As we emerge from the pandemic bunker of our homes for the first time in months, many of us are looking forward to catching up with friends and family via backyard barbecues. Especially under the new guidelines of social distancing, backyard barbecues are only going to increase in popularity as the preferred method of hanging with friends and family.
For the dieter or health enthusiast, these gatherings can present an opportunity to get ourselves into trouble with the combination of over-consumption and the array of unhealthy dishes that are usually available. Not to mention, the added pressure to conform. It’s hard to turn down our summer favorites for healthier alternatives, let alone to do so in the midst of comments and judgments from those who might not understand or accept our choices.
In this article, I’m going to share my best tips to help you navigate these events with the ease of a fitness professional, someone who is all too familiar with the challenges you’ll face.
Eat before arriving at the party.
The goal here is to fill up on a healthy meal at home before heading out to the party.
Studies have found that we are likely to consume 35% more calories when eating with just one other person compared to eating alone, and as much as 96% more calories when eating with seven or more people.
Combat this by filling up before the party, so that you’re less likely to hit the snack table in a feeding frenzy.
Bring a healthy dish (or dishes) to share.
By bringing a healthy dish to share, not only will you appear to be a thoughtful guest, but will also ensure that you have something you can eat guilt-free. Now you can load up your plate with this healthy dish, taking away valuable plate real-estate from the junk foods.
No, seriously. If you spend most of your time chatting with other party-goers you will have less time to shovel food into your mouth. this distraction can force you to eat less and to eat slower–which has been shown to reduce overall calorie consumption.
Think about the last time you were at a party where you knew very few people in attendance, what did you do?
If you’re like a lot of people you probably turned your attention almost exclusively toward the food because it gave you something to do. Get out and strike up conversations, you will find your desire to eat has been reduced or even eliminated completely.
Keep a glass of water in your hand, and keep it full.
While you’re busy being the most interesting person in the room, make sure you keep a glass of water in your hand.
You may have that friend or coworker, even a random person you struck up a conversation with, that tries to convince you to try (insert homemade dish or alcoholic beverage here). By keeping your hands full (it doesn’t really matter with what), you can avoid these social pressures.
Does a friend want you to drink? Here’s your response: “Thanks, but I already have one.”
Does a coworker want you to try the six-cheese mac and cheese loaded with fat? “I’ll give it a try after I’m finished drinking my water.”
They will likely forget about you long before you finish your drink. Having something in your hands will also keep your hands busy to prevent you from mindlessly snacking.
Use the “Heck Yes” food strategy.
“Heck Yes” foods are those foods that you absolutely can’t wait to try.
Your friend’s homemade birthday cake dip, your grandma’s mac & cheese, or the 16-hour smoked brisket that your host has been cooking all day. “Heck Yes” foods are those foods that, when you see them amongst the other options, your inside-head voice screams, heck yes!
When you’re faced with an assortment of different dishes to try, it’s easy to want to serve yourself a little of everything because, YOLO. (Or even just because it’s there in front of you.)
Instead, ask yourself which foods really get you the most excited, and avoid eating any of the rest. This means you won’t eat any packaged or store-bought foods (i.e. chips, store-bought dips, pretzels, etc.). You can eat those things at home (or any other time), so take this time to try something new.
With this strategy, you will leave feeling satisfied with your choice, and won’t feel like you’ve missed out on anything special.
If you follow these strategies you can avoid being at a party with no healthy options to choose from, you can avoid the pressure to eat or drink things you don’t want by keeping your hands busy, and you can save hundreds, if not thousands, of calories while still enjoying the foods that get you excited.
Remember, it’s entirely OK to enjoy yourself at these events, but having a plan is crucial. If you think you can show up to one of these parties and just “force” yourself to avoid certain things or stop yourself from eating or drinking too much, then you’ve already set yourself up for failure.
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