It's Memorial Day in the United States, so I'd like to take a minute and extend my gratitude to the men and women of the armed forces who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom, and their families and loved ones who carry the burden of loss. While a lot of people enjoy an extra day off of work (not us trainers! We are working!) I like to keep in mind the reason for the holiday.
Holidays can sometimes feel a little stressful when we are trying to follow a new healthy lifestyle. Maybe you've been on the right track and you're worried a backyard barbecue might throw off your progress or momentum. You might get snide remarks from a distant cousin when you turn down his macaroni salad or you might hurt Grandma's feelings if you don't have at least two servings of her marshmallow delight.
The most important part of a healthy lifestyle is the life part. That means parties, celebrations, family get-togethers and backyard barbecues. These things aren't going away, so the sooner we learned to incorporate our health goals into our lives, rather than try to change our whole lives to be healthy, the better off (and saner) we will be.
Any diet or exercise plan that you follow has to work in the real world. If you can only follow your plan when you're at home alone and there is no stress, you are not going to be able to maintain it for very long. We need flexibility in order for our plan to be sustainable over the long term.
HOW TO STAY ON TRACK DURING THE SUMMER BARBECUE SEASON
First of all, relax. No matter what happens, you can't do too much damage in one afternoon. Be mindful, do the best you can. Don't stress about food. Enjoy time with loved ones, soak up the sun and be grateful for the abundance of food available (not everyone is so fortunate). If you're mindful of your choices (even if they are not the most ideal choices) you are already stepping in the right direction.
BRING A HEALTHY DISH
I like to bring a healthy dish to a party so that I know there will be at least one healthy option to eat. You could season some chicken breast for the grill or prepare a fruit salad. Meat and veggie kabobs are usually a hit at barbecues. Berries, protein shakes, Greek yogurt and bananas make a fun red, white and blue snack.
I always prioritize and fill up on protein first. Are they serving burgers and hotdogs? Then I would choose a burger and maybe skip the bun (see below tip). It's not about being perfect, just making mindful choices from what's available to you. Grass-fed beef and organic kale aren't going to be on the menu at Uncle Sal's barbecue. What's the next best thing?
CHOOSE ONE OR TWO TREATS TO INDULGE IN
Living a well-rounded life full of meaningful connections with friends and family is a big part of living a healthy lifestyle. It's not all about what you eat and how much exercise you do. If you skip the party because you don't trust yourself around chips and salsa, then that's not healthy either. It's all about balance.
I usually will arrive at a party, look at the options and choose a few foods to indulge in. Maybe I'll eat my burger on a white bun or have a beer. I choose the food options that I will enjoy the most. If you don't even like pretzels that much, don't just eat them because they are there. Maybe you'll save your indulgence for the dessert. What are you going to enjoy the most? Choose that.
I pay attention to portion sizes and eat slowly to ensure I am savoring and enjoying every bite.
I want to enjoy myself without going overboard. If I make a decision up front then I allow myself the treat while setting personal boundaries. If I mess up? We are human, we all do. I forgive myself and move on. You only live once. Do the best you can, no one is perfect.
DRINK LOTS OF WATER
The great thing about outdoor parties is there is usually lots of water available. Stay hydrated. Drink lots of water and stick to non-calorie drinks to avoid empty calories.
When the party is over, get back to your normal habits as soon as possible. Don't wait until tomorrow or next Monday or the first of the month. Parties are a part of life and they can have almost no impact on your health and fitness goals if they are occasional indulgences and not a catalyst for a full-on cheat week. You don't have to pay penance for your food sins, just wipe the slate clean and start over. You don't have to exercise extra hard or long the next day. You don't have to drastically cut calories afterwards. Just get back to what is normal as soon as possible.
I hope you enjoy your long weekend and time with family and friends. Someone save some grilled pineapple for me.