OK so we’re here at tip number three, how to survive those unavoidable social occasions. You can find links to the other tips in the series at the bottom of this post.
The first problem that presents itself is usually the appearance of chocolates, biscuits, cakes and other Christmas foodie treats in the staff room or office. As a teacher I get gifts of chocolates, lots of gifts of chocolates. First of all when chocolates are doing the office rounds I tend to turn them down but plan (see tip 1 on planning) to have one or maybe two during the day. I’ll save my chocolate (or two) for a time when I know I can make a nice drink to go with it, when I can put my feet up for five minutes, when I can savour that chocolate, nibble it, feel it melt in my mouth and slide down my throat. I really plan to enjoy that chocolate.
As an out of control over eater I would have a ton of chocolates every day, never refusing a round and I would just pop them down without thinking while I was answering emails or doing some prep or paper work. I wouldn’t even register that I’d eaten them. So this new approach to enjoying one chocolate is so much better. I actually know I’ve had it, my mind registers that I have had a treat, my body copes with the processing of one lump of fatty sugar quite well without going into spasms and I’m satisfied that I’m not missing out on the Christmas goodies.
The foodie gifts I get I am grateful for but I can’t keep them so I keep one box or packet of something I really do love or something I know the family will enjoy and the rest I drop off at the local women’s shelter so that they can be re-gifted to the women and children there who are perhaps facing a very bleak Christmas and for whom a bit of a gift wrapped normality will be gratefully received. The first time I did this I felt guilty because I’d been given a gift and it seemed ungrateful but then I figured that I shouldn’t, I’d accepted the gift in the spirit it was given, I’d been hugely grateful for it and passing it on just extended those feelings to another person and I didn’t see anything wrong with that. I’m sure the person who gave me it would be happy to know that it didn’t slap a few pounds onto my hips and that someone who needed some normality got it thanks to them.
When eating out at work and social events such as lunches, dinners and parties I have a few coping strategies. First of all planning is key again. I know these things are coming up so I make a decision as to whether I’m going to be super good, moderately good, or rotten bad. This planning helps me to keep my eating and drinking under control. Even if I decide to be rotten bad I know it’s just for this one event and after that I’m back to healthy and active.
After I’ve planned I try to get a look at menus and pre-prepare myself for what I’m going to order. Often you are asked to pre-order during this busy period so that’s a perfect opportunity to make good choices and not be tempted once you are seated at a table, starving and surrounded by temptation. I tend to ask if I can take the menu home, or email my choice later and I wait until after I’ve eaten or exercised to send that email or text with my menu choice on it. That way I do it when I’m full or feeling really on top of my game and am less likely to choose something that will set me back.
One year though I was healthy eating at the time of pre-ordering my meal and then made a decision to let loose for the festive season and was sooooo disappointed when I sat in the restaurant and remembered I’d already ordered and that it was grilled fish and steamed veggies and I desperately wanted to change it to huge steak, fries, sauteed garlic mushrooms etc etc. Funny thing was, I really enjoyed what I’d ordered and it kept me on track for the rest of the meal too and on into the days which followed.
I go for healthy options where possible and maybe if my starter and main are super healthy I’ll have a dessert or if my main was a cream laden affair I might skip desert and have a nice fruit tea. Opt for fish where possible, have lots of side salad going on and ask for dressings on the side so that you are not adding tons of hidden calories to a salad dish. If you’ve had a heavy dinner ask if you can have a fruit cocktail for dessert with some sorbet, even if it is not on the menu most restaurants will make you one up if you ask. Drink lots of water to keep flushing the bad stuff out. Ask for fish or meat to be grilled rather than fried, most restaurants will do this for you. Another thing I do is make a frozen cocktail my dessert and my alcohol quota for the event, it’s yummy, feels very naughty and tastes like a real treat and is much better than a pudding with cream, a creamy coffee and a big glass of booze.
At parties it is rare that there is no fruit platter to enjoy munching on and I’ve often taken my own as a contribution to the buffet. Nobody will hate you for doing it and it’s surprisingly refreshing to chow down on a fruit platter after a dancing session. Fruit skewers are simple and look fab and make a welcome addition to any buffet table, for non healthy amongst the guests you can always put a side of scrummy choc dip or something equally indulgent. If there is a chocolate fountain around and or a sweet trolley I tend to indulge myself one or two dips into the choc or a sweet or two and definitely avoid standing around chatting near it/them… or any food come to that. It’s amazing what you can shovel down without noticing when you are engaged in a long conversation.
Dancing… there’s another thing. Exercise doesn’t have to go out of the window, if there is an opportunity to dance, take it and dance, dance, dance! Burn off that buffet right there and then so tomorrow it actually never happened 😉
Again drink lots of water at parties, I tend to separate out my alcoholic drinks with two glasses of water and I might have sparkling water and add a twist of lemon and/or lime which makes it feel more like ‘a drink’ and not just hydration. Keeping yourself topped up with water will help flush out the food and drink toxins, help you feel alert and alive the next day so you can avoid missing exercise or wallowing in need of comfort food or sugars to top you up and will also help keep you feeling full so you are not tempted to eat so much.
Try out some cocktail recipes using fresh fruit juices and low sugar mixers. Most bar staff will make up any drink you ask for and if you’ve devised a killer cocktail which you know is low calorie you will feel more like you are having a treat and joining in with the over indulgence of everyone else. It doesn’t matter if it has a shot of alcohol in it or not, it’s going to taste great and look like you’re doing what everyone else is doing. You’re not going to be sitting in a corner feeling deprived and miserable.
When you are the one doing the entertaining try out your low fat healthy recipes on your guests, educate them that healthy can be delicious. Include lots of fruit and fresh veg, make up delicious vegetable soups for starters, coriander, carrot and parsnip is one of my favourites, grill fish, use the steamer. Test out healthy options for buffet foods and snacks. Load up platters with raw chopped veggies and yummy low fat dips. Christmas food can still be exciting and yummy without it being full of rubbish. Present your healthy snacks beautifully so that they beg to be eaten.
I find that I try to focus on the veggies throughout this season wherever I’m eating just because that’s what I do now and again without realising it I’ve made healthy choices, still enjoyed the social event and have lost weight.
When you’re snuggling down for Christmas movies instead of big tins and boxes of chocolates and bowls of crisps and nuts have mini bowls around which you will have to go to the kitchen to replenish. It’s amazing how your munch craving goes away if you have to pause a movie or climb out of a comfy hug. I use the little tiny foil trays from mini pies (collect them up at work as you will not be buying any or buy them online). They hardly hold any cashew nuts but enough for you to have a couple. Make your own plain popcorn, slice up pitta bread and dip into home made low fat hummus or yummy tzatziki made with fat free natural thick Greek yoghurt. Dot around pretty fruit bowls and platters again and raw veggies to crunch and dip into your low fat dips.
It’s possible to eat out and attend parties and entertain without gaining tons of weight or losing track of your healthy eating programme and also enjoying a treat without feeling like you are depriving yourself. Don’t hide away from temptation, look it in the eye and use all of the new info you have to help you make the best choices and if that means you use this as one of your throwing caution to the wind days, then enjoy it, I bet you won’t be as bad as you were last year. Christmas joy is possible without tears of deprivation to spoil it.
Check out my other tips for surviving Christmas without gaining tons of weight or making yourself feel miserable.