My Holiday Eating Survival Kit continues with Holiday Eating Survival Tip #2 “eat balanced meals throughout the day and at the party.” A common strategy used to combat the guilt of eating at a holiday celebration is to “save up” all the day’s calories for that party. This seems logical but doesn’t serve to dull cravings or binge urges during a celebration with tons of yummy food and emotionally charged situations. Here’s why restricting during the day is counter-intuitive:
1. Every restriction causes a binge. The make-up of a good holiday party includes tons of food that is “off-limits” throughout the year which is the perfect binge set-up in and of itself! Add to that restricting during the day and you have 2 reasons to binge.
2. Restricting calories during the day denies your body the NUTRIENTS it needs to function. Our bodies needs macro and micro nutrients to function properly. Not fueling your body with these nutrients sets you up for cravings of sugar and salt when, in fact, your body is craving nutrients (sugar and salt aren’t nutrients!). Isn’t it just great that you’re heading to a holiday party where salty and sugary foods are in abundance to feed those cravings….NOT!
3. You’re ravenous by the time you arrive at the party. When you’re hangry (combo of hungry and angry), you do not eat mindfully…you eat whatever you spot first and scarf it down! First of all, you aren’t even enjoying what you’re eating. Second of all, you’re eating foods you may not like just to feed your physical hunger. Thirdly, you eat too much. It is so incredibly difficult to slow down, eat mindfully and enjoy these “once a year” foods when you are so hungry you’re about to eat your hand 😉
The remedy for all of the above is to eat macro nutrient balanced meals throughout the day (this is a good practice for daily eating as well as for the day of a holiday party)*. Click here to get a great explanation of macro nutrients. The macro nutrients are carbohydrates, protein and fat (water is also a macro nutrient) and are the food groups needed most by the body. Ever get hungry an hour after you’ve eaten? Chances are you didn’t eat enough protein. Need a 3pm energy boost? Check to see if you ate a balanced lunch. It’s amazing how incorporating this type of balance can regulate your cravings and keep you satisfied for a longer period of time throughout the day. This is why eliminating fat or carbohydrates (unless health restrictions mandate it) to lose weight have the opposite effect and keep weight on…your body just isn’t getting what it needs to keep the organs functioning.
Heading into a holiday party having a couple of balanced meals behind you does the following:
1. There has been no restriction so there is no added reason to binge. After eating a balanced diet throughout the day and honoring hunger and fullness cues at the party, you will eat less and enjoy your food without guilt.
2. Cravings for salt and sugar are diminished. When your body is in a nourished and balanced state, it has the fuel it needs to function thereby diminishing physiological cravings. As a result, the only cravings popping up during the celebration are those for delicious holiday food that you want to enjoy. Go ahead and enjoy them without guilt and while honoring those hunger and fullness cues.
3. By the time you hit the party, you may be a bit hungry (depending on the time) but you won’t be ravenous. You want to avoid arriving at the party in a frenzied, ravenous state because it doesn’t allow you to consciously assess the food situation. It doesn’t allow for mindful prowling of the buffet table to see what looks especially good and it certainly isn’t conducive to slow eating where you’re paying attention to fullness cues. I highly recommend building a plate that has a macro nutrient balance during the party. I don’t know about you, but I tend to load up on carbs at these events and find myself hungry an hour later so adding a bit of protein to the mix serves to keep you full longer.
The most important thing is not to deprive your body of nutrients just because you want to “save” calories so you can “go crazy” at the party. This sets you up for failure before you even get started! Be kind to yourself, eat in a balanced way and ENJOY the foods at the celebration! Let’s face it…food is one of the best reasons to attend 🙂
*Michelle is not a Registered Dietician so before implementing any type of dietary changes, it’s a good idea to seek the advice and recommendations of a nutritionist.