Okay, so Christmas is nearly here, and this means that most of us will be eating more and drinking more and generally overindulging. The mentality is usually:
Now this time of the year is a chance for me to get stuck into a lot of chocolate, big meals and basically whatever I can get my hands on. I know that I will be okay when the celebration is over because I would no longer need to over-indulge and would be back on track with my training again.
However, if you are just starting out, or you know that you always have trouble getting back into the swing of things, I have some helpful tips for you this coming Christmas (or, in fact; any periods of indulgence) for damage limitation.
So, all of your family have turned up, and there is a massive feast laid out with all of the trimmings and as many helpings as you can manage.
Normally, you would just get stuck in and push food into your face until you can’t move or you start to feel uncomfortable; and as soon as the discomfort goes away, you start snacking on the chocolates and nuts that are conveniently placed in bowls so that you can easily get a handful here and there.
Now, these big meals and handfuls of “treats” are all calories that are going into your body and need burning off or they will be stored as fat.
The following are some things that you may want to try to help yourself out if you are conscious or worried about over-eating.
Eat More Slowly
You may have heard this before but I think it is worth mentioning again because it really works. If you eat more slowly, you will get fuller faster.
Let me explain it this way: If you are eating fast, your stomach will be full before your brain receives the information and, hence, you will continue to eat when you should have stopped. When you eat more slowly, you allow these hormones (full stomach signals) to get to your brain before you put in too much.
Although this is the basic theory, it does not apply to everyone as some people may have hormonal dysfunction or a leptin resistance.
I, myself, do not eat that slowly; and when I have made a conscious effort to try, I have found myself struggling with it. So, keep in mind that it is not as easy as it sounds. It may need a bit of practice.
Here are some little tips that can help you eat more slowly and get you off to a good start:
Put your knife and fork down several times between mouthfuls. Once you have filled your mouth with food, put your knife and fork down by the sides of your plate (or whatever you’re eating from), and don’t load up ready to fill your mouth again as soon as it is empty.
There are plenty of Chinese restaurants that use chopsticks where I live. This is in England and most people I know are not “chopstick experts” around here. I am not too bad at using them but there are people who will have trouble with it.
Now I mention the chopstick thing because it is a skill to use chopsticks, and it is more time-consuming (for many) to eat in this way rather than using a fork. You will notice that, if you do go to a restaurant that uses chopsticks and you struggle, you will be satisfied by eating half the amount. This is the same concept as putting your knife and fork down between mouthfuls.
Before a Big Meal
If you are just about to sit down to a big meal, and you are hungry, you may be motivated to get stuck in, pile up your plate and gobble it down as quickly as you can… and then go back for more and shovel that in as well before those “I’m full” signals to your brain have kicked in.
Now this is not really what we want if we are looking to limit the extra calories that are going into our bodies.
I have found that a great thing to do here is to drink a big glass of water just before sitting down to eat. When I say big glass of water, I mean a pint or a litre. This will curb those hunger pangs — and it really does help out in many other ways — without you being too full to enjoy your food. Try it, and you will see what I mean.
It is also a good idea to increase your water intake generally around this time of year, especially if you are drinking a lot of alcohol. But you should also be aware that most alcoholic drinks are packed with calories.
Use a Smaller Plate
It is generally a good idea to use a smaller plate. This is a physiological process because if you have your small plate piled up with food, it will appear like you have a mega amount of food on it, even though you may only have half the amount you would normally have on a regular sized plate.
I once read somewhere (or someone told me) that there are places that offer all-you-can-eat buffets! But being as health conscious as I am, I wouldn’t know for sure. Now, I have heard that these places put this trick into practice. If you go to these restaurants, you will notice that 9 out of 10 plates are smaller than regular ones. But this is obviously to save costs as I don’t believe they are so concerned about your health.
Another thing that you can try is to have two plates. (Stick with me here; this may sound like we are about to start a binge.)
So, one plate is a regular plate, and contains all the healthy things on the table, such as lean turkey, broccoli, sprouts, cabbage, etc. The other plate is a small, side plate containing all of the high-calorie stuff like sausage, pork crackling, etc.
Another tip that will probably take some charisma and finesse to put in practice is that, instead of pouring gravy or high-calorie sauce over everything, you keep it in a small pot and dip your food into it before bringing to your mouth. This should only slightly help to limit the calorie intake, but every little effort counts.
Like I said though, this may be hard to put in practice without receiving some grief for having bad table manners unless you make it look good. Certainly no chance of me being able to pull that off; I’ll have to work on it.
Eat Whatever You Want
This should surprise you but hold on; this doesn’t mean you should start wading into a full Christmas pudding, or power-eating a full yule log! This means that, yes, you should eat whatever you fancy but only in moderation. The best approach to this is to eat small samples of things rather than full helpings.
If you find something you fancy, you should not deprive yourself of it because this can lead to a binge later on, or you may feel very restricted with the mentality of healthy eating and it will become harder to control.
To wrap things up then…
(There is a pun there somewhere) Most people will over-indulge at Christmas and there is nothing wrong with having a good time while you do it. But I know how hard it can be to get back into the swing of things when it’s all over since I have been there myself. It can be very tough.
If you are interested in damage limitation over Christmas, you should:
- Eat more slowly
- Drink water before a meal
- Use a smaller plate
- Eat whatever you want in moderation.
These small points should help you in times of over-indulgence, and they should not restrict you too much so that you can still have a great time.
I hope this information has been helpful to you. I will be publishing another article soon with some healthy Christmas leftover recipes. Have a good one, and I hope to see you in the New Year getting back on track.
On a side note, if you are interested in losing some weight or gaining some lean muscle in the New Year, this e-book is a great place to start!
Good luck, and all the best!