One of the joys of summer (in my opinion) is all of the get togethers with family and friends. It is a time to hang out, enjoy each other’s company, and celebrate our blessings. But it seems no gathering is complete without food, and LOTS of it. I love hot dogs (barbecued to a crisp) and potato chips and strawberry shortcake, just to name a few. And it can be difficult to stick to your eating plan when there are so many tempting goodies all around. However, this summer I am determined to do it!
I was invited to four different parties this past weekend. Lucky for me, I could only attend two. While I would have thoroughly enjoyed attending all four of them, I am counting my blessings that I only had to control the urge to splurge on everything at two parties, one on Saturday and one on Sunday. From what I have read and what I experienced, here are a handful of tips to help you stick to your eating plan at a party.
#1: Take a water bottle.
At most parties, there are appetizers to tempt you the moment you arrive. Having a water bottle (or filling up a glass of water right away) is helpful for a few reasons. First, each time you get the urge to munch you can take a sip of water instead. It doesn’t give the satisfaction of chewing, but you get to swallow, and it helps your stomach feel like it is being rewarded with something. Holding a water bottle also gives your hands something to do, cutting down on the temptation to fill your hands with munchies. Now I recognize your stomach (and believe me, mine too) knows full well the difference between a few swallows of water and some chips and salsa. I didn’t say these were miracle cures, just tips to help. I know it seems small, but having that water will be a benefit. If nothing else, it will help you meet, or even surpass, your water goal for the day!
#2: Take a healthy dish with you.
If you are attending a potluck or barbecue and it is appropriate for you to take a dish with you, make one of your favorite healthy recipes. Then when you are filling up your plate and you are tempted by a large serving of cheesy lasagna or mom’s famous potato salad, you can console yourself with knowing there is at least one healthy option at the table that you can dish up without feeling guilty. If possible, fill your plate with the dish you brought first. Then there is not as much room remaining on your plate asking to be filled with all the other decadent choices.
#3: Try small portions.
Now what fun would a party be if you didn’t try ANY of the wonderful foods provided for your pleasure. While I would love to say none of them are tempting, you know that’s a lie. So when you help yourself to a dish that is not on your eating plan, sample a tiny portion. If possible, scoop just one or two bites’ worth onto your plate. It allows you to taste the dish and enjoy it without going overboard. However, if you are familiar with the dish and know it is your downfall, only you can tell if one bite will be enough to satisfy or just enough to draw you back for a humungous scoop. So know your limits. If you don’t trust putting it on your own plate, maybe you can ask your significant other or a very good friend if you could steal a bite off their plate. Just don’t forget to count that as part of your meal; just because you didn’t dish it doesn’t mean it doesn’t count. Lastly on this topic, I know from experience that when you overindulge in rich foods, not only can you feel horribly guilty afterward, but you can also feel very sick. That takes much of the enjoyment away from the splurge you were treating yourself to; very counterproductive. Try to keep that in mind when determining what size portion to take.
#4: Eat before you go.
If you are really concerned about losing all will-power, it is not a bad idea to eat something before you go to the party. How much you need to eat is up to you. It could be a large salad or maybe just a few handfuls of veggies. But whatever it is it can help your stomach feel full, and maybe you won’t be tempted to eat as much “off-plan” food at the party. It can also help to eat slow, giving your stomach a chance to catch up and let you know when it has had enough. To help you eat slower, try putting your fork down after each bite and taking a drink of water before picking it back up. Also take time to talk and enjoy your company while eating; the more you converse, the less you are likely to consume.
#5: Plan ahead.
Usually you know in advance of a party coming up. Take some time to adjust your regular eating plan to accommodate for the party. For example, knowing I would likely be tempted by carbs at the barbecue, I limited my carbohydrate intake earlier that day, opting for more veggies and protein instead. Similarly, if you normally allow yourself a few treats during the week, consider forgoing those for the week in exchange for a moderate treat at the party. And if you sometimes find yourself eyeballing portions instead of measuring them, you could make a point of being better at measuring your food the week prior to the party and saving your guesstimates for the buffet table. The main point is, if you want to splurge a little and the party and not feel guilty, make an effort to eat a little better in the days leading up to it.
Bonus tip: Forgive yourself.
Finally, be gentle with yourself. Parties are meant to be celebrations, and for many of us, food is part of that joy. Expanding your plan a little here and there doesn’t erase it altogether. Just be aware of what you are doing, and ask yourself if it is worth it and if it will detract you from continuing your plan the next day. (For me, there have been times where once I have “blown” my diet, and I figure it’s not worth going back; don’t let that happen to you.) And even if you revert back to your old ways for the day, throwing all restraint to the wind, forgive yourself. You are still an amazing and worthy person. But don’t let that be the end. Get out your plan the next morning and get right back on the wagon. You still deserve to be the healthy and happy person you are striving for. As Autumn Calabrese says, “It does not get easier, but you get better”. We are not perfect, and we will all make some mistakes, but we can still get better each and every day.
With this mentality and these tips, I was able to honor my eating plan at both parties, allowing for a few minor indulgences. I enjoyed myself (and the treats) and still felt good about myself this morning. I wish you the same joy and success at your parties this summer and throughout the year.
What do you do to help yourself make healthy choices at parties?