My most memorable Christmas Party was in Kauma village, a ghetto just outside the the capital city of Malawi.
With Christmas lights and speakers hooked up to a car battery, everyone was singing and dancing.
I was passed a large glass of tobwa, a fermented home-brew made from corn mealies and sorghum. It was thick, sour and gritty. Then, a plate mounded with rice with some mysterious piece of chicken anatomy on the top.
Being a white foreigner, everybody was watching me as I tried to muster enthusiasm for my meal.
It didn’t help that I was a vegetarian at the time. Keenly aware that they had sacrificed their only chicken for me, I ate it, taking comfort in the fact that it had been free-run and relatively organic.
It was a lesson on gratitude and manners.
In Canada, we have a different problem. Food is always around but many of us have food sensitivities or chronic diseases that do not benefit from the kinds or amounts of foods we are served. Many are working hard to lose weight or maintain their weight loss.
So given this context, is there a way to politely refuse food or avoid holiday weight gain?
• Most hosts can accommodate special diets if they know in advance. Offering to bring something you can eat is always helpful.
• If you are trying to lose weight, don’t feel compelled to try everything at the buffet. A good strategy is to fill half your plate with veggies, and half your plate with the foods you really enjoy. If there is a choice, use a smaller plate.
• Focus on enjoying conversation and try pace yourself with the slowest eater.
• Alcohol can quickly add calories and dampen good decision-making. Limit alcohol to one or two drinks.
• If someone has brought in a holiday treat that you can’t eat, try keep it out of your line of vision.
• Increase your activity during the holidays: get on the dance floor or go for a walk before the party
• Remember that overeating on occasion is perfectly normal. Just try get back to moderation the next day!
-Serena Caner is a registered dietitian who works at Shuswap Lake General Hospital.