Do you look forward to the party season while dreading the effects of too much food and drink?
The greatest weight management challenge is the stand-up buffet and worst of all, the Beige Buffet. You know the sort of thing. Spring rolls, mini-quiches, mini-pizzas, Scotch eggs, sausage rolls, chopped up mini pork pies, mince pies, brownie bites, stollen bites.
Be honest, you’re a bit disappointed but dive in because you’re hungry and later, you feel cheated that you’ve wasted hundreds of calories on a not-very-good eating experience. You also hanker after some fresh raw food to offset all that greasy pastry.
Here’s a fact that revolutionised my thinking about buffets. It made me feel far less guilty when I still, occasionally, overdo it. It’s this.
We humans are genetically programmed to eat as wide a variety of foods as possible. It’s good for our health. The more widely we eat, the more likely we are to take in essential nutrients. So at a buffet, it’s normal, indeed, hard-wired into our brains, to want to eat everything we see before us.
Ever loaded your paper plate and regretted it before you tasted the first smoked salmon canape? So have I. Don’t hate yourself. Our brains which hasn’t evolved much since we wore Fred and Wilma Flintstone outfits and carried clubs are saying: ‘Hey, guys, there’s a food source here. It’s plentiful. It’s varied. Get stuck in before the other people take all the food.’
The competitive element together with an instinct for survival is why we feel driven to take too much.
If you socialise a lot, you need a strategy.
Move 1: Try on your little black dress, jumpsuit or jeans and remember what it feels like not to be able to do up the zip, breathe, move while wearing said item. That’s if you can get into said item. Keep that in mind.
Move 2: Don’t go to the event ravenous and don’t skip lunch that day. This will only make you tuck in like a starving hyena. Eat a hard-boiled egg, a plain yoghurt or a few nuts an hour before.
Move 3: Make your first drink at the party a large glass of water. Two is better. Only when you have quenched your thirst should you move on to alcohol – if you choose.
Move 4: Make a quick recce of the table and choose a balanced meal of protein, veg and carbs – perhaps slices of that beef fillet, three of the salads, and some of that amazing sourdough bread or couscous. Visualise the kind of amount that would be appropriate if you were sitting down at a table. Then step away from the area where the buffet is displayed. That’s right, step away. Go to the other side of the room now and find someone interesting to talk to.
Move 5: When you’ve finished your main, return for dessert OR cheese. You don’t have to try all the puddings and all the cheeses. Put a medium portion on your plate, then move immediately to the other side of the room. Another strategy is to eat just one teaspoonful of each dessert but this takes willpower. It will be harder if the sweets are good.
It will be harder not to overeat if you hover over the table the whole evening, smelling and looking at the feast. This is what the fat people are doing. Resist.
It will also be harder to control your eating if you feel lonely or bored. So if no one’s talking to you, talk to them. You’re not such a saddo that you’ve only there for the food, are you?
What’s your technique for not pigging out at Christmas buffets? Do you eat now, pay in January?