First off let’s understand that if you’ve been working out for the last six months it’s not a few meals or even a season of meals which is going to ruin your body composition, most of the weight that you’ll put on is just going to be water and easily shed. If you have not been working out or simply are not sure how to be eating properly this is going to be a great guide for you now and even beyond the holiday season so let’s get into it with a couple of very simple guidelines that you can begin to implement immediately.
Attending family and social get togethers is a fantastic time for you to bring a healthy dish to the party. You’ll be thoughtful and helping out while secretly having something safe you can feel good about eating unlike the way too heavy supposed salad concoction that has more whipped cream, canned fruit and chemically enhanced sugar replacement syrup than actual vegetables. Before you laugh, I just want you to know that I’ve actually seen this called a salad, bless the chef for creativity but definitely it’s was not a dish for the faint of heart.
For you, preparation for these festive culinary events begins before you even arrive. Just like it’s not a great idea to be starving before you do your groceries, make sure you’ve had a little snack or small meal of clean whole foods before arriving at the get-together. Personally, I’ll have a protein shake and, in a pinch, downing a few glasses of water is better than nothing.
Let’s look at our approach to these get togethers, it’s an opportunity to be with people that you love and considering the last couple of years you might not have even seen many of these people that much so challenge yourself to greet and have a meaningful moment with every single person before you put the first bite of food into your mouth.
Eventually the meal will be served, or the buffet will be opened and the moment of truth will arrive. Challenge yourself to be the very last person to the buffet or the very last person at the table to bite into the meal. If during this wait time you’re not engaged in a meaningful conversation take a moment to exercise gratitude. This might be a social experience like prayer of thanks or a personal experience in savouring the moment but gratitude for the event will enhance your enjoyment of everything you will eat. As you prepare to make food choices, watch the selections of the people around you, not in an odd condescending way but as a student looking to understand a new subject. Observe what choices are being made, are there choices you may or may not want to emulate? Is there anybody who is being selective with their plate….. if so maybe they’ve read this guide, if not perhaps they don’t have game going and may end up feeling bloated, lethargic or even sick by the end of the night.
Whatever the case might be for others, you can be in complete control of your feeding window by becoming mindful of what you really want and how you should eat which brings us to the next point.
Let’s face it, there will probably be many more high calorie fats and sugary carb rich plates then at any other time during the year filled with sauces enriched with more sugar and fat to make them all so very delicious with just that right amount of salt but there’s also going be whole foods like meats and vegetables so when you’re sitting down to be served or perhaps walking around the big buffet table, begin by finding one of the smaller dinner plates (sometimes there are different sizes) then first selecting vegetables and meat only (vegetarians, you know what I mean), and return to your seat.
I admit without any remorse that I love turkey stuffing with the oh so sweet cranberry sauce but here’s the thing, I’m going to take a reasonable portion of stuffing and a spoon of cranberry sauce, even two if it’s homemade when I returned for my second plate.
That’s right I said the second plate because part of your strategy is to return two or three times for small plates, waiting 3-5 minutes after the last swallowed bite of each plate before returning to selectively gather the next plate.
A variation you can include is selecting two or three dishes from the many and enjoying them to the fullest. Exercising mindfulness in savouring your food, surroundings, and your own self-mastery is empowering, enjoy the feeling.
Chew each bite of food completely before swallowing and religiously resist the urge to add more food to your mouth before your food has been completely masticated and your mouth is completely and 100% empty.
Now here’s a fun part, we’re going to be slightly rebellious and break some of the rules we learned as children. After each completely masticated bite look at someone in a meaningful way and say something nice.
Be careful not to ask questions while someone is chewing that requires an answer, having someone choke in their haste to answer you would dangerous and rude, rather make affirming statements of interest and appreciation, IE “that’s a really nice outfit you have on” or “it’s really nice being here with everybody again”. Always be sincere, I’m certain your meal will begin to taste much better than you would have ever thought.
This is a big one, but it becomes surprisingly easier with practice as your body reacts favourably and you discover the benefits to digestion and wellbeing. Simply stop eating when you are 80% full. What exactly is 80% full you say, in all humility I say that I still try to figure 80% on a meal-by-meal basis but the principal is sound, and the road of mastery is its own reward.
Dessert isn’t fair, some people can shun it completely and others are brought to their knees.
Here is the good thing, it’s only calories so if you are well satiated with protein rich and fibrous whole foods you will be able to skip a portion of another food and select a particularly delicious desert speciality that you only see once a year, take the time to really savour and enjoy it. Feel free to cut a piece of dessert in 2 or more pieces if you absolutely must have more than 1 but be careful. The ingredients found in desserts, even homemade have been engineered to circumvent will power and given enough opportunity, they are expert at opening your appetite and getting you past the 80% rule into 100% plus-plus territory. (don’t ask me how I know)
So, you’ve successful avoided having copious portions but you don’t want to offend the host!
The act of returning often to the buffet table or asking for second or third portion will amply allow you to show your appreciation for the efforts of the host while still exercising restraint and self-mastery over your cravings, and in the face of temptation no less. In fact, having mindfully savoured your food, you will probably be able to make a more detailed overture of your appreciation than cousin Bob who’s loosening their belt for the second time and has been eating out of compulsion without truly appreciating anything!
Do you remember a time when families would go for a walk around the neighbourhood after a meal? Maybe this year weather permitting you might want to give that another shot? A short 10-to-20-minute walk after the meal will really help you feel better no matter what you’ve eaten.
There’s a lot of science behind the recommendations given here but, in a nutshell, whole food takes a longer time to chew and is more satiating than highly processed, chemically taste enhanced food products. Plus, properly chewed non-processed foods are much healthier for you but quite frankly when you’re at supper table the fact that it’s good for you might have small consideration, which is why this plan is such an important tool.
Pro tips: If ever you lose all control stick to the meats, fresh cooked vegetables, and green salads. being remembered as the person who demolished the ham bone, roast beef or turkey carcass is more dignified than the character they will create of the person who wrecked the dessert platter.
1 gram of Alcohol has 7 calories, 2 calories less than fat but 3 calories more than protein or carbohydrates but alcohol appears to have little effect on satiety and may stimulate the perception of appetite in response to food stimuli.
Alcohol can also influence hunger via several central mechanisms. The effects of alcohol on opioid, serotonergic, and GABAergic pathways in the brain all suggest the potential to increase appetite. Basically, play with fire or alcohol in this case and get burned so be careful.
Chewing each bite fully begins the digestion process as food is ground down during mastication and mixed with digestive enzymes found in saliva in the mouth, this not only encourages greater digestive comfort during the evening but also extracts greater nutrient value from your food calories but also encourages satiation, a sense of contentment and fullness.
Wishing a fantastic Holiday Season to everyone, best!
About the author:
Neil Damackine is a co-founder of iSmart Nutrition and owner of Champion Fit 365 personal training and body transformation.