Q: The Super Bowl is this weekend and historically I have used this as an excuse to have a free-for-all eating day. I really, really want to keep losing weight, so how I can I stop that from happening this year?
A: The Super Bowl is ultimately about watching football, not about eating. Sometimes dieters say to me, “I can’t watch football without eating,” and I remind them, “If you were in a situation where there was no food around, and no chance of getting food, you absolutely would watch football without eating.” Just because you’ve linked football and food in your mind, doesn’t mean that link can’t be broken. That being said, if you want to reach your weight loss goals, you don’t have to watch the whole game without eating, but you do have to maintain control over your eating. Here is my Super Bowl Cheat Sheet:
1. Plan in advance how much you will eat. This will help you resist tempting food because you will know how much you’ll be having, and it will help you maintain a sense of control over your eating. Remember: feeling in control of your eating feels GREAT. Feeling out of control of your eating feels BAD. Don’t taint the Super Bowl by feeling bad about your eating.
2. Decide in advance how much alcohol (if any) you will drink. Remember: it has calories and it can lower inhibitions and lead you to eat and/or drink more.
3. Bring or prepare some healthy foods that you know you will feel good about eating.
4. Think about Super Bowls past and how you felt after they were over. Think about events in general in the past during which you overate, and how you felt when they were over. Do you want to feel that way again? Is it worth it to you to keep undoing all your hard work by overeating at certain events?
5. On the flip side, think about how you will feel going to bed Sunday night and getting on the scale Monday morning if you’ve stayed in control. How much better will you feel? How triumphant will you feel? How good will it feel when you prove to yourself that you can stay in control?
6. Identify in advance what sabotaging thoughts you might have and come up with responses to them. Here are some possibilities:
Sabotaging Thought: It’s not fair that I can’t eat what everyone around me is eating.
Response: My body doesn’t know or care how many wings or slices of pizza everyone else around me is eating. It ONLY knows how much I’m eating, so it doesn’t matter at all what anyone else is consuming.
Sabotaging Thought: It’s not fair I can’t eat everything that I want.
Response: It’s true that I can’t eat unlimited portions of everything that I want to eat, but I can plan ahead and eat reasonable portions of some food. This way, I’ll likely get to enjoy it even more because I won’t have to feel guilty during and after I eat.
Sabotaging Thought: It’s not fair I can’t eat normally at least on this one day.
Response: Actually I AM eating normally with someone who has my same weight loss goals. If I eat like a football player, I have to expect that I will look like one.
Sabotaging Thought: It’s too hard to resist food when I’m craving it.
Response: If I were a vegetarian and all the food had meat in it, I would definitely resist. Just because I’m having a craving for food doesn’t mean I have to eat it. While it may be uncomfortable momentarily to resist a craving, once the craving is over I’ll be so glad I didn’t give in.
7. Make sure to make a plate of food and deliberately sit down to eat it. If you’re constantly taking small bites and going back for more food, it is extremely hard to keep track of how much you are eating. Remember: satiation is a combination of both physical and psychological satisfaction, so it’s important to really see how much you’re eating so that you can feel satisfied by it. If you grab food all day long, you’ll likely end up taking in a whole lot of calories, but not feeling all that full because you won’t be getting the same sense of psychological satisfaction.
8. Consider setting some basic rules to make eating easier, like “no chips.” That way, every time you glace at the bowl of chips you won’t have to engage in the struggle of deciding whether or not to have any and it will be easy to resist because you’ll just know: I’m not eating chips.