Historically, the terms feast and festival were used interchangeably. Feast was defined as a festival—something that gives unusual or abundant pleasure, a time of celebration. Its meaning has evolved to describe an elaborate meal often accompanied by ceremony or entertainment. The Latin root of feast, feriae, also means holiday. Thus begins the festive season replete with holiday traditions, a time for family, friends, fun and yes, feasting.
It is also the time of year that the “10 tips for surviving the holidays” list appears. While I plan to list a few of my own tips, I’d like to suggest a change of focus from the feast to the festivities whether you are at the office party, your favorite club party or at Grandma’s house for dinner. Feast on all of it, not just the food, the festivities, being with friends and family. Feast your eyes on the décor—the lights, the candles, the colors. Feast your ears on the music, the songs. Delight in the delight of little children. To help change your focus, I’d like to propose a little game. This game has flexible rules. You can create your own. Some of these rules incorporate the basic tips I’ve been writing about for over a year.
10 Tips Before you go:
• Don’t fast for a feast. If you do, you’re likely to end up eating more if you’re starving when you get there. When you lose control of your appetite, you lose control of your portions.
• Eat early and often. Start your day with a small, nutritious breakfast and eat small, healthy snacks throughout the day, snacks that include protein and carbohydrate, celery with peanut butter and a small glass of skim milk for instance. Have a small snack before leaving for your party.
• If it’s a potluck, take a nutritious snack. There’s a recipe for one at the end of this article, my gift to you.
After you get there:
• Change your focus. Since you won’t be starving, wait to start the hors d’oeuvres.
• Change your plate size, especially if you are facing a buffet line. Remember, a potluck doesn’t have to become an all you can eat buffet!
• Follow the 20-minute rule: “. . . by the time your stomach sends a ‘full’ signal, you have already filled and eaten another plate from the buffet.”1
• Look around the room for two people—one who is eating the slowest and one who is the thinnest—often it’s the same person. Follow the example.
• Don’t eat while talking. Talk a lot. Catch up with people. Mingle. Walk around. See if you can take 20-minutes to finish your plate.
• Do you like a glass of wine? Great. Just nurse it, make it last.
• Speaking of savoring, one of the worst things you can do is to deprive yourself. Instead, practice moderation, not deprivation. Brian Wansink, author of Mindless Eating, says it best: “The foods we don’t bite can come back to bite us.” 2 It’s the holidays. It’s festive. So feast—a little. When you get to the dessert table, take your favorite things in small quantities–I go for the fudge—then savor it in little bites. See how long you can take to eat a piece of fudge.
Enjoy each festive event. Savor it. Spend time with one or two people you haven’t seen for awhile. Talk to your mom a little longer. Reminisce with your dad, your sister. Play with the kids. Go for a walk. Go ice-skating or bowling. These can be stressful times. Stop and take a breath to relieve some of that stress. Shorten your to do list. Lighten your load. Two of the best things you can do for yourself are to eat breakfast everyday and keep up with you fitness program. Most importantly, stay active and keep moving. Look at the big picture, not all the little ones. Remember the reason for the season—a time to give, a time to celebrate, a time to feast.
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My Gift to You—Easy, Healthy Cheese Bites
Fresh mozzarella cheese cut in 1” cubes
Fresh basil leaves (optional)
Put a cube of cheese on a toothpick. Spread a small smear of pesto on the inside of the cheese. Add a grape tomato. Enjoy! If you like, add a basil leaf before you add the tomato. It adds a little flair and the colors are great for the season!
1,2. Mindless Eating, by Brian Wansink, Ph.D