Over the next couple of months, there will be feasting galore. The table will be piled high with turkey (or perhaps a nice meat-alternative), stuffing, cranberries, potatoes and desserts as far as the eye can see. The month of December can feel like a continuous stream of food, between holiday parties at work, family events and a big blowout on New Year’s Eve.
All of this can really get in the way of healthy eating.
No matter how much you want to eat a reasonable amount, it is hard to do when you are faced with buffets, meals and rafts of sweets. Your environment has a huge impact on your eating behavior. It is much easier to eat a moderate amount when you control your portions at the start of the meal. That just isn’t possible when you are at a party.
When faced with the string of holiday parties, it is important to dream global, but act local.
Dreaming global means remembering that you want to eat as healthily as you can during the holidays.
There are two dangers with just keeping your mind focused on the goal to eat well.
The first is that you don’t live in a global world, you live in a local one. You can’t just rely on your willpower to get you through the tempting foods and rich desserts. You need a plan.
Before you go to any party, think about how you are going to help yourself eat well.
If you are going to a party where the serving is done as a buffet, pick the smallest plate you can find. A lot of your eating behavior is mindless. The bigger the plate you choose, the more food you will put on it. And once the food is on your plate, you’re going to keep eating until it is gone.
Make a plan for navigating the desserts. I recommend finding a dessert buddy who shares your healthy-eating goals. Between the two of you, pick one dessert that looks good. Share a few bites and enjoy it. Then, help each other to resist all of the other temptations.
Watch how much you drink as well. When you are really trying to control yourself, you have to engage the frontal lobes of your brain to help you resist temptation. As luck would have it, alcohol has a lot of influence on your frontal lobes. So, your willpower goes down the more you drink.
The second danger with only dreaming global is that you may fall prey to the “What the hell” effect.
If you are just focused on your overall goal to lose weight or to eat healthy foods, then if you do succumb to temptation, you may feel like you have failed completely at your goal. At that point, it is tempting to just binge on the mountains of food in front of you. You figure, “What the hell, I have already blown the diet, may as well go out in style.”
If you act locally, though, then it is easier to realize that if you eat a little too much at a party, you haven’t failed at your overall goal to diet, you have just had a one-day’s lapse. Tomorrow is another day, and you can refocus your efforts on healthy eating.
Finally, don’t stress too much over your holiday eating. There is enough stress during the holidays just dealing with family, hosting parties, and finding that perfect gift. Stress can also make it hard to control how much you eat, so just relax, grab a small plate and have some fun.
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