For many newly minted foodists, the upcoming long holiday weekend will be the first real test of your new anti-dieting healthstyle that embraces real food and enjoyment.
Although it can be a little challenging to get started, switching from a dieter’s mindset to a foodist’s mindset is fairly straightforward when we’re in the comfort of our normal lives. But when confronted with a situation where we have multiple days of sun, fun and celebration, fear of sugar, fat and binges can easily seep in.
Can we really handle all this freedom?
The answer is yes. As a foodist, you can enjoy food-filled holidays to your heart’s content. It probably won’t be the healthiest few days of your life, but that doesn’t matter. The purpose of holidays is to take a break from the rat race and enjoy friends, family, and all the other things that make life wonderful, including food.
One of the most important things to remember is that enjoying yourself isn’t what will do the most damage. Fear––of temptation, losing control, undoing progress––is your real enemy. But if you’ve been working to build a life around real food and healthy habits, a fun weekend every now and again is nothing to worry about.
A foodist knows that self-control cannot be relied on to keep us virtuous through several days of indulgence. Instead, we take measures to ensure that we can enjoy ourselves without succumbing to the triggers that cause us to go overboard, eating more than we actually want or enjoy.
These tricks will help you make value-based decisions in the face of decadence so you get everything you want out of your holiday, and nothing you don’t.
9 Tips for Enjoying a Long Holiday Weekend (With Minimal Damage)
1. Drink lots of water
When sun and alcohol are abundant, drinking plenty of water is essential. Dehydration is easily mistaken for hunger, and there’s no value in eating extra food when all you really need is a glass or two of water. Avoiding nasty hangovers and maintaining your complexion are good reasons to follow this advice too.
2. Chew, chew and chew some more
Chewing is easy to forget when there’s a smorgasbord of delicious food in front of you. I know you’re excited to eat your mom’s famous potato salad, your dad’s famous ribs, and your aunt’s incredible brownies, but keep in mind that the whole point is to actually enjoy it. Chewing helps you slow down and actually appreciate what you are eating. You may even realize that you need less than you think to be satisfied.
3. Eat the best stuff first
As I hinted in tip #2, anticipation of tastiness tends to overshadow the actual experience of eating, which often causes us to eat quickly and overeat. One way to dissipate this effect is to eat the food you anticipate the most, first. If you know you’ve already had the best bite, there’s no reason to eat more than you need.
4. Go splitsies
Portion sizes are incredibly deceptive these days. While most of us are pretty good at knowing how much we eat (i.e. how many calories we are consuming) when we eat smaller portions, we’re terrible at scaling up and tend to vastly underestimate how big larger portions really are.
While there’s no need to share everything you eat, finding a friend with which to share especially rich, calorie dense foods is a great way to indulge without accidentally putting down an extra 600 calories you would have been just as happy without.
5. Don’t forget your greens
No matter how fabulously luscious and delicious my meal, I always go out of my way to eat something fresh and green. Enjoying yourself doesn’t need to be synonymous with neglecting nutrition, and I find that I always feel better if at least some of my stomach space is occupied by lighter, more nutritious food.
6. Resist the “what-the-hell” effect
If you’ve ever dieted you’re probably familiar with the “what-the-hell” effect. This is that moment when you realize that you’ve already surpassed your intended limit on carbs, calories, or whatever, and decide to throw up your hands, lean in and just go nuts while you can. Future you can deal with the consequences.
Problem is, while your brain may work in this binary on-off mode, your body still calculates every last calorie, and binging is never as rewarding as our deprived dieter brains expect it to be. You don’t win, so don’t go there. Enjoy your food and eat as much as you need to feel satisfied and there will be nothing to regret.
7. Remember you can “have it later”
If you know you’ve had enough, but the dessert table is still singing its siren song, try telling yourself you can have some later if you still want it and look for something to distract yourself for a few minutes. This trick is a sort of mental alchemy that shifts something in your mind from the super tempting “I want it, but I shouldn’t” to “I can have it, but it isn’t that important.” Psychologists have shown that this tactic can reduce cravings for a particular food for up to a week after we use it.
8. Walk it off
Since you aren’t stuck in front of your computer at the office, holidays are a great time to be less sedentary than normal. Walking, swimming and other pleasurable pastimes are a great way to offset some of the extra calories you take in over the holidays. As we saw last week, walking after a meal can even jump start your metabolism. There’s no need to go to the gym if you don’t want, but incorporating some extra fun activities can make a big difference.
9. Trust your home court habits
Still the best way to avoid the what-the-hell effect and overeating in general is understanding that no food is ever off limits as a foodist. You can eat what you want, because you have set up your life to be healthy in a way that includes holidays and indulgences. Foodists can always rely on our home court habits to get us back on course after an exceptional weekend.
What are you eating this weekend?
Originally published July 1, 2013.