By Greg DiNatale, Director of Fitness Education
Summer’s here and the time is right, for roasting lots of meat! With apologies to Martha and the Vandellas (as well as vegetarians), my favorite season is upon us and with it the many gatherings and celebrations that help make summer great. Does that invite to a July 4 BBQ flapping on your fridge fill you with worry as to how you are going to be able to stick to your food plan (I’m thinking about you Edge Challenge participants!)? Relax, because I have a foolproof method for surviving that shindig!
Remember that if weight loss or maintenance is your goal, it is almost all about the number of calories you are taking in on a regular basis that will determine your success or failure. Eat too many, too often, and you are not going to lose weight. Knowing how many calories to target daily is your first step (available in your dotFIT account). Being conscious of how many you are taking in is the next. There are some arguments around this issue, but I have found that logging your food, at least for a two week period, is incredibly valuable to your weight loss efforts. It does not have to be perfect, but you do need to be conscious of how much you are eating, and what the number of calories you are shooting for each day “looks” like on your plate. Studies show us time and again that most people underestimate the amount of food they eat. The only way to be sure is to log for as long as you are willing.
The best way to get out of your next picnic (but it works for parties as well) is to go in with a plan. Is this going to be a “cheat” meal? Are you going to save calories from other parts of your day to allow yourself more at the event? Do you have the willpower saved up to keep yourself on track throughout the meal? Go in with a plan and stick to it! Regardless of the plan here is the method to minimize the damage:
1. Eat your protein first – whether it be a hamburger, hot dog, sausage, ribs, brisket, steak, lamb, salmon, or any other type of meat – eat this first. Protein is satiating, and a lot of BBQ protein comes with a hit of fat. This will help fill you up, especially if you eat it slowly. Wolfing down your food is going to lead to overeating, regardless of the type of food it is. You want to “fill up” on your protein to help minimize the potential damage to come!
2. Eat your vegetables second – grilled, salad, Crudité, however, whatever, eat your veggies! Eat at least one fist-sized portion (two is better!). Again, take your time and enjoy the company you are in – engage in conversation, laugh, tell stories – the goal is to pump the brakes, slow your roll, and not turn this social occasion into an eating contest!
3. So far, so good! Congratulations! Depending upon the protein source, you may have just eaten as well as you are ever going to eat. Take satisfaction in this and be proud, the fun stuff is coming.
4. Now that you have taken care of the food, from the health and fitness standpoint, you want to eat you can now move onto the food, from the fun factor standpoint, you’d like to eat. Next, feel free to dive into the starches (and corn on the cob, if it is available). The overall strategy here is to fill up on the “good” stuff so that you mitigate the damage of the not so good stuff. How much pasta salad are you going to eat if you have already taken down a burger and a couple of servings of vegetables? Probably less than you would if you started here!
5. Lastly, have a taste of the deserts. You shouldn’t have much room for a lot of it if you have followed the steps above and have taken the time to enjoy each one. Listen to your body, it is telling you not to overeat, and you know how you are going to feel if you do. We have all had that, “too stuffed, to the point of discomfort, I am going to have to roll myself out of here” feeling. Don’t go there! Every time you have gone there you tell yourself you are not going to do it again. Fulfill the promise you made to yourself, discipline is freedom!
Incidentally, this is the same method I use to feed my kids! It works incredibly well and ensures that they are eating what they need to achieve optimal health while not “depriving” them of the foods that make being a kid fun. Be good to yourself and get after it!