Are you one of those people who anticipate and dread the holidays at the same time? Not just the presents, decorations, travel and company, but all of the food? This time of year can really be a challenge so here are 15 tips that will help you enjoy the season more while eating less.
• It is easier to get distracted from signals of physical hunger and satiety at social gatherings, especially if food is the main event. Make an effort to pay close attention to your body's signals so you aren't just drawn in by the goodies and traditions.
• Be a food snob. 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 and choose something else. Think of how much less you'd eat if you only ate things that tasted fabulous!
• Think of your appetite as an expense account. How much do you want to spend on appetizers or the entree? Do you want to save some room for dessert? Go through this process mentally to avoid eating too much food and feeling uncomfortable for the rest of the evening.
• Pace your eating prior to the event so you'll be hungry but not famished at mealtime. But ignore the old diet advice of "eat before you go to a party so you won’t be tempted." That is absurd! You want to be hungry enough to enjoy your favorites.
• Socialize away from the sight of the food. People who tend to overeat are "food suggestible" so just hanging around food causes them to eat more than they need.
• Survey all of the food at a buffet before making your choices. Choose the foods that you really want most at that time and remind yourself that you can have the other foods at a later time.
• If the food is so special, give it your full attention rather than eating on autopilot. Eat mindfully by reducing distractions and sitting down to eat - even if it’s just a cookie. Appreciate the appearance and aroma of your food and savor one small bite at a time by putting your fork down. You'll eat less food but enjoy it more.
• Meals last longer during social events so have your plate taken away or put your napkin on it once you are satisfied to avoid nibbling unconsciously.
• Be aware of the effects of alcohol on your food intake. And don't forget that many holiday beverages contain a lot of calories too.
• Be cautious of "obligatory eating" – avoid eating just because it is on the table, on your plate, because you paid for it, or because someone made it.
• Deal with Food Pushers with a polite but firm, "No thank you." If you are concerned about hurting their feelings, ask for the recipe or a small portion to take home with you for another meal.
• It’s common to have candy and snacks lying all over the office this time of year. Avoid indulging in food just because it’s there. Grazing unconsciously will lead to many extra calories that you may not even remember enjoying.
• Before having a cookie, a piece of fudge, or other holiday treat that was set in the break room, make sure you are actually hungry. When you eat food your body didn't ask for, it has no choice but to store it. If you aren't hungry but you still want it, don't deprive yourself. Just take a piece and save it for later.
• At restaurants, the portion sizes are usually huge – almost always "two for the price of one." Request appetizer portions, co-order and co-eat with your dining partner, or have the server package up your meal to go as soon as you feel satisfied. Remember, "super-size" is no bargain if you didn't need that much food in the first place!
• Look for opportunities for physical activity – take a walk after dinner to enjoy the lights, take a few laps around the mall before it opens to do some window shopping or take guests to local attractions.
Most importantly, delight all of your senses. Enjoy the company, the atmosphere, the entertainment, and the traditions as much, if not more, than the food.
Michelle May, M.D. is a recovered yoyo dieter and the award-winning author of Am I Hungry? What To Do When Diets Don't Work. Learn to manage your weight without deprivation and guilt with Dr. May's complimentary mini e-course at http://www.amihungry.com/mini-e-course-intro.shtml