While not a big eating holiday, like Thanksgiving or Christmas or Super Bowl Sunday (which is not technically a holiday), Memorial Day Weekend signals the beginning of summer and lots of outdoor activities, including picnics, BBQs, and just plain eating outdoors. In the case of this 3-day holiday weekend, we stuff ourselves and then play the regrets game on the following Tuesday.
Why do people stuff themselves on special holidays? Why do they eat to the point that it actually hurts, or to the point where the food comes up the same route it went down? Why do people eat so much that they have to let out a notch or two in their belt? Why do some look on it as a contest to see how much they can eat? The typical American will consume the caloric intake of at least two, possibly, three meals or more as they dine outside. Is it the air that is causing people to go hog wild with food?
For those of us who are trying to eat healthy and sensibly, you can undo a month’s worth of work in the space of several hours. And all for what? It is not like that will be the last time you cook a hamburger (or veggie burger) on the grill outside? It won’t be the last time you eat ketsup either, or inhale a lot of potato chips, or go overboard on baked beans and potato salad. Those are all foods that will be around for a long time to come. So what is it?
People just do not pay attention to what they are eating on the holiday or throughout the weekend;the social setting and excitement of the day are absorbing their attention, and the food actually becomes secondary to the whole event when it comes to tasting the meal. When we do not take time to enjoy the food, really taste it by chewing it thoroughly–we miss out on the pleasure in dining.
What can you do to prevent the regrets the day after? Here are some tips to help you enjoy this Memorial Day Weekend without any of the painful aftereffects:
1. DRINK WATER: Drink lots of water two days before the start of the weekend, and a full glass before you sit down to the big meal. It will help give you a full feeling.
2. Limit yourself to one drink–a glass of wine or one beer.
3. BE VERY CHOOSY: Whether the meal is family-style or a buffet, be choosy in what you eat. Also, do not walk around and eat. SIT DOWN and enjoy the food and the company. Do not put food on your plate that you like only so-so. You do not have to take a serving of everything on the table or in the buffet line. If there is a dessert you see that you just have to have, consider a much smaller serving of beans or cutting down on the potato salad, and then eat only half a dessert.
4. If there are many desserts, pick a couple and eat a couple of bites from them. It is that first bite, anyway, that holds the prize in taste. In short, choose quality over quantity.
5. PORTION SIZE: It boils down to portion size in your choices and using common sense. If you usually eat two hotdogs, eat one with a bun and the other without the bun. Better yet, eat just half a bun or no bun. If you are putting on your plate any food that exceeds the size of your palm, you are putting on too much. If your plate is stacked 2-3 inches high, you have way too much food on your plate. If you cannot even see all the food you have heaped on your plate because it is all layered, then you have too much on your plate. This is a no-brainer, folks. If your plate looks like it could feed three people, then believe that it can.
6. COMPARTMENTALIZED EATING: Start out with your appetizer or salad. Only take enough food that you know you will eat and not waste. Eat very slowly. In fact, stretch that salad eating to 20 minutes, so your brain can register that you have food in your stomach. Then, go back for your main entrée. Take ONE PORTION only. Finally,get your dessert. Between bites for everything you eat, put down the fork. Chew until the entire mouthful is gone (in short, don’t be swallowing food that is not thoroughly chewed.
7. EXERCISE: No one can say enough about the benefits of exercise. Of course, holidays and vacations sometime put a crimp inexercise plans, primarily because we do NOT plan our days to include exercise. Not a morning person? Then get in a half hour of walking before you eat the big meal. After you have had the main course, go walking for a half hour before you eat your dessert. There are days when this weight watcher can be found on the treadmill at 10 pm, because the day just got away. Whatever you do, be sure to schedule exercise.
With a little mindfulness, you can make this holiday weekend a time when you gain no weight, and you wake up on Tuesday feeling great because you did not succumb to stuffing yourself with hamburgers, chips, and beer.
Finally, take some time to reflect on the true meaning of Memorial Day, a day for remembering those who died while serving in our armed forces. Volunteers will place American flags at the graves in our national cemeteries, as well as in other cemeteries. Along with others, this writer thinks this special day needs to go back to its original date, May 30, and not make it a 3-day weekend, so that everyone knows why we have Memorial Day. May 30, 2004, is the day when World War II Army nurse, Lt Lucretia Thole (my mother) died. Such a fitting day to die on and to be remembered by.
Even if you do not have any relatives who were in the military, a visit to your local cemetery will show you that many others do, and that these men and women will not be forgotten, and all deserve our respect. Fly your flag this Memorial Day.