I have a confession to make. I have a problem with portion control. Yes, I know, it is shocking given how much I know and write about healthy eating. But no amount of healthy eating knowledge can really stop me from having a second (or um, third) serving of my amazing vegan chocolate pumpkin pie–which is why I make it only twice a year, on Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Part of my portion control issue comes from growing up in a family where I was praised for my robust eating ability and my petite older sister was scolded (coddled, really) for being a natural small eater. Delicious, homemade food equaled love in my family. It was only when I went to college that I realized not everyone grew up in the same kind of family culture where food is so viscerally associated with home and hearth. One of my closest friends even told me she doesn’t like thinking of food as “love” because in her family, food is “fuel”–what you eat to live your life. As independence allowed me to develop my own relationship with food, I’ve taken and combined both ideas. Food is both love and fuel in my current life, which suits me perfectly.
Which brings us back to my portion control issue. On a day-to-day basis, there are three ways I deal with this: making just enough food; measuring pasta using a food scale; normally not keeping bread in the house. (I also don’t keep any prepackaged goodies around the house, like crackers, chips, chocolate, granola bars, cereal, etc). These little preventive measures keep me in check during the year. But I also recognize that wanting to eat more of special foods around few special days in a year is part of being a normal person–and thus, my portion control “issue” over the chocolate pumpkin pie isn’t really an issue at all. I don’t overload myself with guilt over it, and instead plan on using these strategies to avoid weight gain over Thanksgiving.
1. Implement a healthy eating routine the whole week of Thanksgiving.
Start this week (yes, today) with a clean eating routine that you follow until the weekend. Obviously you will eat a special, holiday feast on Thanksgiving day, but that doesn’t mean you can just let go of things the rest of the week! Remember, Thanksgiving feast is only one lunch/dinner out of 21 meals you have this week. Don’t make it 5 meals!
2. Start each day with a green juice.
This week, start each morning with a nutritious and cleansing green juice. If you make your own juice, you can follow your favorite green smoothie recipe, but if you buy your juice (like I do), look for cleansing, de-bloating ingredients like parsley and a squeeze of lemon. You can drink this by itself or with your normal breakfast, but make sure you have a healthy breakfast you’d have other times of year. Starting your day with cranberry currant scone will only make you feel worse as the day goes on.
3. Work out every day this week.
You should be moving seven days a week no matter what, but this week, make it your goal to fit in heart-pumping, muscle-aching workouts at least 5 times. Push yourself harder this week–that means adding more weights, doing more reps, doing high intensity interval training (HIIT), and including at least one or two long cardio sessions.
4. Be active on Thanksgiving Day.
Before your big meal, go for a long run–a 2009 study shows that subjects who ran vigorously for 60 minutes had reduced appetite (as measured by hunger and satiety hormones). On the other hand, subjects who did weight lifting for 90 minutes also had reduced hunger hormones, but to a lesser extent. I suggest a long run in the morning as soon as you wake up, before you start cooking. Afterwards, have a green juice and a normal, light breakfast. After you’re done with your big afternoon dinner, don’t plop down in front of the TV–put away the dishes and go for a nice long walk with your family! I don’t care what anyone says about your stomach needing energy to digest the food–your body can do two things at once. This way you’ll be less likely to pick away at the leftovers as you languish indoors.
5. Use plates for portion control.
Use a salad plate, instead of a large dinner plate. You could even use a salad fork, which is slightly smaller than a dinner fork. Every time you want to get another serving, use a clean plate–this will prevent you from heaping spoonfuls of vegan stuffing onto your plate, losing track of how much you’ve eaten.
6. Think ahead of what you really want to eat.
Decide ahead of your meal what is really worth savoring, and what you can live without. Sure, those flaky vegan biscuits and rice pilaf are amazing, but you can enjoy those any other time of the year. For me, cranberry sauce is not as important when I can get my sugar fix through my c.p.p. (chocolate pumpkin pie). Resist the urge to try everything and focus on the ones you really feel are worth the splurge.
7. Remember what it’s all about.
Keep a healthy, balanced attitude toward it all. Even if you’re on a weight loss diet, recognize that it’s okay to enjoy your food. Your every other meal can be focused on you and your body. This one meal is about sharing a special meal with your family and friends–not about your goal of losing 10 lbs. So don’t be scared of eating anything (as long as it’s vegan, of course), celebrate, and be thankful. You deserve it!
Also in Diet: How I Started My Alkaline Diet
Photo: Jordan Shakeshaft