The Fourth of July festivities are coming up quickly, folks! This means two things: fireworks and food. It’s just how we Americans know how to celebrate; fire and more fire.
When you’re committed to a healthy diet and lifestyle, holidays and social gatherings are two of the main culprits in what can really derail those efforts. How many times have you made a game plan before attending a barbeque only for it to fail when you passed the dessert table for the third time?
Social pressure, celebrations, and copious amounts of indulgent food can seem impossible to evade when we’re trying to reach our goals. Don’t let it get the best of you this holiday weekend. Here are a few tips for having your cake and eating it, too. Yes, there will be a cake recipe.
1. Look at the big picture. If you’re feeling anxiety about a social situation involving food, examine the situation from a new perspective. When we think about our goals related to diet and fitness, it can be so easy to get caught up in the nitty-gritty of it all. Here’s your daily reminder that it’s not always so complicated. How much is that ONE “cheat meal” really going to set you back? The reality of the circumstance is that it probably won’t do much damage at all. Think about your consistency in terms of the big picture. Do you fall off the wagon once a week or once a month? If you can take the day off from your rigid eating schedule for a special occasion without the holiday weekend turning into a holiday month, just ease up!
2. Go for the people, not the food. This is one of those things that people neglect to think about. Sometimes, our attitude is predetermined by our bad habits which sets us up for failure from the start. The good thing: this is an easy fix! Remember, when you go to a party or a dinner event with friends, you are there for THEM – not the food. Treat cookouts and holiday weekends as a social experience rather than a dining experience. Think of the delicious plates on the table as just an added bonus. Take your time enjoying the food while you focus instead on good company and good conversation. A shift in your approach of the situation can make it easier to not overindulge or make regrettable dietary choices.
3. Treat yo’self. If you have assessed your own personal situation and decided to celebrate the holiday with a happy and conscious head, you’re in the clear to treat yourself! One of the most vital aspects of a healthy lifestyle is balance. Nobody can be picture-perfect all the time, and nobody is asking you to be! Find your 80/20 – be diligent 80% of the time, and reserve the 20% for times like this. That 20% may be a few cold beers or one of those pretty little cupcakes with extra frosting. Once again, it all boils down to mindset! Handle your indulgence as a way to relax rather than a “reward/punishment” system. When you imply a “cause and effect” relationship with food and your goals, it can foster a negative behavior pattern.
4. Everything in moderation. You probably already know what you should avoid; heavy, mayo-based pasta salads, sugary Jell-O concoctions that resemble the flag, and the big ol’ cookie tray staring you down (or is it the other way around?) The trouble with these foods isn’t necessarily the fact that they aren’t so healthy. The problem is the sheer amount you pile on your plate! We tend to “forget” about portion sizes during holidays and social events. In addition to the grilled goodies, a heaping spoon of pasta salad can really add up. Plus, let’s face it: nobody eats just ONE cookie. Choose one indulgence and stick to it if you have trouble eating “foods without brakes.” This often happens because sugar and high-carbohydrate intake (especially from pasta and bread) sends signals to the brain to EAT MORE. Be mindful of your hunger and set a few limits.
5. Bring your own food. Whether you’re hosting the party or attending one, make sure you do your part. The best part about cooking out are the healthy food options. Seriously, what CAN’T you grill? The sky is the limit. From watermelon to filet mignon, your options are endless. Cut up veggies or skewer up some kebabs in a tasty marinade before you head out the door. That way, regardless what else is on the table, you have tons of smart options at your disposal. You’ll be doing your part by contributing to the potluck, too. Here are a few awesome recipes to plan ahead with this year: