How to navigate high-risk food situations?
No matter which boat you are in right now: trying to improve your health and/or body composition, or trying to maintain it, this quick guide can be very helpful.
The one thing you can absolutely control at any point in time is your own behavior. Every time you eat or drink something you make a conscious decision to do so.
I'm not saying it's easy to resist temptations and urges but with the right practice assertiveness can become as effortless as eating that second (or third) donut.
So here's a list of potential high-risk situations and how to make them work for you:
1. Getting ice cream with your family.
Order kids size ice cream in a cup. No cone. Fresh fruit toppings instead of the sprinkles.
2. Going to a BBQ at a friend's house who always serves tons of alcohol, and non-nutritious foods.
Alcohol: ahead of time decide how many drinks you are going to have and stick to it. Have a tall glass of water between each drink.
Food: have something to eat before you leave so you are not hungry when you arrive, and bring your own healthy dish to share with everybody.
3. Going out to eat.
Look up the menu online and decide what you will order before you go. Don't accept the restaurant menu, it will only tempt you to change your mind.
Also, if you are worried that your portion may be too big, share it with your friend/spouse, or ask a waiter for a to go box when you order your meal, so that you can pack up half to take home before you even start eating.
I have clients who plan their lunches based on the leftovers from the times they eat out.
4. You are at a party and the cake is calling your name.
Take a few bites, and if that still doesn't satisfy you and you want to keep eating more (you know you will regret that later), quickly sprinkle some salt or pepper over it to ruin the taste or grab a chewing gum and stick it in your mouth. Chewing gum or carrying a breath freshener also works when somebody brings sweets to the office that are hard to resist.
5. You are going away for a special celebratory weekend with your spouse.
You both love food and good wine, however remember why you are going away. It's about celebrating your love to one another and relaxing together, not about food.
6. Home alone with nothing to do.
Get out of the kitchen or any other room you would be tempted to hang out in and eat (for me that's my family room). Go to your bedroom and read. Take a bath. Call a friend. Go for a walk. Pick one relaxing and distracting activity that will leave you refreshed and happy rather than too full and regretful. If watching TV is a way you destress - make sure your hands stay busy while you watch - pet your dog, roll quarters, knit or do puzzles.
7. You come home from work hungry and snack (on chips, pretzels, popcorn, cheese, etc.) a lot while cooking, then you are not hungry for dinner (but you still finish your plate).
I do this fairly often myself.
Most people get hit with hunger around 3pm - if that's you, have a protein-oriented snack with vegetables/fruit such as greek yogurt w/berries, 1/2 protein bar, protein shake, a couple of hard boiled eggs, turkey roll ups, etc.
If that doesn't do the trick and you are still hungry when you get home and feel like snacking while cooking always keep sliced up vegetables in the fridge that you can dip in hummus or eat raw.
8. You get stressed out and you find yourself grazing through the fridge or opening another bottle of wine (or both).
STOP acronym is a quick way to remember the steps to calm down when you are feeling stressed out and out of control.
TAKE A BREATH or two.
OBSERVE your feeling and your thoughts.
PROCEED with intention, choosing what you will say or do next.
Be mindful about this. You have full power over your thoughts, and know that your own thoughts affect your emotions, not the other way round.
Control your thoughts and you will be able to control the behavior that is driven by your emotions.
This process takes time and practice, practice, practice. Give it a try next time you are caught off guard.
If you are trying to improve your diet and/or lose weight, give me a shout - let's look at your daily habits and see where we can create a deficit so you can start living a healthier life and learning how to maintain it.