Passing Up Those Party Pounds

If food has been your lover, friend, comfort, and primary source of pleasure, holiday parties can be a huge challenge! Everyone is in a festive, “devil may care mood,” the food and drink are flowing, and people are busy meeting, greeting, and gabbing. How do we stay present in the face of this stimulation? How do we keep the wise, rational part of us in charge when we feel like five year olds just handed the key to the candy store?

One of the sneakiest tricks of the emotional self is convincing us that eating doesn’t count if we’re not aware. The Pleasure Seeking Child aspect of the ego deludes us into believing that nibbles aren’t really a meal, so they don’t count. In the let’s pretend game that we play with ourselves, we tacitly agree to ignore food that slides down our gullets when we’re not paying attention, rather than include it in our daily total. After all it’s just a tiny little nibble, what’s the harm?

But those nibbles add up and from the body’s perspective—they count. The body is counting those calories and if we don’t, we’re in for a shock when we step on the scale the next day. Skinny Thinking is about becoming more present around food and telling ourselves the whole truth about it. This doesn’t mean we need to be like the Gestapo with ourselves, but we do need to stop deluding ourselves, to stop pretending that this behavior doesn’t have a consequence.

We can swallow a lot of food when we’re not paying attention. So what do we do at social gatherings? What do we do when tantalizing cheese puffs, stuffed mushrooms, buttery mashed potatoes, and warm apple pie beckon us with their siren songs? What does the Wise Witness, the true, rational part of us have in its arsenal to fortify us in the face of these powerful temptations? Two words—a plan.

A plan puts the wise part of us in charge and keeps the wishy-washiness of the Child at bay. Mind you, the ego will fight you on this because it doesn’t like to commit. It will say things like, “What if I want a few cheese puffs? What’s wrong with that? Why do I have to plan that? Can’t I just eat like a normal person? Is that how life is going to be? Am I going to have to plan everything from now until I die?”

One of the truths we uncover about pleasure food, the high taste, low nutrition stuff, is that once you start eating it, it’s hard to stop. Therefore, if you can create a rule, some way to establish a reasonable portion that you can stick to, by all means allow yourself the cheese puffs. The bottom line is: either limit or avoid the sexy food unless you’ve decided to let loose and entertain yourself with it during the party and are willing to accept the consequences of that choice.

Now let’s say we seen the light, seen the wisdom of a plan, and we are ready to buckle down and create one, the ego is ready with another roadblock: the potent comparison argument. Defiantly it will whine, “Look at those other people. They’re skinny and look at them eating that pleasure food. If they can have it why can’t I?” Self righteously, it will feel aggrieved at life’s apparent inequities and on sheer principle will demand its time at the trough. But the truth is, we can’t really know what someone else’s situation is. Very few adults can eat whatever they want and not gain weight. In fact, I’ve never met one!

Let’s get back to the notion of a plan. In my experience, it’s always helpful to have on if you are about to go to a party. Here are two plan suggestions, the first one is by far the easiest to implement:

  • Decide ahead of time that social situations, such as this one, are not eating events for you. You will have either eaten ahead of time or plan to eat afterwards. I find that it’s best to have eaten ahead of time. When you go into social situation and find yourself surrounded by sexy nibbles, it’s much easier for the child to gain the upper hand and say, “What the heck! I’m hungry!” if you are in fact very hungry.
  • Decide ahead of time to eat at the party, but only the portion that you designate. Create a plate of food for yourself. Limit your eating to what is on that plate—just that food and nothing more. This is your food for however long the social time lasts.

With this trusty “plan” weapon in your cache, you are ready to go out and fend for yourself on the treacherous battlefield called the party. “Forewarned is forearmed,” as they say. So go forth, eat, drink, and be merry—but do it with a plan.