Counting Points, and Surviving the Holiday Buffet

Quite recently, I went in for my annual physical. There I was made to step on a scale and was then forced to acknowledge my actual weight and discuss the health ramifications. Now, it wasn't too bad. It's certainly been worse. But it wasn't actually good either. So I signed up for Weight Watchers' online program and have been counting Points ever since. And I've lost 10 pounds, affirming my belief that Weight Watchers still is the safest easiest way to lose weight.

And, this past weekend I think I blew through all of them - all my daily Points, most of my Anytime Points. I almost tapped into my reserve of Activity Points. This past weekend was Halloween weekend, a candy free-for-all that for all practical purposes marks the beginning of the holiday food fest that will continue right up until breakfast on the morning of January 2 when we abandon brunches and return to our sensible morning oatmeal in a state of mild shock.

Thus heralds another cycle of Holiday Party Tips. And, in case anyone thinks this is premature, the Indian Festival of Lights was this past weekend, and Hanukkah is right around the corner, taking place in November this year.

  1. Don't Go to a Party Starving - This is tried and true common sense. If you don't eat something before a big holiday party, you will gorge yourself. I'm not talking about a full meal or anything, but you should get a little something in your system right around the time you start getting ready, like an apple or some nuts. Something to fill the void without feeling like a pre-dinner to the actual dinner.
  2. Don't Drink Your Calories - Wine, beer, cocktails all pack calories, and empty calories at that. Plus once many of us get a little liqoured up, our inhibitions fall to the wayside, and we tend to graze meaninglessly putting any old thing off the buffet into our belly. So, following this guideline actually accomplishes a couple of things, in addition to helping you dodge a hangover. Many diet gurus recommend the gin and tonic as the party drink of choice for those who wish not to indulge. This is a good choice as it comes in fairly low on the caloric content and doesn't mix well with most foods, forcing you to take a break from the buffet. It's also kind of bitter which makes it difficult to drink quickly, minimizing the number of them you can consume over the course of an evening. If there is only wine at the party, good luck. Wine is the greatest destroyer of good intentions known to mankind, both dietary and otherwise. Whatever you drink, remember to have a glass of water (not soda or juice) between
  3. Chose Your Calories Carefully - At a typical holiday party you will be presented with a barrage of foods, many of them specialties that we only eat this time of year. Many of them will also be things pulled from the freezer and reheated prior to guests arriving. I'm talking mini quiches, egg rolls, those questionable meatballs in cream of mushroom soup - these items are not fresh-made. They were created in a warehouse and flash frozen gods know how long ago. Ask yourself what you really want to eat. I stick by the "real food" guideline and usually do OK with things like veggies and dip, shrimp cocktail, and the fruit and cheese platter.
  4. Be Honest With Yourself - This piece of advice is about those inevitable food traps - those items that we know we shouldn't eat but seem powerless to resist. Mine is buffalo chicken anything - wings, dip, sliders. I can't help it! I love the hot and tangy pepper sauce and the creamy bleu cheese dressing, and because it is chicken, I can usually convince myself that it's not the worst thing on the buffet. I would be wrong. But, if it's on the table, I know I will partake. I'll dodge every other questionable food choice (including dessert) to indulge a bit here. And that's the trick,. A little honesty about your favorite bad food will allow you to enjoy it without feeling the need to a) give up entirely on your healthy eating plan because of one "slip" and go hog wild, or b) feel like crap because you were faced with temptation and lost. (If it was resistible, it wouldn't be very tempting, now would it.)
  5. Keep Track of Things, or Calories In, Calories Out - This is essentially what I am doing with Weight Watchers Online, only I have a Points allowance. You can keep track of your eating and exercise with a number of online tools and apps. My favorite free app is MyFitnessPal. It allows you to track your weight and has a pretty extensive database of foods, exercises, and normal activities (shopping anyone?) to help you stay on top of things. This is especially important if you (like me) enjoy food and end up dancing along the edge of your healthy weight range.

Regardless of what anyone says, the holidays are about eating - sharing meals and special foods with family and friends, showcasing our favorite recipes, baking little treats for our neighbors and coworkers. Take my sensible advice or completely disregard it - just remember to have fun. Enjoy the company around you. And, enjoy the food.