Have you ever heard of unhappy hour? I didn’t think so. Happy hour is the new and improved excuse to get friends together earlier, jet out of the office faster and get your social fix in. The only thing that isn’t “happy” about this hour (or let’s face it – hours) is usually how your stomach feels around 8pm. Now I love a good get-together with friends (trust me), but what I’ve learned is you have to be mindful about the choices you make to really enjoy it hours after the “happy” has ended…
This is true for any type of group/party/eating & drinking situation. It’s a known fact that when you’re with others, friends act as “permission givers” and facilitate an increased caloric intake. As we head full thrust into the holiday season, our awareness is even more important. Not only do we have happy hour after work but holiday office parties, dinner with friends and family, and banquets and buffets to celebrate the holidays.
Here are a few favorite tips of mine for surviving the many unhappy hours you will spend working off your few hours of ‘happiness’ if you don’t practice a little ‘mindful celebrating’:
- Focus on the people with whom you’re sharing your meal. Engage them in conversation. Ask questions and really listen to your companions. It’s easy to get excited about a ‘special holiday get-together’ because there will be foods that you only see once a year, but the real reason you’re there is to catch up with Aunt Gertrude – so do it! Get your mind off of food with fun activities. When food is the only event at a holiday meal, it makes it too easy to mindlessly eat. Bring your favorite game, or cards. Or, tote along photos from the year to ooh and ahh over. Don’t worry….someone will rescue you from Aunt Gertrude in an hour or so and you can move on to Cousin Beatrice. 🙂
- Don’t throw away your food rules. A lot of restaurant menus come with food options – so choose wisely! Those barbecued ribs and fries aren’t going to metabolize as quickly as grilled salmon with couscous. Stay away from the fried foods and look for lean proteins that are grilled or raw, such as sashimi, chicken skewers and fish. If they don’t already offer healthy options on the menu, ask! I’ve found that restaurants are so accommodating these days, you can practically write your own menu.
- Don’t order the ‘Mrs. Claus Reindeer Punch’ just because it’s 2 for 1 on the Happy Hour menu. If there’s a particular wine or liquor you enjoy, is it really worth the $3-5 savings to order something you don’t really want? If it is, go for it – but you’re better off ordering something you like to drink verses saving a few bucks. Here’s the irony: you’ll end up drinking less because that drink costs more – making you think twice about ordering a second or third drink – so you save on calories and money….and odds are, you won’t wake up a grinch the next morning.
- Learn to say no. It’s ok to decline seconds or choose not to eat more than you know is in your best interest. ( This is especially important on the buffet line! ) Know ahead of time what you plan to say when someone continues to offer you more helpings.
- In many ways, the holiday meal is just like any other. Yes, there is often an abundance of food, but seeing the holidays as “different” or “special” seems to imply that there is a different way we should eat. It is a holiday, true, but mindful eating is not a diet. You don’t have to avoid good food. It just means eating it slowly, with full awareness. This is something we’re doing the rest of the year already, so let’s just stick with the plan for that couple of really long weeks of yummy, fun-filled, delicious food….ha. C’mon. We can do it!
- Don’t use exercise as punishment for eating. Instead, look for opportunities to move more, like a walk after dinner to enjoy the holiday lights, a few laps around the mall before it opens, or a quick sprint away from the living room when you hear Aunt Gertrude calling. ( I’m just kidding….I really love my Aunt Gertrude! ) With all the craziness of the holidays, your mind and body will appreciate the remembered regularity of your work outs – your exercise should be a present to yourself during this very busy time.