It’s December and that means you are already running the food gantlet.
The closer you move toward Christmas, the more likely you are to face delicious pies, candies, gravy and sweet rolls everywhere you look.
If you are going to emerge Jan. 1 without a belly that shakes like a bowl full of jelly, it’s going to take a good game plan.
You’ll need willpower, for sure, but here are 10 tips that might help too.
Keep exercising: The holidays are sometimes overwhelmingly busy, making it easy to talk yourself into taking time off from exercise. Not only will regular exercise help your waistline fend off the abuse you do to it at parties, but it can help reduce the stress that seems to be synonymous with Christmas.
Dip, don’t scoop: Dipping your vegetables or chips adds calories, but you can limit the damage a little bit. Stab the dip rather than scooping up a heaping mound. You’ll cut a few calories and still get enough extra flavor to make that raw broccoli palatable.
Focus: Pay attention to everything you eat. This doesn’t necessarily mean stay away from everything sweet. It just means don’t mindlessly shovel hors d’oeuvres into your mouth while you’re chatting with friend. If it helps, move the conversation away from the table. A good conversation is a great way to take your mind off food.
Forget tradition: Whenever I see the cranberry sauce at a holiday dinner, I always think, “Hey, who invited you? Nobody likes you, but you come back every year.” Why? It’s tradition, of course. Every family has their own traditional foods, but don’t feel obligated to eat those dishes unless it’s what you want. You are not obligated to overeat.
Pre-eat (or don’t): Eating before a party in hopes of controlling your appetite might work for some people. In fact, I’ve seen dietitians recommend eating string cheese or almonds before a party to curb your hunger. Maybe this will work for you, but I can personally attest it’s not for everybody. Maybe you’re full, but is that really going to stop you from trying some delicious-looking desserts? Be honest with yourself. Not every approach is ideal for everybody. For you, pre-eating might just guarantee that by the end of the night you will have eaten too much. Plus, it’s the holidays. Enjoy them a little.
Scout the buffet: The holiday party buffet line can be a recipe for disaster. You take a little of this and little of that, but with each step you discover a new delicacy that looks even better. Putting food back is rude (and gross), so by the end of the line you have a heaping mound of food. Instead, scout the buffet, decide what you want and then make your trip through the line.
Be a little snobby: Author and doctor Michelle May once offered me a good idea for a mind-set to adapt when attending holiday parties. “Eat like a food snob.” Sure, maybe you’d be content with a bowl of Cap’n Crunch and a microwave burrito for dinner most of the year, but don’t go through the holidays with that mind-set. Pass on the foods you can eat any time and consume only what you truly enjoy. Eat slowly and savor every bite of that food. If it’s not as good as you expected, don’t eat any more. When you’re full, stop eating.
As a regular diner, you might be afraid that not cleaning your plate will hurt somebody’s feelings. A food snob doesn’t worry about that stuff. (Plus, the truth is that somebody probably won’t even notice.)
Food snobs also don’t erect food towers on their plate. Implement a no-stacking rule when you pass through the food line.
Brush: Sneaking out of the party for a few minutes to brush your teeth after your first plate of food can be a good way to curb your desire to eat too much. As a bonus, it’s also good for your teeth and your date will appreciate that you don’t have turkey breath.
Think before you eat: Chances are you’re a veteran of many holiday parties and you know exactly how too much stuffing and cheesecake is going to make you feel in a few hours. And chances are, you aren’t thinking about that when you are in the chow line.
Try thinking about how you want to feel later and choose food accordingly.
Take a walk: Capping a big dinner with a little walk around the neighborhood can make you feel better and burn a few calories, too. It can also be a nice way to enjoy the Christmas lights and, if you’re lucky, a little snow.Craig Hill’s fitness column runs Sundays. Submit questions and comments via email@example.com and twitter.com/AdventureGuys. Also get more fitness coverage at blog.thenewstribune.com/adventure and thenewstribune.com/fitness.