Published July 2, 2016

Surviving Any Holiday Meal

by Helen M. Ryan
Surviving Any Holiday Meal

Happy 4th of July! It's not just about Thanksgiving and Christmas anymore…

It's about Easter, Memorial Day, 4th of July, Memorial Day and whatever other day we choose to recognize or celebrate something.

The hardest thing about holidays is that most of us spend the days surrounded by food: we have barbecues, potlucks, beach picnics and brunches. It seems that every celebration or occasion is centered around food. Sigh. Those of us who have a love/hate relationship with food grow to dread these holidays. And those of us who have a love/hate relationship with food grow to dread these holidays.

We hear and read the same tips over and over again and yet they either don't work or they seem to be written for people with a whole lot more self control than we have.

There are things that work, though. Not all will work for you, but you might find a tip or two here that will.

Before any of that, remember this:

  • Things won't go exactly as you plan.
  • You will eat something you didn't intend to eat.
  • You will probably eat more than you intended.
  • But guess what? That's OK. Really, it is. Recognize it, stop, and don't beat yourself up. You're human. We all are. Just don't compound the 'damage,' because seriously - you probably didn't do that much damage. Relax. Just don't compound the 'damage,' because seriously - you probably didn't do that much damage. Relax


  • Exercise beforehand. At our gym, almost every holiday we have special themed classes. Sometimes they are even 90 minutes long (woo hoo!). From Zumba to Spinning, people pack the classes to "pre-burn" calories. Of course, you can't burn off a huge amount of calories by exercises the 'morning of,' but you do gain a few other benefits: a clearer head, more energy, more willpower, and a general 'feel good'ness that's even better than food.
  • Wear something that feels a little snug to the gathering. When you feel the fabric tighter around your middle you will be reminded that you only have so much room in your stomach and pants; which leads us to...
  • Eat 'voluptuous' foods. Eh? Foods that are fluffy, take up a lot of room, but have fewer calories. Make a huge salad with lots of leafy greens, a few other veggies, and just a little dressing (plus a few olives or avocados - the fat helps you feel fuller, longer). Or pre-make a batch of simple soup with broth and a ton of vegetables. Go to the party almost full. And while you're there - find the veggie tray first and start stuffing your face (skip the dip). Mmmmm hmmmm.
  • Drink. A lot. Of water, soda water, or unsweetened iced tea. More volume. More fullness. You get the drift.
  • By now you are really feeling full, and you haven't even started the 'party eating.' This is where you scout out what you really want and avoid everything else. If you don't care for cheese and crackers, but you crave the burger, just have the burger...don't touch anything you don't really, really want. Save room for dessert (if you want it - and then share with someone.)
  • If you have a 'trigger food,' you might want to avoid it. Just sayin'. What is a trigger food? A trigger food is anything that opens the floodgates to uncontrolled eating. Most of us have trigger foods. Some foods we can eat a little of and go on our way. Some foods are like opening Pandora's box. Bring on the shovel...a mere spoon won't do.
  • Talk. A lot. Put your fork down between each bite. Sip water. Talk some more. Ask lots of questions. Not only will you eat less, but by asking others questions, you will also seem more interesting.
  • If someone tries to pressure you to eat, say no. Make up a reason - any reason: your doctor doesn't want you to eat x, or you aren't feeling well, or you have an ulcer and you have to eat only x types of foods. Lie. It's fine.

And there you have it. These tips work for all holidays. Try them and let me know what you think.

Do you have a favorite way to get through the holiday eating extravaganza?