It may sound absurd, but if you are going to a holiday party, eat ahead of time. I know plenty of people who starve themselves before going to a party so they'll have "room" for all the great food. They arrive--stomachs rumbling--and make a beeline for the high-calorie, high-fat appetizers and finger foods, easily eating more than a day's worth of calories. Instead, try eating enough healthy food beforehand so you're full before you arrive. You'll have much more self-control around those tempting party treats.
All or Nothing
I don't know how many times I've heard someone say, "I've already ruined my diet, so it doesn't matter what I eat now." I'm not sure how that myth got started, but it can be hazardous to your waistline. The bottom line is, an extra calorie is an extra calorie--so eating a slice of pie shouldn't give you an excuse to eat two more. And after a bowl of ice cream, you don't have to eat whatever is left in the container. Have you ever heard of cutting your losses? Well, the same rule applies to cutting your gains. It's never too late to stop.
You might think that planning what you're going to eat beforehand takes all the fun and spontaneity out of the occasion, but that's just not so. You're probably thinking about what you're going to eat anyway, so why not make it work for instead of against you? In fact, practicing good eating behavior at special events could actually make you feel more relaxed and empowered, not frustrated or disappointed. It gives you the sense of being in control of your environment instead of being lured into the dark world of overindulgence. So plan what and how much you're going to eat at the event before you even get there--set limits and you'll feel better.
Watch Out For Food Pushers
How many times has a family member or friend told you that you'll spoil the party if you don't partake in the food festivities, or that it's bad luck not to have at least one slice of cake? Have your answer ready for those diet saboteurs. Mentally rehearse a few key phrases like, "Oh, no thanks. I couldn't eat another thing." Or try the truth: "I'm dieting, and that piece of cake will throw me completely off track."
Recruit Your Friends
Getting the support of your friends and family is not always easy, but it's worth a try. Talk to them about the healthy changes you're making and enlist their help. The idea is not to have them police your behavior but rather for them to empower you by being encouraging and enthusiastic about your new way of life.
Balance It Out
Looking for a guilt-free way to enjoy your favorite holiday treat? Try consuming fewer calories the day before and after the holiday. It's basically a matter of calorie balance. By consuming 500 calories less the day before and after a holiday, you're leaving room for 1,000 extra calories." So a rich holiday dinner or party can be balanced by a lighter meal the day after.
Host a holiday event or party yourself. Believe me, with all that constant moving, planning, cooking and preparing, you are bound to lose weight (as long as you give away the leftovers). Or, if you don't want to be the host, try helping out. If you're constantly on your feet, setting up, serving and cleaning, you'll have less free time for nibbling.
It Pays To Be Picky
During the holidays, foods you wouldn't normally eat suddenly become more appealing (especially with a "you-only-live-once" attitude), so be selective. Eat the things you really love--maybe a small serving of mashed sweet potatoes, a sliver of pecan pie--and ignore the not-so-thrilling stuff.
Easy On the Alcohol
Alcohol decreases inhibitions--potentially causing you to eat more--plus it's loaded with calories. If you're going to drink, stick with wine or beer and stay away from exotic fruity cocktails or fancy coffee drinks.
Most people miss the physical cues signaling that they have eaten enough. Instead of waiting until you're bursting out of your clothes, try eating whatever you want, but stop once you are full. How will you know you're full? Wait 15 to 20 minutes after you've finished what's on your plate before requesting seconds or dessert. By delaying, you may find that your appetite for a second helping decreases.
Charles Stuart Platkin is an Active Expert, nutrition and public health advocate, author of the best seller Breaking the Pattern (Plume, 2005), Breaking the FAT Pattern (Plume, 2006) and Lighten Up (Penguin USA/Razorbill, 2006) and founder of Integrated Wellness Solutions. Sign up for The Diet Detective newsletter free at www.dietdetective.com.