How to Stay on Top of Your Nutrition When Visiting the Folks
Most of us come from families who are nutritionally challenged. It doesn't matter how many hours our loved ones have spent watching the latest diet gurus talk about their nutritional programs on the daytime talk shows. Try to explain to them why you are determined to keep off your weight by making healthy food choices for life and suddenly you will be faced with puzzled looks.
Without exception, one of the things most of us fear most are our trips back to see Mom and Dad after we have finally managed to slim down. In our imagination, it's analogous to an alcoholic walking into a bar—temptation all around. Chocolate brownies, fried chicken, lasagna, pecan pie, pork chops and black-eyed peas in gravy—the list of mortal dreads goes on and on.
Without exception, we are convinced that within five minutes of walking through the door to our parents' house, we will have gained back all our weight. Just thinking about it can give us nightmares.
Once you have made good nutritional habits a practice and conquered many of your former food foibles such as the need to eat chocolate every day or the desire to imbibe fried chicken on a regular basis, you are stronger and wiser than you think. Here are some strategies to calm your fears and put meals at mom and dad's house into a realistic perspective.
Remember, you only have to deal with it one meal at a time.
The Blasted Cookie Cupboard
Any time we visit our families we know we will be faced with some of the delicious temptations we remember from our youth. Perhaps when you were a child, your mom and grandma always had a cookie cupboard. And when you were very good, you always got to go into the cookie cupboard and have as many chocolate chip cookies as you wanted. So, you are dreading going home because you know that the blasted cookie cupboard will still be there waiting for you. And that it will be a test of willpower to see if you can control how many cookies you eat.
Dessert: The Ultimate Female Bonding Ritual
Or perhaps in the past you, your mother, and your sister always planned your trips home around the desserts you were going to share together. Maybe in your family, eating sweets is a major social event entwined with pleasure, comfort, good conversations, laughter, and fun.
When you go home, your womenfolk still expect you to make the rounds of the tearooms, bakeries, and cheesecake factories with them. Or maybe this time it's going to be your birthday, which means that they are going to make your special cake, homemade angel food with 14 egg whites and mounds of high-calorie icing made with lemon juice, butter, and confectioner's sugar. Perhaps you are wondering, "How am I going to survive all this?"
It is easy to see a pattern here: Food = love?
Yes, food and love are certainly intertwined in many families. It's not just sugar that we dread when we go to visit the folks, but Mom's Saturday night meatloaf and gravy, Grandma's deep-fried fish, or Aunt Rosie's 900-calorie, triple-cheese lasagna, which used to be our favorite food when we were kids.
When we leave our home turf and go visit the family, there is an unspoken pressure to eat the way we did when we were children. We may have broken out of our old food patterns, but our parents and family members are still nutritionally challenged, following the food programs they were raised with because that's all they know.
The first thing you need to understand is that it is best not to be too judgmental. Try to understand that your loved ones are doing the best they can. They are feeding you because they love you.
You Have Got Three Choices
- Refuse to eat the foods your loved ones prepare for you and lecture your family about their poor eating habits.
- You can eat these foods and then feel guilty and rotten about yourself.
- Or you can simply accept that there is love behind these food choices, and that there is a time and a place to just enjoy foods for the taste. It's not a good idea to eat desserts often, but you can eat them sometimes. You might avoid fried chicken like the plague when you are on our own turf, but it's not going to kill you to eat it once at your parents' house. That's because you probably won't eat it again for another six months.
What Makes the Difference Nutritionally?
The reason you can allow yourself to enjoy these foods is that there is a BIG difference in your life now. You have become nutritionally wise and your improved health, higher energy levels, more even moods, and leaner body bear witness to this wisdom. You have to understand that these unhealthy foods used to be the rule in your life. Now they are the exception to the rule, and you are eating them only in moderation. You have finally attached the right labels to your foods. You can recognize that lemon icing on that birthday cake or those chocolate chip cookies for what they are: a fun, joyous exception that you do not eat very often.
And remember this valuable tip: if your foods are a little to the left of healthy, just make sure that your water intake is always high so that you can effectively mobilize whatever calories you are eating. Water is one of your best allies in any eating situation because it will help keep your metabolism functioning on all four cylinders so that it can efficiently burn fat.
No matter what kind of challenges you face when visiting the family or eating outside of your own turf, the key is to remember not to give up your basic food program. If you eat the right type and amount of nutritious foods as consistently as possible, your body will not hoard fat. You will be giving it what it needs to stay efficiently fueled most of the time.
Control the things you can, but don't stress out about the things you can't. If the mashed potatoes already have butter on them, don't add gravy. If the baked potato doesn't have butter and someone is passing you the butter dish, pass it on. Do what you can with what you have got, knowing that the situation is only temporary. But don't allow that meal so much power that it will ruin a special occasion with family and friends.
Remember: You are much more powerful than that fried chicken, chocolate cake, or pasta slathered with butter and cheese.