfast so you won’t be starving when its time for your gathering.
LIGHTEN THINGS UP
If you are hosting Thanksgiving, the ball is in your court, so you can make your recipes healthier with less fat, sugar, and calories. There is usually more sugar and fat in most recipes than is needed, and no one will notice the difference if you skim calories by using lower calories ingredients, such as; fat free chicken broth to baste the turkey and make the gravy; use fruit purees in baking in place of some of the sugar or try yogurt or fat-free sour cream in creamy dips, mashed potatoes and casseroles.
If you are attending a dinner as guest, bring along a healthier option – other people might appreciate it – because let’s face it, we are not the only people on earth trying to watch our weight.
BE A FOOD SNOB
When you are deciding what to put on your plate skip the store-bought goodies, the dried-out fudge, and the so-so stuffing. If the food you select doesn't taste as good as you expected – STOP EATING IT – choose something else. Think of how much less you’d eat if you only ate the things that tasted fabulous!
Before you fill your plate, survey the offerings and decide what you are going to choose. Then select reasonably sized portions of foods you cannot live without – stick to the favorites that you do not have on a regular basis – skip the mashed potatoes, you can have them any time – don’t waste calories on food you can have all year long.
THINK OF YOUR APPETITE AS AN EXPENSE ACCOUNT
How much do you want to spend on appetizers or the entrée? Do you want to save some room for dessert? Go through the process mentally to avoid eating too much food and feeling uncomfortable for the rest of the evening.
Try to resist the temptation to go back for second helpings. Leftovers are much better the next day, and if you limit yourself to one plate, you are less likely to overeat and you will have more room for a delectable dessert (if you choose to have one at all). Eat slowly so you are still enjoying your meal while others are heading up for seconds.
Choose the best bets in the offering available. White turkey meat, plain vegetables, roasted sweet potatoes, defatted gravy, and pumpkin pie tend to be the best bets because they are lower in fat and calories. BUT – if you keep your portions small, you can have whatever you like.
If the food is so special, give it your full attention rather than eating on autopilot. By reducing distractions and sitting down to eat – even if it’s just a cookie -- makes you appreciate the food you are enjoying. Appreciate the appearance and aroma of your food and savour one small bite at a time by putting your fork down.
You’ll eat less food but enjoy it more.
You’ll eat less food but enjoy it more.
BE CAUTIOUS OF “OBLIGATORY EATING”
Avoid eating just because it is on the table, on your plate, because you paid for it or because it’s free, or because someone made it especially for you – with love. Love contains a lot of calories, when food is consumed for the sake of not hurting someone's feelings. Deal with “food pushers” with a polite but firm “No, thank you.” If you’re concerned about hurting their feelings, ask for the recipe or a small portion to take home with you for another meal.
SOCIALIZE AWAY FROM THE SIGHT OF FOOD
People who tend to overeat (and we all know who we are talking about) are “food suggestible”, so just hanging around food causes them to eat more than they need. Avoid indulging just because the food is there. It’s common to have candy and snacks all over the place. Grazing unconsciously leads to extra calories that you probably won’t even remember tasting.
LOOK FOR OPPORTUNITIES FOR PHYSICAL ACTIVITY
Take a walk after dinner to enjoy the evening, take the dog for a walk (even if it isn’t your dog). Or, exercise earlier in the day. This will serve double duty by suppressing your appetite and boosting your metabolism.
GO EASY ONE THE ALCOHOL
Have a glass of water or sparkling water between the alcoholic drinks. That way you limit your calories, stay hydrated … AND stay sober. If you want to have an attractive and pretty drink in your hand to keep away all those people trying to push a drink on you … try one of the following for only 2 calories each.
Besides, if you give your liver a break from processing the alcohol it can be more efficient at helping you process those calories. Your liver is the primary organ in charge of detoxification, fat burning, fat excretion and removal of hormonal waste. Increased toxins from alcohol can translate into inefficient fat burning.
BE REALISTIC !!
The holiday dinners are a time for celebration. Visiting with family and so many extra temptations, maybe this is a good time to strive for weight maintenance instead of weight loss. A “stay-the-same” can be a victory around holiday eating. You will be ahead of the game if you can avoid gaining any weight over the holidays … and then you can get right back on track the minute you push away from the table.
Enjoy your day…
Remember, the idea is to enjoy family and friends and to reflect on what you are grateful for …
The food is just a yummy perk!