Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Planning to stay on track for Thanksgiving

Good Morning!

Like many of you, I have found myself in the midst of yet another incredibly hectic and busy week. I know…I say that EVERY week! Hopefully, unlike you, I have discovered that the stress of the holiday week has left me a bit frazzled and in a bit of a whirlwind as I struggle to check things off my list to prepare for Thanksgiving and the festivities that come with it. In times like these, I have to continually remind myself that ‘The reason for the season” doesn’t necessarily just mean Christmas and shift my focus from one of chaos to gratitude. After all, the entire purpose of Thanksgiving is to celebrate the many blessings in life, NOT to create anxiety or allow irritability or frustration to cloud the festivities as I prepare to travel. Still, I’m overwhelmed with more things to do than time in the day, and I’ve found myself awake an hour earlier than usual (it’s 2 a.m.) just to get some things packed and some laundry done before work. I also recognize that the past couple of weeks have been emotionally charged with my friend’s surgery, the death of my cat, work stressors, and inclement weather so I’m being gentle and patient with myself…and others….as best I can. How’s it going for you all this week?

On Sunday, I cooked Thanksgiving dinner for me and a friend because I will be heading to my sister’s later this week to celebrate the holiday with a large contingency of family members. This quiet, dinner-for-two, was a ‘rehearsal’ if you will, and gave me a chance to practice my willpower and test my commitment to stay on track. It worked…and I managed to not only cook/prepare a big dinner, complete with treats and desserts, but also to resist giving in to the temptation to eat them. YES, my friends, it IS possible to enjoy a nice meal and still stay on track. 

So…you might be wondering…what did I eat?  Well…. turkey, in-and-of-itself, is a safe food…provided I don’t eat the skin and stick with the white meat. I also made mashed potatoes, but used unsweetened almond milk instead of whole milk to mash them, and took a small amount out before I added the butter to the mix. I ate a couple of spoonsful with just a small amount of gravy. When I say SMALL amount, I mean I use my fork to dip in the gravy and just drizzle a bit on top. 

My friend is not fond of vegetables, sweet potatoes, or squash, so I could prepare those dishes in a way that made them delicious to me, but limited the calories.  Both the butternut squash and sweet potato is easy for me because I just microwave them and then season them with sugar-free maple syrup (only 20 calories for ½ cup…that is AWESOME), salt, a bit of Splenda and some cinnamon. I love both of these dishes…and prepare them often this time of year. I also made cucumbers and sour cream…but used just two tablespoons or so of non-fat sour cream mixed with my own salad dressing that I create out of balsamic vinegar, some spices, Splenda, and sugar free raspberry vinaigrette dressing that I can get at Meijer/Walmart etc…..only 5 calories a serving.  I make the dressing using water instead of oil and keep it in a jar in the refrigerator. I use this dressing for coleslaw, salad, or cucumber salad, and always carry a small pill-size container with me whenever I eat out. Salad dressings will add unnecessary calories to a salad very quickly so be careful of them. I also ate only about 2 bites of stuffing (just stove top…not homemade).

Like most people during the holidays, I ate until I was full, but unlike many, I felt good about my choices and didn’t really stray too far. While my total calories for the meal was likely a bit higher than a typical Sunday dinner, I was pleased that I was more than satisfied and didn’t feel a bit deprived. If you FEEL deprived and have a “poor me” attitude, then you will quickly sabotage your own journey.  Remember…you CAN eat anything you want; you just are CHOOSING not to. That mindset is key to success because it puts YOU in control of your own destiny.

What I DIDN’T EAT was:  deviled eggs, cookies, shrimp, biscuits, or dessert, or more than 2 spoons of potatoes/gravy/stuffing.  Because it was just dinner-for-two, I didn’t need to make a bunch of appetizers or munchies. At my sister’s later this week, there will be an entire table of appetizers, cheese-crackers, chips & dips, finger foods, etc. to tempt me. This is a danger zone for me and I could easily blow my entire calorie allowance if I gathered around the kitchen with the rest of the family and tasted “this or that” and sampled many of the treats there. This type of mindless-enjoying the conversation-catching up with family members-eating could sabotage my journey very quickly if I allowed myself to participate. A plate of some of those appetizers (my favorite WAS those little sausages wrapped in biscuit dough) have as many calories…or more…than my dinner plate. My strategy will be to “STAY AWAY” and play with the children present, watch the football game, or browse the Black Friday sale papers…anything to keep me out of the kitchen. I’ll also have some cut up fruit just in case.

This will be my 4th Thanksgiving on my journey. I have gotten through the first three without slipping up…even a little…and I am planning NOW to do the same this year. Just because I choose to stay on track, does not mean that I will judge your decisions in any way. Many of you will elect to enjoy the festivities and just get back on plan on Friday. That choice is YOURS to make; not mine because your journey is just that: YOUR journey. Please do not feel badly about your decision to eat/not eat on the holiday.  The day is about GRATITUDE, family & friends, so any stress, anxiety, or guilt about food really can ruin the day. Just be aware, in case you doubt that it is possible, that YES, you can enjoy the day and still manage to stay true to your eating plan.

So… in a nutshell….here are a few on the tips that I will use to keep on track:

Watch out for toppings, dressings, and condiments. If you are going to indulge in traditional foods, use low calorie/low fat salad dressings, non-calorie butter spray, sugar free syrup in recipes, non-fat sour cream or whipped cream. You can cut calories just by substituting things in recipes…and chances are that nobody will even notice.

Keep yourself busy in conversation or looking at sale papers to minimize mindless eating BEFORE or AFTER dinner.

Fill your plate with things you can’t get at other times of the year… Do you really need that bread/bun or chips and dip? Skip those and spend your calories on things that are only served on holidays. If you’re going to indulge, try just 2 or 3 bites, instead of a regular size serving. 

If you are asked to bring a dish to pass, bring something that you can eat guilt-free so you know for sure that there will be something there that is low calorie. When someone insists that you try their dish…simple say, WOW…that looks great and smells delicious, but I really need to stay on my plan, but thanks anyway. I’m sure it’s WONDERFUL though. Don’t let someone ‘guilt’ you into straying off track.

Stay away from the appetizers and desserts.  I will have cut up fruit, Greek yogurt, a fiber one bar, and a package of baked rice cake snacks with me so that IF…and only IF… I feel like I need to eat before/after dinner, I will have some healthy options to choose from. 

Consider making a low calorie dessert option…even if it’s just for one….like a baked apple or any of those pumpkin recipes that are out there.

Bring a steam-fresh microwavable package of veggies with you. It takes only a few minutes and you will have an entire plate full of veggies WITHOUT the cream toppings or cheese sauce. Don’t be afraid to bring your own food choices. If your family members really support you on your journey then they will not be offended.  If they are…well….then…that is THEIR problem, not yours.  Remember, the day is about giving THANKS….not food….and our commitment to our journey is certainly something to be grateful for!

Mostly….be mindful of what you eat….but more important…WHY you are eating. If someone gets up for a 2nd helping, or to get dessert, and you feel ‘peer-pressure” to join them, but aren’t even hungry….well then….it’s not a good choice.  Also…be gentle with yourself and remember that Friday is a new day. If you indulge on Thanksgiving and give in to temptation, don’t allow it to become an excuse to blow your plan ALL WEEKEND! Get back on track on Friday morning and plan ahead for eating out while shopping on Black Friday.

It is POSSIBLE to survive the holidays without sacrificing your journey. You CAN still enjoy the day without giving into temptation….but the decision is ultimately YOURS, not mine.  I know what I intend to do….and I’m planning to keep on track. What about you?