Several years ago I went to an Italian Christmas Eve dinner (but not the traditional seven course fish dinner; rather 12 courses!). The event started at 4:00 and went to 11:00 PM. It was an amazing array of food; the hostess had cooked for weeks ahead. The 14 guests ate and ate and ate. The 15th guest (me!) did not eat.
Before you criticize me for being a rude and boorish guest, know that I called the hostess ahead of time and told her I was trying very hard to diet and that she should not worry about me. To her credit (a wonderful woman), she accepted what I said and never once forced food on me.
Also interesting is that – as far as I could tell – no one realized I was not eating. We all sat in the living room and the various courses came out and were enjoyed with relish. As the shrimp in puff pastry and clams casino passed by me, I would graciously say “no thanks,” observing that I was pacing myself and waiting for the next offering. I didn’t obviously sit with an empty and look forlorn. I put some salad on it, which I stirred around every so often.
This story is not about my strong willpower (okay, I will admit, I even surprised myself), but YOUR willpower.
When it comes to the temptations of the holiday season, there are a couple of truths:
You do not need to eat every high calorie food that is placed in front of you.
Those around you probably won’t notice your refusal to eat certain foods (although they likely will notice if your plate is so overflowing that food is dripping onto your shirt).
If you alert the hostess ahead of time, there are less likely to be hurt feelings when you refuse a dish.
And, most important:
By exercising your will power, you do not need to gain weight during the holidays.
Finding the willpower
Okay, here’s the hard part. Where do you find the inner strength to resist eating a 12-course meal topped off with two or three desserts?
Actually, the answer is fairly simple: Your desire to lose weight (your desperate need to lose weight) needs to be a higher priority then a plate of scallops fettuccine al fredo.
As I’ve said before, there’s no magic wand that will make your love of food become secondary to your desire to lose weight. Sure, during the week you can do the broiled chicken breast diet, but there are always occasions that place the creme de la creme of fine high calorie foods directly in front of you.
What to do? Surprisingly, my answer is Eat It! Yes, if a food you absolutely adore is put in front of you, enjoy! HOWEVER, totally enjoy only a small portion (very small portion) of that one dish – and graciously refuse the rest. Although, as we know too well, once the appetite has been whetted, it’s hard to stop. We allow ourselves one food excess and the mind throws in the towel and gives us inner permission to eat more, more, more.
Realize that one special food once in a great while is not going to kill your diet. It’s the eating all the food being offered that spells disaster.
To get back to my story and your options:
I went to that feast and did not eat. (Caveat: I did not starve; I ate before I arrived and had a snack when I got home). For me, that choice lead to my losing 110 pounds in two years.
When you are at a holiday gathering are you there to eat or to enjoy the good company? If the answer is you are there to eat, you might as well give up on the diet now and enjoy yourself. Get back on the diet in January. But realize there are a lot more food events ahead. If you can’t get your head together around holiday eating, do you really think all the future holidays will be any easier and that your diet will ever be a success?