Holiday Parties: Budget Your Food as Well as Your Wallet

Giving Thanks with a Healthy, Low-Carb Thanksgiving Meal

“Around and around and around and around we go”…Rihanna

Start Now to Budget Your Food

Each year we come full circle back to the holiday season. For the next 5 months, we must live through Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years’ and Valentine’s Day. Of course, it’s not just THE holiday party, it is the holiday parties!!! Parties here, parties there, parties everywhere – your office and your partner’s office, kids, family, friends, oh and throw in a few birthday celebrations each month. If I left any out, please feel free to add them in. With all the temptation during these times, is there anything else to say but, diet and exercise” D-I-S-A-S-T-E-R”???!!!

The season does not have to be a disaster as long as you are accountable for your actions. Maintain a healthy lifestyle throughout the season and don’t let good behaviors fall by the wayside.

No matter how diligent you are with the routine. Self-commitment becomes an even more important decision that has to be made during this time, more so than at other less hectic and less festive times of the year.

How to Avoid Self-Sabotage

You may very easily self-sabotage the healthy habits you have built by thinking that the holidays are one day events, and that if you do not exercise or eat right on one day it does not matter. The reality is that the holidays last for weeks. Yes, it is a one day event, but the break in the healthy habit chain can start at least a week before, as people bring cakes, pies, and cookies into work in light of the festivity spirit. Whether you take a nibble, or dive right into a full piece of pie, it all counts.

It “counts” in that you cannot simply forget it was consumed. This is a big problem during the holidays; just plain forgetting all the tiny tastes can add up to serious diet damage. Account for anything you put in your mouth, food and drink, no matter how small. If you are going to indulge, It has to be part of a planned food budget, or you can just say “NO” and choose to avoid any food not on plan so that it really is a one day holiday.

Either way, sticking to a plan is the only way to make it work. No means no and you eat only the foods that are permitted on your diet. So start practicing now, “NO, thank you!” or “NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, thank you.” Say it with confidence and say it with a smile, because you know you are going to fit into your summer wear by summertime.

Food budgeting is a little more complicated, and there is more discipline that is involved. Once you take a little bite you can NOT go back for more. A small portion must be enough to satisfy, if not you are headed for disaster.

Setting Your Food Budget

Just like you may put together a financial budget for groceries, this food budget uses grams of carbs. Do you know how many carbs you can consume daily before pounds start piling on? This is an important place to start. Excess food adds up quickly – before you can bat an eye, four little bites begin an avalanche of mindless eating. A food budget is a pre-determined amount of carbs or food that are allowed on your plan. If you know you will eat at times you typically do not, or foods that are not part of a healthy routine, your budget may mean added exercise or less carbs during your typical meal. This requires time to know your food and plan how many carbs for your indulgence, for example, if there are a box of soft baked Entenmann’s chocolate chip cookies or a slice of Godiva chocolate cheesecake calling your name.

Determine Your Carb Limits

Determine the grams of carbs: 3 cookies are 20 grams and 1 slice of the Godiva cheesecake is 75 grams. This is where the budget (or portion) comes in. If your total budget is 50 grams, you may choose to eat 1 cookie (about 7 grams), or maybe ½ (or less) of the cheesecake (38 grams). Regardless, plan the rest of the day accordingly. If you typically have a drink after work, or eat a small serving of fruit, cheese, or nuts, they will have to be eliminated, and you may even have to cut down on some vegetables, but the piper has to be paid. This works for holidays and special occasions, but in general cutting out healthier food options for junk food is not smart and I do not recommend it.

Only you can choose. Is it going to be the food budget or will you just say, “No!”? Either way, do not fool yourself into a false sense of security.

What Not to Do

Well actually, there is another option, but it is highly unsocial: you can always come down with a mysterious illness and just disappear for five months. Party avoidance will definitely cut down on exposure to too much food and drink while giving you time to start or continue an exercise routine. Obviously, there are many reasons this may not work.

Bottom line is, you have options. You are in the driver’s seat. What happens after the decision is made makes the difference between success, relapse, and failure. Meaning, it takes much more than just making a decision as to what will be done during the holidays or any party. You have to stick with the plan and put it into action. Come hell or high water, stick with the plan.

Budget Your Food: Stay Aware

Stay on your toes at all times. It is convenient to forget what you eat. Eating habit awareness is a focus for everyone, even outside of the holidays. However, during the holidays it is so much more important because mindless eating is all too easy. Pop a candy in your mouth, it’s gone in less than a minute. It may taste good, but once its eaten, our minds have a way of helping us forget what we prefer to ignore. It is a good sign if you are so guilty that you actually remember it.

During the holidays this is magnified 100% as so many things are changing. Daily routine, time commitments, food availability etc. Eating habits need to adapt. Think about your routine and how some of these scenarios may be similar to what you experience. You can see how these events can affect your choices and what you put in your mouth.

Budget Your Food: Holiday Triggers

  • Are you running around shopping for food, clothes, gifts, or most likely all of the above, and have no time to eat and then boom, you inhale everything in sight? You are probably not aware that you are overeating because you have not eaten all day. If you are anything like me, this probably sounds familiar.
  • ‘Tis the season to be generous and when your co-workers start bringing extra food to the office, typically it’s not a salad. So there you are running around hungry, and suddenly there the food is staring you in the face – someone’s got to eat it, right? Besides, it’s been a year since you ate this particular food.
  • Indigenous holiday food; it’s likely there will not be another opportunity to eat these foods again for another year.
  • Time spent organizing and preparing family gatherings and guests.
  • Party season means more temptation, there are many more opportunities to eat and drink during the holidays

We all enjoy the thought of the holidays but let’s be realistic. “The most wonderful time of the year” is also the most stressful time of the year. Stress is a big factor in holiday weight management; deadlines, family dynamics, your own ideas of how things “should be” all heighten stress. I have news for you – eating doesn’t help stress, it just exacerbates it. Food does not bring happiness; instead many times it brings sadness, stress, and frustration. Eating makes stress worse, much worse because now you’re stressing about eating all the wrong food or too many carbs. Stick to the plan and you will be much happier, less stressed, and calmer.

If you are not aware of changes in eating, time management, or food availability, you cannot correct for it. Being aware of these changes is the first step in being able to maintain weight or continued weight loss success throughout the holiday months.

Budget Your Food: Prepare

Realizing the changes that will happen during the holidays will help you prepare for what is to come. Being prepared means acknowledging the differences and working around the obstacles. Do not wait until it is too late.

Construct a plan that navigates around whatever challenge you may face.

For example, if you try to avoid food just because you know you have a party later in the day, don’t. You will not be able to stay in control and keep to any plan.

What you want to do is stay focused and manage food intake, but not avoid it. Take a bare-bones approach and eat the bare minimum. Use a three-prong approach:

  1. Cut out: Eliminate any extras.
  2. Utilize portion control: stick with smaller portions, eat just enough to stave off hunger.
  3. Minimize nutrients: Pick the foods that contain the least amount of calories and carbs.

Typically, I wouldn’t push low-calorie anything. When trying to stick as close to a food budget as possible, banking calories and carbs over the course of the day allows you a little more indulgence in the evening.

Stick with vegetables that are lowest in carbs. Start with this extensive selection of vegetables with less than 5 grams of carbs per serving.

Keep low-calorie protein easily accessible, sources including turkey, fish and shellfish (cod, pike, sole, snapper, flounder, orange roughy, shrimp, lobster, clams and scallops) chicken, pork tenderloin, eggs, and lean beef.

Another example is, if you are eating more frequently just because the food is there, the problem is simple – food quantity. Realize that there will be grazing throughout the day, hopefully with awareness, portion, and carb control in mind. Try eliminating big meals. Instead of eating three large meals and in-between snacks, try six smaller feeds, or if you are not hungry skip one of your mini meals. Or, if you indulge, and it draws enough carbs out of your food budget account to total two mini meals, you must eliminate two meals to balance the budget or cut the indulgence in half and save half for the next mini meal.

Everyone Has Their Own Personal Holiday Time Bomb

General holiday tips are not going to work. You must individualize a plan that will work for you, under any circumstance. Change typical holiday results with convenient and practical strategies. A self-made plan is more powerful than any approach anyone can make for you.

Do not go around in circles trying to chase your weight because of holiday indiscretions. It is well worth preparing for holiday changes in routine, environment, and food selections because a few small changes can make a big difference in getting through the holiday season. You can let go of self sabotage and embrace weight control during the most difficult time of the year. Plan for the holidays. Will you just say, “No” or will you budget your food? Be aware and prepare for the season. Stress, changes in routine, family dynamics, personal expectations, and food galore will turn the weight loss table in the wrong direction. You know what to expect, you have done this many times before. Put a plan into action before you get ambushed this holiday season and stick with it.

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