Prelude to Excess—Strategies To Deal With Eating “Orgies”

By eating orgies, I mean any circumstances in which we will be exposed to a great deal of food—a situation that can thwart our best efforts to be disciplined eaters.  The event may be a destination wedding, a vacation in Hawaii, a cruise, a weekend college reunion, a holiday dinner, etc.  Many eating forces are in collusion here—hunger eating; social eating; temptation eating; recreational/entertainment eating; opportunistic eating; etc.

For example, I will soon be confronted with a potential eating bender as I head down to New Orleans to attend a function at Tulane University.  New Orleans—aside from magnificent architecture, wonderful jazz and a rich culture and history—has some of the best and most unique food of any city in the United States.  Beignets, jambalaya, crawfish etouffee, gumbo, po-boys, red beans and rice, muffulettas, and on and on.  The NOLA chefs tend to have rather heavy hands when it comes to rich, creamy, calorie-laden sauces. It seems that a load of butter or cream is added to more-or-less all foods.  So how does your self-disciplined, daily-exercising, fitness/wellness-promoting blogger on promiscuous eating issues deal with this potentially promiscuous-eating situation?

I recommend the “bank and burn” tactic in anticipation of being in a situation that exposes us to a potential eating spree. Very simply, for a number of days prior to the event, we show caloric restraint (“bank” calories) by consuming fewer calories than we normally do.  This might mean strictly limiting portion size, skipping desserts, not eating anything after dinner except perhaps a piece of fruit, etc.—any device that will function to reduce our caloric intake. Then, when it comes time to the eating binge, we can use our “banked” caloric savings to balance out the over-indulgence that we know is likely to occur.  The “burn” component is to ramp up our exercise (“burn”) for a number of days prior to the event in order to further prepare for the onslaught of calories that will be likely be coming our way. The “bank and burn” tactic allows us to over-indulge (moderately, hopefully) and feel no remorse about it.

When at the food orgy, portion control is one of the greatest assets that we can bring to the table.  It is a sensible idea to split entrees or even order an appetizer for an entrée, particularly if the event is a weekend or week long one with many opportunities for over-indulgence. When it comes time for dessert, sharing is a very reasonable strategy.  Certainly a taste will do, won’t it?  We have already probably consumed a substantial meal, likely grander and higher in calories than we would have at home, and we are simply in search of a novel taste to serve as the finale for the meal. The intent of dessert is not to fill us up, but simply to provide a concluding arousal of our taste buds to serve as a sweet end to a hopefully memorable dining experience.

During the time spent at the event, it is important to stay active and continue the physical activities that we enjoy and that help keep us in good physical shape. Exercising will balance out the inevitable over-eating associated with the event.  When away, options are jogging, visiting the fitness center at the hotel, or doing lots of walking.  I like to bring my P90X workouts with me—they are loaded on a flash drive that I plug into my laptop and can work out virtually anywhere. One of my favorites is the 90-minute yoga workout—it is a great combo of aerobics, resistance, core, flexibility and balance—quite challenging and not for the faint-of-heart.

If we completely implode and totally, indulgently, excessively blow our normally well-controlled and disciplined eating manner, is it the end of the world?  The answer is a definitive no!  The key is to stop before it gets out-of-control. If our healthy eating regimen and our best eating behavior goes south, it is not a disaster. It’s okay to lose the battle as long as we win the war.  We are humans, subject to all the imperfections, weaknesses and foibles that are characteristic of our species. If we fall off the wagon, we can get back on without losing much ground. When we think with a long-term perspective, we understand that a little deviation or detour off the pathway need not affect the ultimate outcome of our journey. To quote comedian Jeff Garlin: “Slip ups are speed bumps on the road to recovery.” We need to be aware and attentive, focused and mindful, and if we break our regimen, not to despair but simply stop and desist before the matter becomes beyond our control.  So, we can go ahead and enjoy…but with an effort to make the lapse into promiscuous eating a moderate one.

Andrew Siegel, M.D.

Author of Promiscuous Eating: Understanding and Ending Our Self-Destructive Relationship with Food.

Website provides information, a trailer, excerpts, ordering instructions, as well as links to a wealth of excellent resources on wellness and healthy living.  The book can be ordered directly off the website or on Amazon in paperback format or e-book format for Kindle.

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