This month, children get a free pass. Instead, I’m putting pressure on parents, particularly on the topic of weight gain over the holidays. Multiple holiday parties and brunches can easily add five pounds to an average sized man, as my husband found out the hard way. Living in China means Spring Festival adds on another month of feasting. Unless you manage these annual accumulations, it will add up over the years. So, to limit holiday weight gain, consider using some moves from my personal playbook.
Before the Party
Give your muscles a hearty weight-bearing challenge the day or morning before a planned feast. My personal preference is full body weight training exercises, such as walking lunges with weights. You can easily walk or run on an incline, or use stairs to get a very reasonable burn. When you indulge within the next 24 hours, some of the nutrients you consume will be shunted into muscle repair rather than fat storage.
Offer to bring a healthy dish (or two) to ensure the nutritional balance of the party table. Think hearty greens like kale, bok choy salad, green beans or broccoli. Skip the butter and cook with healthy oils, such as olive oil or the new healthy oil star: virgin coconut oil. It is found in most expat-oriented grocery and health stores in Beijing.
Day of the Party
Have a healthy breakfast that is a mix of lean protein, like eggs paired with a healthy carbohydrate, such as an apple. Forget plain toast and vegemite, which will send your blood sugar rising and crashing, only leaving you hungrier than before.
Eat an apple and a small handful of almonds (five to eight pieces) during the ride over. I guarantee that you will not be as hungry once food appears on the table. Plus, you will be less tempted by the chips on the table.
At the Party
Eat strategically. Start your first plate with vegetables. Choose ones not swimming in butter. Finish the plate, then put some protein on your plate. Finish that and wait 10-20 minutes. Talk. Socialize. Then have your breads, mashed potatoes, pasta, rice, potato chips or other starches. By that time, you will have calmed the hunger hormones and end up eating fewer calories.
Drink water, water and more water because it has no calories and helps fill you up. If you want to have alcohol, use the 1:1 rule of thumb. For every serving of alcoholic or sweetened drink you have, drink a full glass of water. Not only will that keep you sober for intelligent conversation, you will be less likely to suffer the dreaded after-effects the next day.
Enjoy, but watch those portions. If you are standing and socializing, carry that plate of vegetables around with you. Watch out for high calorie dips and remember that deep-fried veggie snacks do not count as healthy eating. When taking a break, sit down and enjoy a portion of protein. Savor it and give your digestive system time to recognize it and send additional “I’m full” signals to your brain.
Good eating and happy holidays!