Hands up if you’ve already had a wobble with your New Year’s diet resolution? (If you can’t tell, I’ve got my own hand raised right now.)
Being on holiday at home for Christmas is difficult for our diets, because we’re closer to the fridge and surrounded by tasty, roasty, leftovers. Going to work gives us a bit of a break from that temptation, since it’s harder to graze and snack (unless you work in a cake factory). But how do we keep diet-strong when we’re back at home for the weekend – and when we’re out with friends?
Drink lots of water
Are we really hungry, or are we just missing the sensation of eating? I think that’s a question that affects everyone that’s trying to lose weight. One way to answer it is to make sure we’re drinking enough water.
Not only is this good for our health (and complexion) in general, drinking water can help deal with phantom-hunger pangs, because it fills our tummies up. If you’re still hungry after you’ve drunk a glass, then it’s time to think about eating. And if you don’t like the taste of your tap water, why not make your own flavoured drink at home?
Measure your arms
I’ve found the best way of not picking up a biscuit and nibbling, or picking up a chocolate and nibbling, or picking up anything and nibbling is… not to have it in the house. But if you’re sharing a house, then you might have to have choccies and biscuits on hand to placate a child (or significant other).
In that case, try to put treats slightly out of reach up on a shelf, or perhaps at the back of a drawer or cupboard That way if you’re wafting through the kitchen and find your hands straying for snacks, you actually have to go to a little bit of effort to get them. (Honestly, I like snacking so much that if I won the lottery I’d hire a butler to follow me around with a tray of canapés.)
Do some pre-meal research
If you’re meeting friends at a restaurant for a meal, see if the eatery has a menu on its website. This is your chance to look for calorie counts for dishes or, if there aren’t any, to look up approximate calories on your favourite fitness app for similar servings.
This allows you to plan ahead for the meal and not have to fiddle with your phone at the dinner table (something I’m still wary of doing – I’m obviously a little bit old fashioned).
What’s more, getting a peek at the menu from home might protect you from some of the restaurant psychology designed to help you spend more than you really wanted to.
Share more than you eat
At my house, we had friends over for drinks at Christmas and I was in charge of laying out bowls with crisps and nuts. I’m terribly partial to savoury snacks, so I tried to half-fill the bowls near me and over-fill the bowls scattered around the room that the guests would be dipping in to.
I know it sounds a little odd, but it’s a little like that ‘only eat half a packet of crisps at lunchtime’ tip we shared a while ago. If you treat a snack as something that’s there for flavour rather than hunger, I think it encourages you to take your time and appreciate it more. Plus sharing more food with your guests makes you a better host. Win win!
Eat food with bones. Or toothpicks.
Here’s a handy tactic when you find yourself at a barbecue or buffet. Each time you go to fill your plate, leave a few leftovers on there from your previous top-up.
I’ve found a study that shows that when people at a restaurant were eating chicken wings, customers who had their leftovers taken away ate more than people who had chicken bones left on their plates.
So if you’re going to graze at a party, for each trip you make to the table leave something on your plate. For example, for each handful of crisps, you’ll leave one behind, or even a place toothpick to remind you of what you’ve been eating.
Don’t get too tipsy
Why is it that when the pubs close, everyone heads to a kebab shop or a pizza parlour? It might be because when we’re tipsy food smells better.
According to one study, researchers found that ‘alcohol exposure can both increase the brain’s sensitivity to external food cues, like aromas, and result in greater food consumption’.
Apparently this is called the aperitif effect. So, before you settle down to your meal, perhaps choose a smaller glass for your wine, or a half-a-pint with your curry.
(What’s slightly creepy is you don’t actually have to drink the booze to end up drinking more – the subjects in the study had it injected into them. Oof!)