Feasting and fasting

Learning to manage an active social live with friends and family, whilst still eating healthily and even losing weight
This article is a supplement to my ‘Managing celebrations and holidays’ piece. It is worth reading both, as they deal with navigating different occasions—and yes, challenges for a person who is trying to eat healthily and lose weight and still have an enjoyable social life, whilst not derailing their good intentions. If you are facing a busy time with lots of eating going on (for example, having family visit, or visiting family and friends) then be realistic and think in terms of damage control; try not to put weight on, but don’t expect to lose any. Here, I am also focusing on people who want to fast as well as attending to the detail of day-to-day activities.

My programmes are very much about adopting a healthy lifestyle and being able to sustain it .This won’t happen if you spend your life either not attending social gatherings or being offered tasty food and saying ’Oh, I can’t eat that, I’m on a diet’. There is nothing more miserable than the latter, and usually people’s response will be to say, ‘Ah, go on, a small bit won’t hurt’. Mostly, people mean well, but it can be an unnecessary challenge on your part to the person who, for whatever reason, wants you to eat. Food can be a bit of a battleground. It isn’t the time to start long explanations, and doing so will wear you down in the end. Be sensitive; someone may have made you your previously favourite dish, so thank them! You don’t have to eat it all. Chronic dieters can be very irritating, especially if they are inconsistent with their food choices, eating one thing one week and not the next. We have all met them. That said, don’t compromise your choices just to make someone happy. Try not to be self-conscious about your food at social events. Other people will mostly be thinking about themselves, not about what is on your plate! If they aren’t, you can be pretty damn sure they have their own struggles. And don’t be a martyr. If you attend an event, don’t bang on about your ‘diet’ and what you can’t eat. It’s your choice, own it and enjoy the feeling you will get from sticking to your rules and feeling so much better for not having binged on unsuitable foods and drink. Smile—it helps you lose weight, and people will want what you have.

So, what to do?

You are in charge of this narrative; think about what you want to do. If you are invited to an occasion you would really enjoy, accept the invitation. If you really don’t think you would enjoy the event, think about why you would accept, and don’t go. Learn to say ‘no’ to doing some things you don’t want to do. That said, don’t say no to things just because you are ‘on a diet’; that’s a disaster. The only time I would advise a blank diary is in the early stages of your new healthy eating journey; having a good run at it initially means you are more likely to succeed. You can plan for this.

You can see that a guiding principle is planning—if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. I find writing plans down really helps with following through on them. If you need a few days to yourself, cross time out for them in your diary, with your name written in, and if someone invites you to do something, unless you really want to do it, say ‘Sorry, I’m booked that day’. Time to do what you need to do for yourself is of paramount importance. Only you can decide how you make this fit into your lifestyle.
Many of my clients have adopted some form of fasting, a powerful tool to improve many aspects of their health and to lose excess pounds. They tell me, and I know from personal experience that telling people you are fasting isn’t always a good thing to do! It does cut across the grain of current dietary wisdom (which, by the way, hasn’t worked), and so you will find that nearly everyone has an expert opinion about fasting—mostly how not eating every few hours will somehow be bad for you. I find it astonishing that you could be fifteen stone and five foot three inches and tucking into a pizza and no one bats an eyelid, but skip breakfast and the health police will be advising you on the perils of doing so. Unless you have a great deal of time on your hands, skip the explanation and wait to tell them when they want know the secret to how well you look and how much weight you have lost. A simple ‘No thanks, I’m not hungry’ should do.

Remember it isn’t ‘I can’t eat that’, it’s ‘I don’t’ eat that’. See the difference? If you are fasting, try experimenting with different regimes. Be flexible, fit fasting into your life not your life into fasting, move your fasting period to accommodate a feast. However, don’t be too laid back. It is the doing it which works! Find the balance. You may have to adjust your priorities in adopting a healthy lifestyle and/or fasting if your life revolves around food. Usually these are only minor alterations, for example, for family cooking you can cook a healthy meal plus the extras for the lean family members. Just fill your plate with the unprocessed food, salads, veggies; give yourself a palm-sized portion of protein; and include some healthy fat (olive oil, coconut oil, butter). Learn what the lower carb options are and eat them with relish.

That’s a quick romp through the strategies you may have to think about, all the while not creating for yourself or others anxiety about your food environment. You want to create for yourself calm and relaxed feelings, not just a rule book.
  • Don’t go out somewhere when you’re ravenous. Always ensure you have drunk plenty of water and have had a healthy snack beforehand. Fibre and some protein are good. Continue to drink plenty of water throughout the engagement.

  • Fill your plate with salad and vegetables and then smaller portions of calorie-dense foods. Eat the veggies first to fill you up!

  • Have treat foods, try everything, but focus on the healthy options. You don’t have to eat everything......be ‘mindful’.

  • If you are hosting the event, ensure you have made healthy options for yourself that you will enjoy, and, if you are invited to provide a dish for an occasion, ditto!

  • Once you have eaten sufficiently, move away from the food, and maybe employ a stopper, something which for you signifies the end of eating. Tea or coffee, chewing gum? When you get home after an evening event, brush your teeth and go to bed.

  • For some whose eating is triggered by the possibility of food waste, clearing away is not a good idea, or just take the view that it is going to waste whether you eat it or not!

  • If you are going to a restaurant check out menus and go to one which serves food you want to eat. Don’t be afraid to be assertive.

  • If you find yourself in a place without good choices, ask the staff if they can prepare you the least damaging but still tasty option. Most reasonable establishments will be well used to similar requests in these days of food allergies, etc.

  • When travelling always carry wholesome snacks—nuts, seeds, cheese, and obviously water—in portion-sized containers so as not to eat them all at once..

  • Think of social engagements which don’t revolve around food and suggest doing these instead.

  • Finally, if you are comfortable to do so, tell people your aspirations and enlist their help. Surround yourself with people who will support you.