Three Simple Tools to Allow You To Eat Whatever You Want at Social Events
Last night we were out at a social gathering and there was an assortment of treats available. For the last 3 weeks, we were on a cruise with an all you can eat buffet, delicious food left right and center! AND, over the last month, I've dropped 4lbs to reach the lightest I've been in almost 6 months.
What's more, I've been far less stringent with what I've eaten than in the past.
Rather than relying on my willpower to get me through the mass of food that's been in front of me, (let's be honest, there are only a select few people who can maintain that) I used a few simple strategies to allow some surprising indulgences while still slowly dropping weight.
So, what's my secret? Read on to find out...
Before I get into the strategies, let me get more specific about my "indulgences".
On the cruise, I averaged 2-3 cookies, about 3 cups of popcorn, 1-2 tarts and quite often another similar dessert every night.
At the social gathering last night I had 2.5 pieces of carrot cake, 3 cookies and about 20 cups of popcorn, along with a burger, another 2 cups of chips and a chicken skewer.
So, how was I able to do this without having it add up around my midsection?
The secret is maintaining a caloric deficit. Yes, it turns out it's mostly about calories...
But don't get the idea that I was sitting there adding everything into myfitnesspal. No sir! (or madam) I DO NOT have the patience or motivation to keep that up.
For me, any strategy I use has to be easy. I've got things I care about far more than maintaining a six pack, so I need tools and strategies that are so effortless it makes no sense not to use them.
So let's get into it. There are 3 main strategies I use to allow these indulgences while still seeing results:
- Eating exceptionally good most of the time
- Choosing the indulgences I REALLY want, fully enjoying them and compensating for by removing foods I don't care about
- Waiting until I am hungry the next morning to eat
With these 3 strategies you can get away with a surprising level of indulgence with minimal if any consequences as far as body fat is concerned.
1. Eating exceptionally good most of the time
By eating exceptionally good most of the time, you give yourself "room for error".
You don't want to push this to the point of eating so little that you cause a rebound reaction of cravings and "hangriness", but if you eat very well when you're eating "for function" (i.e. eating to fuel you through your day) it allows you to get away with being a bit indulgent when you're eating "for enjoyment" at a social gather. (Thanks to Tim Ferriss for that awesome concept!)
By eating good most of the time you also maintain your "palatability base-point" at a level that makes small indulgences feel much more indulgent than they would if you were already used to eating a very high palatability diet. (more on that in a future post) - Essentially you get the same enjoyment out of less "junk food".
2. Choosing the indulgences I REALLY want, fully enjoying them and compensating for by removing foods I don't care about
This is an extremely powerful tool that is very easy to underestimate.
Since it comes down to calories with regards to maintaining weight, you can buy yourself a lot of extra dessert room by passing on the foods you don't really care about at the meals surrounding your indulgences.
If you're really looking forward to that piece of apple pie and ice cream after thanksgiving dinner (next weekend for us Canadian folks!), pick out some foods from dinner that you don't really care for and take a pass on them for the foods you ACTUALLY want.
Not a fan of breads? Skip the two buns with butter and you've just bought yourself that pie and ice cream! Or maybe you don't really like mashed potatoes. Again, pass on the potatoes, butter and sour cream and all of a sudden you have room for that dessert without it doing any damage.
Likewise, I quite often will avoid liquid calories if I'm having a dessert (or desserts plural, haha) - by skipping having pop (soda for you Americans) or alcoholic drinks with my food.
Essentially I have this allotment in my head for starches/fats with dinner, drinks and desserts and I'll take my choice of those (sometimes a combination of the three) to fill up that allotment and bring myself to that 80% full level, or sometimes a bit above that. It may take a few times to get a feel for this, but in general you just kind of "know" how much you should have.
This approach definitely works best if you've got a good knowledge of what's in different foods as far as macronutrient composition goes - (knowing general fat, carbohydrates and protein composition), but it can also be done by feel if you have a good understanding of how palatability of food and caloric density affects your satiety levels.
Slow, mindful eating and REALLY enjoying your indulgence is also critically important in ensuring that you don't overdo it and conveniently makes you enjoy your food MUCH more in the process. (Boy do I love those win-wins!) - Effortless reduction in food intake AND more enjoyment of what I'm eating? Yes please!
(Tracking calories & macronutrients for a couple of months really is the best way to build this knowledge, but you can also study it "school-style" by doing some research online or with our Be Your Own Coach Online course)
3. Waiting until I am hungry the next morning to eat
Again, a surprisingly simple strategy that can be massively effective.
All you do is hold off on breakfast until you're hungry the next morning. That's it. No painful intermittent fasting or calorie counting required. Just wait until you're hungry and then eat.
Quite often after a night of indulgence you've eaten 2 or 3 times your normal caloric intake in a meal and as a result you aren't even hungry until 10:00am, 11:00am or even noon. As I write this, it's 9:30am and I haven't even felt a pang of hunger yet.
Essentially you are eating your breakfast the night before when it's enjoyable and social (Thanks to Robb Wolf for bring Nate Miyaki onto his podcast and steering me towards this benefit!) instead of in the morning when you're busy with other things anyways. You could even argue that this makes MORE sense that the traditional model!
In order to avoid false hunger adequate hydration is critical, and you need to ensure that you keep your blood sugar balanced by eating enough protein with your evening meal. Quite often we'll have a small portion (~20gPRO) of some lean protein to finish off the night, but it's not necessary if your desserts are within a couple hours of a protein rich dinner.
If you don't do this you'll wake up with a sick-ish "I NEED TO EAT RIGHT NOW" hunger feeling in the pit of your stomach caused by low blood sugar.
For people with diabetes or poor blood sugar control it may take a higher proportion of protein and lower proportion of carbohydrates to keep your AM blood sugar balanced and allow this strategy to work. (Work with your doctor or health professional to figure this out)
A coffee in the morning can also help suppress appetite a bit more to allow a slightly longer delay than you would otherwise have for some extra mileage on this strategy.
And that's it!
If you want to really super-charge this ability, lift weights to even further mitigate the damage. Lifting weights (and other exercise to a lesser degree) increases your ability to metabolize sugars and starches (aka most junk food) and you may even grow some muscle with those extra carbs and calories rather than storing them as body fat!
Let me know what you think in the comments and share this with your friends and followers to let them know how these strategies can make it incredibly simply and frankly, much easier to maintain a healthy weight while still enjoying your life! (Which of course is our primary goal - We want you to be healthy, fit and LOVE YOUR LIFE!)