Thursday, April 28, 2011

Holiday Eating - from the 12-20-10 issue of Bandwagon on the Road

Food has been the guest of honor at human gatherings since the beginning of time. When I watch my gang of dogs attack their kibble, ferociously protecting it from others, I think that sharing food must be a uniquely human impulse (but then again, I'm not a zoologist). I've visited poverty-stricken countries where even a starving family will share a bowl of rice with a beggar. For many people, offering food to a guest is a point of pride. My own grandmother would not let anyone leave her house even remotely hungry. To be polite, you ate her food (with 2nd, 3rd and 4th helpings) even if you'd already eaten a generous meal before you arrived.

With that code of behavior underlying human social relationships, refusing food at holiday celebrations can make you look rude and unappreciative. So how do you safely navigate all those meals? You want to avoid the embarrassment of eating problems like PB's, sliming, or stuck episodes. You want to stick with your weight loss eating plan and go on losing weight (or at least maintaining your weight), but at the same time, you want to enjoy foods that only appear at this time of year. You don't want to call attention to your eating because it's nobody else's business (especially if you're with people who don't know about your weight loss surgery). What's a bandster to do?

Let's look at 3 of the most common holiday eating situations:

1. a meal or party at someone's home

2. a meal or party at a restaurant or other public venue

3. a meal or party at your own home

There is one piece of advice that applies to all three situations. I've mentioned this before...can you guess what it is? That's right, it's:

A D V A N C E P L A N N I N G !

Before each event, do your research. Make some calls to find out what food will be served. Restaurant parties sponsored by employers, unions, clubs & associations often involve a limited set menu - a choice of 2 or 3 entrees - so choose a safe one. I'd go with the fish instead of the prime rib or lasagna, for example. At other restaurant events, you can order from the menu, so call the restaurant (or look it up online) and choose 2 possible meals (in case one isn't available the day you're there).

If you're going to someone's home or to a potluck meal at work, church, or wherever, bring something healthy that you know you can eat and/or drink. A buffet style meal can be scary - how will you resist all those treats? - but it actually gives you some control over what ends up on your plate and in your mouth. First of all, take a tour of the buffet to identify the foods you can eat and want to eat (treats are allowed in small portions if you're sure you can resist the urge to go back to the buffet for more helpings). Choose 4 to 6 items that you're going to enjoy. If you want to try something you've never had before, use common sense in evaluating its risks. Avoid foods that in some other form have caused you eating problems in the past, and inspect the new food for texture and consistency - soft or cooked food is probably OK, but if you got stuck on a raw veggy last week, that gorgeous crudité platter probably isn't going to work for you this week.

Grab a salad or dessert plate instead of a dinner plate, and a small salad fork (if available). Put one spoonful of each of the selected items on your plate. Ignore the champagne fountain - it's mighty hard to balance a plate and a glass at the same time anyway. Find a place to sit or stand far away from the buffet. Eat your food slowly, paying attention to your eating skills and to the flavors in the food. Don't try to eat and chat at the same time. Use a conversation with another guest as a chance to take a break from your eating. You can also use it as an excuse to get rid of your plate (even if food is still on it) by saying something like, "I can't juggle this plate and visit at the same time - let me just put it down somewhere." Then you can become so engrossed in the conversation that you "forget" your plate altogether.

If the event is a sit-down meal, you'll have to adjust your approach depending on how the food is served. If your host or a waiter serves you a loaded plate, you can take a small bite every now and then while pushing the food around on your plate as if you're eating it, and if someone comments that you haven't finished your food, you can say, "Gosh, it's all so good, but it's just too much!" If the meal is served in a pass-the-serving-dish fashion, just pass the dish you're not going to eat without any comment at all. If someone says, "Aren't you going to try my special turtle-and-frog salad?" you can respond with something like, "Can you believe I had a huge turtle dinner just last night?" or "I'll have some of that the next time the dish goes around," or "Not tonight, thanks."

A meal or party at your own home will involve more work on your part but give you the most control over the menu. One of the advantages of being the host or hostess is that no one's going to be surprised if you're always busy fetching and carrying food and never seen actually eating it. If someone comments on your light (or non-existent) eating, you can say, "I'm so bad - I nibbled while I was cooking and now I'm too full to eat anything else."


Kim said...

I just got my band this past Jan. 27th! I wanted to let you know that I have found your book the most helpful one out there!

Kim-Atlanta, Ga.

Jean said...

Thanks, Kim!