With Thanksgiving, what I think of as “The Feeding Season” has officially begun. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could space out all of those parties and holiday meals throughout the year instead of within just over a month? Alas, that is not the case, so we must strategize to survive The Feeding Season. Using my strategies, it’s possible for January to arrive without adding unwanted weight, an elevated cholesterol count, or going into a sugar coma.
Even when I was actively trying to lose weight, I was able to make it through all the season’s temptations without backsliding and throwing in the towel yet one more time. Of course it’s important to be a bit more flexible to not feel resentful. Plus, this was real life test that provided a good opportunity to learn how to eat responsibly throughout the feeding season. During these times, I stuck to my plan as well as I could and went into it realistically without expecting to lose weight, but dead set on not gaining any, and it worked, time and again. (In fact, some years I must have been hyper-vigilant because I actually ended up losing weight. Who would have thought that could be possible?!?)
Here are some strategies I developed to combat The Feeding Season:
Opt for what’s unique. I can get potato chips anytime, so when I go to an event, I skip the ordinary foods for stuff I can’t get every day, is prepared in an interesting way, or is brand new to me.
Take something cheap if you’re going to a potluck event. It’ll guarantee something that isn’t a calorie budget buster if you need to fill up. It’s likely that some other people will appreciate having that option. It’s quite possible to make something tasty that isn’t jam-packed with calories, like my Jicama Salad. And as an added bonus, instead of making something decadent, it’ll help to keep the calories in check by being less tempted to indulge while preparing it or if stuck with leftovers. During The Feeding Season, it’s best to cut calories wherever possible to save them for the outings.
Making a roasted vegetable dish or crock pot stew is more nutritious and as much or even less work than spinach balls or tiramisu (which hopefully someone else will bring!). And if you want to make something fancy, it’s quite possible to do that with vegetables as well. When I make a veggie tray, I crinkle cut the carrots, rose-cut radishes and grape tomatoes, and top-slice then soak scallions ice water so they bloom.
Opt for more vegetables. Studies show that once we get past the first few bites of something, it loses its appeal. One study found that even though people’s hunger decreased at the same rate, people who didn’t have a controlled portion continued to eat after they were satiated. So it’s not necessary to eat a lot of something to be satisfied, but we still need to eat. Enter: Veggie strategy.
It’s not just because I love veggies and am a vegan that my plate is disproportionately filled with vegetables. It’s because, unless they’re drowned in some decadent sauce, they’re the cheap balance to my expensive indulgences. And since only a few bites of something is necessary to enjoy it, why not rely on vegetables to do the heavy lifting?
Consider eating before going. Depending on the time of the event, I plan accordingly. I don’t want to end up somewhere starving hungry, because I know what will happen. Instead, if I’m going to miss my afternoon snack to attend a later dinner or party, I eat my usual dinner salad before going.
If the event is earlier, I plan to eat a dinner salad around my usual meal time. I prefer to have dessert a bit after I’ve eaten dinner, so depending on what’s being offered, I might actually forgo it and save dessert for I get home if I’m still hungry. Gracious hosts are often willing to send it home with me.
Focus on what you’re eating. It can be tough to pay attention to what you’re eating, especially if you’re milling around, standing next to a food table, or if a bowl of something particularly tempting (like spicy Chex Mix) is sitting right in front of you, screaming “Eat me! Eat me!” It’s good to set a limit in your head before you even begin indulging and figure out a way to keep track of how many times you’ve filled your plate. It’s easy to get distracted and mindlessly put food in your mouth while mingling. Toothpick or tiny fork foods make it easy to see what you’ve consumed, but finger foods are tougher to track.
Exercise before the party. Whenever possible, I exercise before I go to a food-related event, even if it’s just out for a meal with friends. It helps to spark appetite-suppressing chemicals in the brain, rev up the body’s metabolism, and it makes me feel invested in eating less.
Drink lots and lots…of water, that is. Water helps to fill the gut and discourage overindulging. If that seems too bland for a party, opt for spritzers with a citrus twist or a cherry which are low-cal, yet festive.
Take small portions when dining. At a restaurant, ask for a smaller side plate instead of eating from the main entrée platter. For a buffet or family-style meal, take little bits of everything you want to try and take seconds of the stuff you really liked if you’re still hungry. You’ll find out what appealed most to you without wasting food or eating more of something that didn’t make your palate sing. You’ll be able to sample everything, but not at the cost of feeling guilty or stuffed at the end.
Hopefully you’ll find some of these tips worthwhile to avoid a disappointing January. Good luck with surviving The Feeding Season.