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Binge Triggers

Ahhh, summer. With winter holiday pies and cookies long behind us, we can exhale a sigh of relief and breeze through these warmer months with few high-fat obstacles in our path, right? Guess again. Most of us have a "holiday" -- any celebration that includes food center stage -- at least twice a month, year-round.

"In the warmer months, you have Mother's Day, Father's Day, the Fourth of July, and perhaps weddings and showers, birthdays and so on," points out personal trainer Susan Cantwell, author of Mind Over Matter: Personal Choices for a Lifetime of Fitness (Stoddart Publishing, 1999). "And with all these comes a 'timeout' mentality that you can take a break from healthy eating." The result: a sabotaged eating plan.

But rather than let food control you, you can turn the tables with a few strategies. Some steps to battling binge triggers year-round:

1. Map out your hidden holidays. Mark your planner -- record all the food-heavy events you expect to encounter in the months ahead, not just the big ones. For example, don't forget the office birthday party, Labor Day barbecue, an upcoming vacation or family reunion. "When I sit down with clients, they're often shocked to find they have as many as four to 10 events a month during which they're cued to overeat," says Cantwell.

2. Play offense, not defense. With your holidays identified, have a small game plan before heading to each one. Whenever possible, decide how much you're going to eat and drink in advance. One helpful strategy for restaurant events: Call and request a faxed copy of the menu -- you can make your meal decision before you go, without peer pressure.

3. Enlist allies. Family events can be the trickiest, with their tempting food traditions and the message to eat everything on your plate. Communication is key. "Before going over, call and say, 'This is what I'm trying to do, and this is how you can help me,'" says Cantwell, whether that is asking your family to prepare a baked potato for you on the side or serve the gravy in a boat instead of over the food.

4. Feel your confidence build. Of course, not everyone will accommodate you, or be helpful. And for some people, it's tempting to bypass events altogether -- a short-term strategy that can't hold forever. At first, "many women feel as if they're cross-examining a waiter or inconveniencing others with their food choices," Cantwell says. Fortunately, this self-consciousness subsides. Sums up Cantwell: "As you become more comfortable in your choices, you'll become more confident making them in front of other people."

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