18 December 2016
I used to dread occasions like this and through the 'diet' years found it really hard to be moderate and sensible and to eat and drink responsibly. But, over the years I've sorted out a few strategies to help me. Hey, that grey hair has some use, huh?
One of these strategies is NOT to starve myself beforehand and go to the venue hungry - in the past I've tried that, saving myself for the evening, and I've decided it wasn't a good plan. It was actually a very bad move for me, as everything looks so tempting and tasty and seems like a good idea. Saying 'yes' in these circumstances is apparently a lot simpler than declining!
So, how to manage the food aspect? Well, Tuesday is one of my Oxfam volunteering days and I always take a pot of stuff with me for my late IF 'breakfast' meal.
This week will be no different, and my little box will contain chopped up bits of raw cauliflower stalk (from tonight's dinner), some small chunks of nice salty cheddar cheese and some lovely Turkish olives sprinkled with Palestinian zataar. I may add a cherry tomato or two if I feel like pushing the boat out. I usually also take a small pot of mixed nuts. That, being my usual fare, will keep me satisfied through the day so I won't go out for the evening hungry.
I try to remember to clean my teeth just before walking out of the door - residual minty toothpaste taste makes the first food/drink taste bleh, so slows down the start of things. Though I don't do it now, in the past I've found eating an apple about ten minutes before walking into the venue works too, and apples are a nice 'clean' food so there's no need to clean your teeth to get rid of odd bits that lodge between your gnashers after an apple!
The other food related tip is to look at (er, closely scrutinise!) the menu ahead of time. I go out having already chosen exactly what I am going to eat before setting foot into the joint. On that subject, two courses are quite enough - no need to go for three as I'd never do it any other time of year so why do it at Christmas. I also tell the organiser what I've chosen before I get there (helps them out in the melee), and carry a piece of paper to remind myself of my selections. This means a definite decision has been made - no room for shilly shallying, no indecision, no capitulating to anyone else's urging, no making impulsive choices. Just sensible choices that fit with the way I choose to eat.
If the set menu, and it's usually a set menu at Christmas, means my selection automatically comes with something I'd rather not eat (some form of potatoes, for example) there are a few options. Firstly, you could ask the kitchen to leave them off. The downside is that a lot of venues struggle with this at hectic times of year though - their aim is to serve as many (often not 100% sober) folk as possible in short order and they may not appreciate or be able to fulfill 'special requests'. No problem, when the dish arrives just push the offending articles to the side of the plate and leave them there. Not always easy though as they often look pretty yummy, so consider offering them to someone who doesn't eat kookily like me. In my experience there's usually a hungry man at hand who is all too happy to take them off my hands to pad out their meagre restaurant 'festive' portions. I often find the Brussels sprout haters are more than happy to swap my roasties for their little green horrors too.
Then there's the alcohol side of the equation. I'm not a great drinker usually, but it's easy to get carried away in company, especially when everyone else seems dead set on draining the bar dry and wants me to be 'sociable' and join in!
So, for one thing I always drink a large glass of water before leaving the house. OK, it means I'll doubtless need the loo on arrival, but it also means I'm not thirsty and can make a glass of white wine spritzer last a looong time. Note the spritzer bit - looks like you have a good large glass of a recognisable drink (which seems to be expected), but you can get away with a small serving of wine and lots of sparkling water or soda water. Then, when we sit down I always ask for a big jug of tap water to be brought to the table (and replenished regularly) and intersperse one glass of wine with several glasses of water. My bladder helps take care of the quantity imbibed!
The dessert course can be a bit of a trial (especially if, like me, you've just chosen a starter and main). But a coffee, black if you must, makes a perfectly acceptable substitute and there is rarely a problem sipping that while everyone else tucks into their sweet and sticky desserts.
A few other tips...
One is to wear something very close fitting (and definitely non-elasticated) at the waist. Amazing how conscious that makes you of the amount you consume.
Another is to be sociable - hey, this is Christmas after all! This means talking to people, getting up and moving around to speak to everyone, dancing (if necessary) and generally doing anything to minimise time and access to the food and drink.
Oh, and if your Christmas social happens to be a buffet... load your plate with salad (or the platter decorations) before anything else goes onto it. This usually tastes pretty good and leaves minimal room to load up with the stuff your own dietary preference views as 'naughty'.
Right, enough blether. Merry Christmas, chin, chin and onwards ever...