For most of us, the holidays are a great time. A break from the routine. You know the drill. Going back home. Long trips by airplanes or cars. Friends and family. It’s a good time for many, but also a stressful time for some. Whether you are a child visiting a parent, vice-versa, or some other combination, you are about to commence a dietary adventure requiring dozens of mini-decisions. Even the best of us will likely get a few wrong.
If you follow a special dietary practice, you will need to carefully navigate through what is often a bounty of food, but probably little that suits your diet. What’s more, your personal preferences will be noticed. Questions will be raised, and with them discussion, wanted or not, about your diet. For some, this is a dreaded moment. For others, this is a teaching moment. If you’re on a strict diet, you may eat little, but, for many, the opposite is the problem. The food choices and temptations can be overwhelming, and overeating results.
Well, we all have different digestive capacity, and some of us can manage overeating better than others. You’ve heard about people with stomachs of steel? Sure. And some folks can sleep on a bed of nails. But for most of us, if we overeat, we end up just feeling tired, bloated, or guilty — not necessarily in that order! If that’s where you’ re headed, you’ve got three choices: A) A train wreck B) Damage control and repair, or C) Prevention.
Having a pre-meal strategy is the best prevention, and a sure way to avoid a train wreck. As I said before, no matter what your diet is, you’re going to be making dozens of food choices. You know what you can eat and what you can’t. What you will and what you won’t. But the decisions that affect us all are those of quantity and variety.
“How much” is the big one. Go into your meal with a strategy. Maybe something like: No matter what temptations are before me, ‘I will only eat soup and salad,’ or ‘I will only take one portion of everything,’ or ‘I’m skipping dessert.’ Above all, you must protect your plate from involuntary servings. You serve yourself. Only you know how much you can tolerate before you max out your capacity. Here is your mantra: ‘Small portions.” It will save you!
Variety is the other challenge. Holiday dinners have too many different foods. There is the clash of different types of proteins from nuts and seeds to beans and cheeses and meats, etc. All this weighs heavily on your system. The digestive tract accomplishes amazing things, but it is not a cement mixer. You will recover. The bloat will eventually subside. But the byproducts of incomplete digestion linger on to impact your immunity and long-term health.
Now you have your goals. Follow the “rules of prevention” and stick to them no matter how many roadblocks, detours, bells and whistles, flashing lights, gawks and protestations, guilt-laden wisecracks, and to-die-for desserts are thrown in your path.
Rules of Prevention:
- Having a good time does not require pigging out. Food is only part of the holiday. Spend more time interacting with the people or the environment or in discussion of the many topics of the day. Revamping the “medicare” system, for example, would be a good one!
Secrets to Gastronomical Survival:
- Drink Before. Sip During. Water is a great cleanser. Drink plenty before the eating begins. This empties your stomach and prepares it to receive the approaching bounty. Lots of liquids during the meal dilute the enzymes in your stomach. During eating, sip only enough to keep dry foods wet and flowing, but don’t wash down your food. Food needs to spend time in your stomach in contact with concentrated (undiluted) digestive enzymes.
- Small Mouthfuls, Small Portions. Discipline starts before food enters your mouth. After those taste bud receptors start firing-up, it’s hard to slow them down. You must make a conscious decision to reduce before the fork touches the lips. Consider choosing a small plate. Or just small portions and chew slowly and thoroughly.
- Talk or Chew, Not Both. Didn’t your mother tell you this? Either you’re going to do a good job of talking or a good job of chewing. Chew every forkful until it is virtually digested in your mouth, then swallow. Is that 30 crunches? Fifty? Whatever it takes. We’re supposed to enjoy the food anyway, right? Take your time.