I have noticed a nearly unstoppable behavior trend that emerges when I visit my parents. I try time and time again to combat it, usually to no avail. This behavior manifests tenfold during a holiday, rendering me a mere pawn in its conquest of my actions. I am talking, of course, about overeating.
Food is a fundamental aspect of our being. Through its importance, it becomes inextricably linked to other parts of life we hold dear, such as holidays and their associated celebrations. It is easy to become overindulgent in these wonderful times, so I would like to share tips to control intake in the setting of festivities.
Take a small bite, set your food down and chew thoroughly. The longer you take to eat, the longer you can enjoy your food. If you are like me and are prone to eating on autopilot, these are difficult habits to get into. The best way to hone these skills is to practice at home in the absence of distractions.
Use smaller plates. This strategy will work in two ways. The more space there is to put food, the more we tend to put. Limiting this space provokes us, even on a subconscious level, to limit our portions. A small plate will also trick our brain into the perception we are eating more. For fun examples of this principle, look up the Delboeuf illusion.
Be mindful of peripheral foods. Did you come to the dinner party for deliciously tender slices of pot roast or did you come for a bread roll? The latter often makes it on our plate because we see it as an inconsequential add-on, but it nevertheless contributes to our caloric load.
The above tips are tools to help limit overconsumption, but by no means do they promote hypervigilance to the point of not enjoying oneself. It is important to balance one’s dietary goals with the joy and togetherness inherent in holiday celebrations. Whether it be your grandmother’s dessert tradition or a friend’s attempt at a fancy hors d’oeuvre, some food decisions should not be based strictly on a health perspective.
That last bit might seem like surprising advice coming from a person steeped in the realm of dietetics, but only if you have never met one. If you have nutrition goals to accomplish, consulting a dietitian will be a tremendous help. We are reasonable people, I promise.
Eating Smart is usually written by Mary Koch, a registered dietitian at Banner Churchill Community Hospital and the VA Lahontan Valley Outpatient Clinic. Send your nutrition questions to Mary at firstname.lastname@example.org.