Dieting: Staying on Track During Cookout Season
PUBLISHED FOR CAREPILOT.COM BLOG (AUGUST 2013)
Greetings from day 10 at my family’s home in Plymouth, MA! While I love visiting my favorite little speck on the map more than anything, the trip really tests my willpower and inevitably expands my waistline in the most undesirable ways.
Each morning, I wake up to chocolate chip pancakes, eggs benedict, bacon and cheese danishes I grew up begging for. Lunch and dinners are heavy meals of lasagnas, meatloaves and steaks, followed by an irresistible homemade dessert. I am sure you all can sympathize in one-way or another. It is August, and cookouts, family reunions and weddings are rampant.
Here are some tips to stay sane and only gain a pound or two when you are up against visiting family, a wedding weekend, a long vacation, or just wrapped up in the enjoyment of cookout season.
1. Wake up with good intentions. Start your morning routine with a cup of coffee or tea and assess your will power. Don’t focus on guilt trips from the feast you enjoyed the night before. But rather, reflect on the enjoyable, but heavy, meal and make a conscious effort to be mindful of what you will consume today.
2. Fill up with a sustainable breakfast. Doing so will help keep you full and away from the cookies and sweets until lunchtime. It is okay to indulge a little, but try not to overdo it. One pancake and a slice of bacon is enough. Have a sliced banana with a little bit of peanut butter with your meal and you are bound to feel more satisfied and less likely to reach for a second cinnamon bun.
3. Try to only indulge in the things you cannot get everyday. The grocery store cupcakes are always going to taste the same. And so is the pub cheese and the hot dogs. Choose to fill up on your great aunt’s famous apple crisp or your sister’s first attempt at a fancy potato salad.
4. Really eyeball the food options before digging in. This is one of my favorite calorie saving rules! Don’t just choose the foods you normally deny yourself of because you think this is your one free day to be a glutton. Fill one plate with the dishes you think you will most enjoy. This rule is especially important with the desserts. You do not need a separate plate to try each dessert. Chose one or two that look undeniably delicious and pick a small piece to enjoy.
5. The 50:50 Ratio. When making my plate, I like to give myself at least a 50:50 ratio of healthy to unhealthy foods. That means half my plate will be vegetable dishes, less fattening dips (such as hummus, guacamole, salsa or yogurt based dips), lean meats and salads.
6. Be conscious of alcohol consumption. Excessive alcohol can lower our inhibitions and leave us less will power to stay away from the buffalo chicken dip. Plus, a full day of drinking can quickly triple our daily calorie, carb and sugar intake! For mixed cocktails, I try to stick to wine coolers or sangrias made with soda water and fresh fruit. Rum punches and margaritas will spike your sugar and tack on a few hundred calories per serving. Wine, champagne, beers and unflavored liquor mixed with soda water or tonic is your safest bet if you are planning on having a few cocktails over the course of the party.
7. Get some exercise! Play croquet or horseshoes with the family, get up on the dance floor at the wedding, go for a walk around the block, or hop in the pool with the kids! There are always plenty of chances to burn a few calories and step away from the buffet line.
All of these suggestions are useful tactics for sticking to our diet goals, but they are just that: suggestions, NOT rules!
The only rule I have is to live joyfully in the moment. If I am going to have another piece of my mom’s homemade lasagna that brings me back to my childhood, then I am going to savor every single delicious bite. Our social lives revolve around enjoying meals in good company. Dieting does not mean giving up this social life, it just means being conscious and fully aware of our eating habits and actions.
Do not feel guilty for a day (or in my case 10 days!) of veering off track. We are in this together, and with a little extra motivation at the gym on Monday, we will be back on the road to fit and healthy in no time.
Enjoy your time with family and friends!