An endless supply of potato salad loaded with mayo.
A platter of red, white, and blue desserts.
Lots of beer.
If you have a tendency to stray from your usual healthy routine during holidays or at social gatherings, you're not alone.
Many of us use these occasions as an excuse to overindulge and while some are able to get back on track right away, others find that their eating habits spiral out of control for the next few days or even weeks afterward.
Below are 10 tips to help you stay on track this Fourth of July weekend if you're going to a BBQ or some other festive gathering.
Instead of feeling like you have to try all of these at once, what I'd like you to do instead is to try just 2 or 3 of these tips and then leave a comment below and share with us how it went.
TIP #1: GET YOUR BODY MOVING IN THE MORNING
Go for a run or a fast-paced walk. Do some body-weight exercises at home. Getting in a morning sweat session before you go out will not only rev up your metabolism, but it will help you feel strong and energized which will help you make better food choices throughout the rest of the day.
TIP #2: EAT A HEALTHY BREAKFAST
Doing so ensures that you are starting your day off feeling healthy and balanced. An smoothie filled with fruit and veggies, for instance, will offset some of the damage of the heavier foods you consume later by putting your body in an alkalized state and nourishing it with loads of nutrients. Remember that your first meal sets the tone for the rest of the day, so if your breakfast consists of a doughnut, bagel, or pancakes, expect to crave sugar and other junk later on.
TIP #3: DECIDE AHEAD OF TIME HOW YOU WANT TO FEEL AFTERWARD
Do you want to feel bloated when you get home? Do you want to feel hungover the next morning? If not, make choices that are in alignment with your decision. As you're reaching for seconds of dessert, remind yourself of how light you want to feel when you get home and ask yourself if a second helping of sugar is going to help you achieve that. Then act accordingly. (Easier said than done, I know.)
TIP #4: EAT A SNACK BEFORE YOU LEAVE SO YOU'RE NOT STARVING WHEN YOU ARRIVE
Have you ever gone to the supermarket when you're hungry? If so, you know how dangerous it can be as you end up buying all sorts of food you probably wouldn't have if you had shopped after you had already eaten. This is along those same lines. When you're overly hungry and in the presence of too many food options (especially ones you typically don't eat), it's not uncommon to fill your plate with foods that are less than ideal, particularly those that are high in sugar and carbohydrates. Eating before you arrive at your party ensures that you are in a better physical and mental state to choose foods that will support your health, not sabotage it.
TIP #5: BRING YOUR OWN FOOD
If you don't think there will be a lot of food that you'll want to eat, bring some healthy snacks with you or offer to bring a healthy dish for everyone to enjoy.
TIP #6: STAY HYDRATED, ESPECIALLY IF IT'S HOT OUTSIDE OR IF YOU'RE DRINKING ALCOHOL
Many of us eat because we think we're hungry, when in fact we're really eating in response to thirst. To avoid confusing the two, make sure you are drinking enough water throughout the day. Bring a water bottle with you to make it easier to remember. To know if you're dehydrated, check the color of your urine. If it's dark yellow, you are dehydrated. If it's clear or pale yellow, you are a hydration machine!
TIP #7: ALTERNATE EACH ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGE WITH AT LEAST 1 GLASS OF WATER
This will help you stay hydrated and cut down on how much you drink. Make this a habit anytime you drink and notice the difference.
TIP #8: FILL UP YOUR PLATE ONCE AND THAT'S IT
Grazing or going back for seconds (or thirds) can make it easy to lose track of how much you're eating. Like you would at a buffet, check out the selection first to see what's available and then fill up your plate with only the items you want. Remember, just because it's there, doesn't mean you have to eat it!
TIP #9: DON'T STRIVE FOR PERFECTION
Instead, do the best you can without obsessing. Be mindful of quantity- how much are you eating? If you really want something indulgent that you normally choose not to eat, have just a few bites and really savor it. Typically by the 4th or 5th bite, the level of enjoyment diminishes and you end up eating for reasons other than true hunger. Remember that if you're consistently eating well 80-90% of the time, the 10-20% of the time you indulge won't make much of a dent. Relax.
TIP #10: EAT WHEN YOU'RE HUNGRY, STOP WHEN YOU'RE NO LONGER HUNGRY
It sounds so simple and obvious, and yet so few people do this. Why? Because it's not easy! Many of us don't know what feeling satisfied or no longer hungry feels like because of the desire to experience a sense of fullness, even if it's uncomfortable. If you are choosing to be flexible with what you're eating, then be mindful of how much you're eating. It is impossible to overeat when you tune inward and listen to your body. Imagine how much less food you'd consume if, before each bite, you stopped and asked yourself "Am I still physically hungry?" and answered honestly.