The run up to Christmas

I don’t know about you, but my calendar is getting very busy on the run up to Christmas.

There are so many social events at this time of year, as every group, company and organisation decides that it wants to celebrate Christmas with a party or dinner.

For anyone doing Slimming World, the sheer number of social occasions can seem quite daunting. Many people wonder if it’s even possible to say on-plan at this time of year!

Start with a plan

For me, the very worst thing I can do is throw myself into the festive season without a plan. For instance, if I turn up at the work Christmas party in a couple of weeks time and haven’t thought about it beforehand, then the chances are that I’m going to eat and drink everything around me.

By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.

Benjamin Franklin

If I have a plan then I can at least mitigate some of the damage I might cause. I might not spend the whole night food optimising, but hopefully I won’t undo all of the good weight loss I’ve achieved throughout the year!

Of course the type of plan I need will depend very much on the type of gathering:

  • For drinks, I need to plan ahead about what I’m going to drink – if indeed I am going to drink. One of the best ways to stay on-plan at a drinks party is to stay sober, which can be reinforced by deciding to drive that night. Of course, not drinking can be a bit boring, and in that case I like to remind myself of the number of syns in alcohol, and plan ahead what (and how much) I want to drink.
  • For dinner out, I like to think ahead about what I will eat that night. It helps if I know where we’re going to be eating out in advance so that I can check out the menu online. Otherwise I’m likely to make some very bad decisions in the spur of the moment!
  • For a house party, I like to engage with the host in advance. Most of the time they are very amenable to looking after all their guest’s needs. The chances are they are looking after all the vegetarians and those with food allergies, so why not those of us who are trying to lose weight. I like to offer to bring free or low-syn food and drink as a contribution to the party – then I know it’s safe to have as much as I want.

Think about before and afterwards

Once I have a plan sorted for the upcoming event, I need to also think about before and afterwards:

  • Do I need to save up my syns from the proceeding week?
  • Do I need to eat before the party, to reduce the amount I eat when I’m out?
  • Do I need to take low-syn food or drink with me?
  • Do I need to stock up on healthy snacks for when I come in drunk, so that I don’t get a late-night kebab?
  • Do I need supplies for when I might be hungover the next day and not wanting to cook?

These (and countless others) are the questions I need to ask myself when I’m putting together my plan.

What if the plan falls apart?

Sometimes the best laid plans don’t quite work out. I may have planned a controlled night when I was only going to go out for three low-alcohol beers and then come home – but instead I end up staggering in the door at 3am completely hammered, and with the stains of a burger and chips down my front.

We’ve all been there, haven’t we?

And the temptation is to think that everything is ruined, and give up entirely on Slimming World and weight loss entirely. Or at least give up until next week. Besides, I’m going to be hungover tomorrow and craving cheesy puffs and sausage rolls – so there’s no point trying.

But I know that if I continue to eat off-plan for the rest of the week then I’ll regret it, because I’ll probably put on all the weight I lost in the last month!

So I know that I need to get back on to food optimising as soon as possible – ideally as soon as I get in the door after the party. After all, I’m now back home, and am fully back in control of what I eat and drink – so any damage from now onward is entirely my own doing! 

Have a Happy Christmas

I suppose with all things, it’s about striking a balance. I don’t want to be overly restrictive and end up having a miserable time. But similarly I don’t want to go mental and regret it. I don’t want to step on those scales in January and find I’ve put on two stone!

Anyway I hope everyone that reads this also has a Happy (and well-planned) Christmas!

Event catering

Friday and Saturday were difficult for me this week. I went out straight out after work on Friday night until late, and then was out again all day and night on Saturday.

I wasn’t just eating away from home, but I was tired as well, and that’s not the best combination for making good decisions about what to eat.

I was involved in singing with my choir for a high-profile concert. The schedule meant that I had rehearsals from 5.45pm to 10.00pm on Friday, and then on Saturday I was rehearsing and performing for 13 hours from 9.00am until 10.00pm. 

It’s not impossible to plan ahead for these things, and bring your own syn-free food along to eat. Indeed one of the women in my choir is doing Slimming World as well and was very good and turned up with all her meals pre-prepared.

I did not!

I wasn’t prepared with my own food, and the meal breaks were limited, so I was pretty-much at the mercy of the event catering. And while they had provided different meal options for vegetarians and celiacs, there wasn’t a syn-free option in sight!

So I ended up eating what was provided by the caterers – which varied from limp sandwiches to a chilli con carne and rice. I can pretty much guarantee that they weren’t using Slimming World recipes, but it did help that they only dished out minuscule portions!

Thankfully on the Saturday my wife loaded my bag with loads of healthy snacks, so I was able to keep satisfied. I had boiled eggs, loads of fruit, and a oat bar for my Health Extra B. That stopped me resorting to bags of crisps and sweets from the corner shop to keep the energy levels up.

I suppose the lesson I learned is to think ahead and bring my own food when I’m away from home like this in the future. Ideally it needs to be something that doesn’t need to be cooked or heated, and can maybe be eaten straight out of the storage container, as I can’t rely on there being any kitchen/cooking facilities.

Tonight’s concert plan of action

We realised only yesterday that we had tickets for a concert in the 3Arena tonight.

Our normal plan, when going out in the city on a week-night, would be to meet somewhere in the city and have an early-bird dinner before the event. We’d also have a couple of drinks over dinner, as the price of drinks in concert venues is often inflated.

However doing this would not exactly be syn-friendly. When you add the dinner and drinks together we’d probably be way over our syn allocation for the day – and that’s before we’ve even made it the concert!

So what’s our plan of action?

Well this morning I brought both a packed lunch and dinner with me. And so, instead of going out to eat, I’m going to stay late in the office and eat dinner there.

I’ll be having a syn-free meal – actually left-overs from yesterday’s dinner – which I already know will be tasty, delicious, and healthy. And because I’ll still be in the office, I won’t be drinking alcohol with my meal – so that’ll save on some more syns.

The idea then, is to meet up with the misses half an hour before the gig for a quick drink in a local bar, and then head on to the concert.

The misses has also planned ahead for potential post-concert munchies. She’s prepared a chicken curry that’ll be waiting at home. So should we be hungry, we’ll be able to avoid the temptation to get a take-away, as there’s a tasty and healthy alternative ready to eat.

Hopefully all this will help ensure we end up having a great night – but also a healthy night!

The great unknown of eating out

Unless you’re a total social hermit and never go out, at some point you’re going to have to face the challenge of eating out!

The Slimming World app can help with the syn values of the food served by the major brands, but if you like to eat in more independent restaurants then you might be on your own.

Something as innocuous as a plate of vegetables might be swimming in oil or butter, so it can be a food optimising minefield. 

To try and minimise any damage I might cause to myself, I try to employ a number of coping strategies:

  1. Check the restaurant menu ahead of time. Most places have their menus online. I am able to check them in advance and decide what I’m going to have. It saves me from making panicked decisions (wrong decisions?) when ordering.
  2. Eat before going out. Yeah, I know this sounds kind-of strange – eating before going out to a restaurant. But if I know that the restaurant only serves very calorific food and that there are no healthy options available, then I eat before I get there. That way, I’ll not be hungry when I get there, and I’ll only want something small to eat like a starter. I can still socialise with my friends and family, but not lose control.
  3. Ask the waiter questions. Most restaurants will know or can find out how dish is cooked.  So if it’s not obvious I like to check if something is going to be fried, roasted or boiled. And I ask what ingredients are going to be added. It’s amazing – some places will even cook dishes without oil if I mention that I am on a low fat diet.
  4. Order off-menu. Some restaurant are more happy to accommodate this than others, but if you don’t ask you don’t get! If I think that a particular ingredient is going to be high in syns then I ask for it to be left out of my meal – or perhaps substitute it for some lovely speedy vegetables or a salad. And if there’s a sauce on the dish, I ask for it “on the side” so that I can determine how much or how little I put on the plate.

If all else fails, and I haven’t got the time or nerve in the middle of the restaurant to be checking all the ingredients on your Slimming World app, then I go with my gut instinct. I try to remember that lean meat or fish and vegetables are always a good option – as long as they are not cooked with half a pound of butter!

And it’s also worth remembering that the occasional controlled blow-out can’t cause that much damage. It’s only when I throw caution to the wind and ignore all the food optimising rules out the of the window that I spoil my weight loss. If I make semi-sensible decisions then I can usually avoid a shock result at the next weigh-in!

Back on Track on Monday

I think I went over my syns during the weekend. I don’t really know, because I lost track, because there was alcohol involved.

We had friends round for dinner on Saturday, and I ended up having more drinks that I planned. After the first gin and tonic it was all downhill. But at least I was drinking bottles of Coors Light beer, which are 5 syns a bottle. It could have been much worse if the red wine was open!

We cooked the BBQ Pulled Pork in the slow cooker, and served it in 60g wholemeal rolls (from M&S) with lashings of salad and Slimming World chips. The only problem was that it all tasted too good, and I ended up having a second roll (oops, another 6 syns). And then there was dessert of strawberries, crushed up meringues, and vanilla yoghurt (syns unknown).

It was a lovely dinner, but it didn’t stop me scoffing a granola bar (5 syns) with a cup of tea just before bed.

Then Sunday came around, and I was out for lunch with friends. We ended up in an italian restaurant where I would normally order a pizza. But I figured a whole pizza (who would only eat half?) would clock up about 50 syns! So I had a grilled chicken salad instead. It had loads of olives in it, but I don’t care. They’re nowhere near as bad as the pizza would have been.

I also had a small glass of wine with lunch, which could easily have turned into two or three!

Then, over dinner at home that evening, it was a struggle to resist having another few beers. I was tired, and it’s easy to make bad decisions when you’re tired. But I somehow managed to step away from the fridge.

Now it’s Monday, and I have a new-found determination to get back on track. My mind is focused on the Wednesday weigh-in, and my target to lose 2 pounds. I don’t know if I’ll make it, but I’m sure going to try!