You’ve been dieting for some time now, and you are finally starting to see the results you have been striving for. Your jeans are looser, and you feel healthy and energized. But during the summer months, your social schedule is heating up right along with the temperature; it seems like every weekend brings an invitation to a wedding, a barbecue, or a family get-together.
Of course you don’t want to miss out on any of the fun, but how can you enjoy yourself at a party when you know all of the delicious food you are eating is heading straight for your thighs and waistline; destroying all the hard work you have put into shedding those unwanted pounds?
One common approach that many dieters choose is to fast all day before a social occasion. On the surface, this seems to make logical sense. With your weight loss program, you are limited to a certain number of calories every day; by skipping meals before a party, you can “save” your daily calories so that you can sample all the munchies … right? Unfortunately, this technique does not really work; fasting before a party can actually derail your diet, causing you to regain at least some of the weight you have worked so hard to lose.
How does fasting cause weight gain?
The human body is genetically programmed to cope with times when food is scarce by slowing the metabolism in order to conserve its energy resources. While this mechanism originally evolved in order to permit us to survive periods when there is not enough to eat, the body does not differentiate between famine and voluntary fasting.
If you skip meals, your body takes this as a signal to conserve energy by decreasing your metabolic rate. When you resume eating, your body remains in this state for some time, storing more of the calories you consume than it would under normal circumstances. Even if you don’t overdo it at the buffet, your body is now intent on converting calories to fat, in case the famine continues and your body needs to revert to its energy stores for survival.
To make matters worse, if you have gone all day without eating, you are probably ravenous, and your discipline is likely to go out the window at the first sign of an hors d’oeuvre. Not only are you liable to eat far more than you would during a normal meal, you are much less inclined to make appropriate food choices. Essentially, you have given yourself permission to pig out, and with your metabolism running on low, the foods you eat now will be sticking with you for quite some time.
How can I enjoy a party without jeopardizing my weight loss plan?
The good news is that you don’t have to skip the family barbecue just to keep your diet on track; you don’t even have to bring your own food. With a little bit of planning and preparation, you can have a great time and enjoy your favorite snacks, within reason. These guidelines will help you get through any event without destroying all of your weight loss efforts.
1. Don’t skip meals. Eat normally, both before and after the event, so that your metabolism will continue to run smoothly, and so that you won’t be starved out of your senses by the time you get to the celebration.
2. Consider whether this is a unique occasion. If you are headed to a family reunion on the beach that happens only once every ten years, then don’t be afraid to get into the celebration. Eat that lobster, or a burger with all the fixings, and don’t feel guilty about enjoying it. But if you are invited to four barbecues in the next three weeks, you are better off sampling the chicken and grilled veggies and leaving Aunt Jenny’s famous potato salad alone.
3. Decide which foods you can skip, and which are not negotiable. If you are attending your parents’ 50th anniversary party, you are probably going to join in the champagne toast, and you won’t be able to turn down a piece of wedding cake at your best friend’s big day . So go ahead and enjoy, but steer clear of foods that are not quite so “special” – you can have that garlic bread or mashed potatoes another time.
4. Scope out the snacks before you dive in. Instead of grabbing a handful of everything, do a lap around the appetizer table to get an idea of what’s there, and choose a few of your favorites. Portion out a small section of your plate (no more than 1/3) for the more decadent treats, and fill up with fresh fruits and veggies, pretzels, chicken or shrimp skewers, and other healthy items.
5. Stay away from the mixed drinks. Sweetened cocktails, especially those made with milk or cream, are loaded with calories. You can indulge in a drink or two, but stick to wine or light beer.
If you keep these tips in mind and think about how good you feel every time you step on the scale and see the numbers drop, you will be able to successfully negotiate any social occasion. And even if you do slip up once in a while, don’t beat yourself up over it. Just get yourself back onto your program as quickly as possible, and you will continue to see the results of your weight loss efforts.