How to Brave the Buffet On Memorial Day: Nine Tips to Help You Not Pig Out—But Still Have Fun

Jo-Carolyn Goode | 5/19/2015, 2:21 p.m.
Memorial Day is coming and if you're like most health-conscious folks, you're torn. On one hand, you're tempted to celebrate ...
Warren Honeycutt:

Memphis, TN (May 2015)—Memorial Day is coming and if you're like most health-conscious folks, you're torn. On one hand, you're tempted to celebrate with a hotdog in one hand, a hamburger in the other, and an umbrella-festooned drink close by. On the other, you're painfully aware that swimsuit season is coming soon (heck, maybe even that very day) and you don't want to greet it looking like, well, the "guest of honor" at the pig picking.

Here's the good news, says Warren Honeycutt: There's no need to spend the party miserably cozied up to the boring veggie tray. You can have your cake and eat it too—it's just a matter of balance and sustainability.

"We tend to use celebrations as a free pass to eat poorly," says Honeycutt, author of Get Lean for Life: 7 Keys to Lasting Weight Loss (Get Honeycutt, Inc., 2014, ISBN: 978-1-5008011-7-5, $19.95, www.getlean.guru). "Problem is, this mindset will permeate every warm-weather celebration to come—pool parties, backyard barbeques, festivals—and before you know it, your whole summer has been one big, decadent pig out.

"Fortunately, there's an alternative: eating healthfully in a way that doesn't feel like deprivation and that you can sustain over time," he adds. "But if you don't do some planning and strategizing in advance, it just won't happen. Your default party persona will kick in, and your good intentions will be toast."

A respected expert in weight loss, fitness, and nutrition, Honeycutt knows what works and what doesn't. He is a championship bodybuilder who has been a Southern Classic Physique Champion, two-time Mr. Tennessee, and six-time Mr. America finalist. Now, at age 62, he enjoys perfect health without any prescription medications. Honeycutt offers personalized fitness training through his comprehensive Get Lean program, which features detailed fitness videos for exercising at the gym, at home, at the office, and while traveling; personalized meal plans; motivational material; and more.

Here are nine of Honeycutt's tips for staying on track this Memorial Day:

Sneak healthier recipes into your celebrations. If you'll be hosting a celebration or attending a potluck, prepare a dish that uses healthier but still satisfying ingredients. The Internet is full of healthy substitutions, and Honeycutt's own Get Lean program offers dozens of appetizing, healthy recipes by registered dietitians.

"Instead of a 600-calorie pork BBQ sandwich, for example, prepare an equally tasty grilled chicken kebab at only 150 calories," he says. "Also, be aware that home-cooked dishes are often healthier than pre-prepared store-bought options. And definitely take advantage of seasonal fruits and vegetables!"

Fill up before you go out. Yes, it's something of a cliché, but it's a cliché for a reason: It works. When faced with a buffet table loaded down with tempting choices, it's all too easy to mindlessly graze until, before you know it, you've gorged yourself full of empty calories. Preparing a healthy meal or snack for yourself before you leave will curb your appetite and keep you from filling up on unhealthy party food.

"The worst time to be hungry is at a gathering loaded with junk food," Honeycutt comments. "If you've had something nutritious to eat beforehand, you won't give that fattening snack table a second (okay, maybe third) glance."

Don't go straight for the food. Yes, that buffet table looks amazing...but it's not the only thing worth your attention at this party. Make the rounds and say hello to your friends before grabbing a plate. Find the host and thank him for inviting you. Draw some sidewalk chalk art with your niece or throw a baseball with your son.

"When you're in the middle of an enjoyable interaction with someone else, you might forget all about eating for 15 minutes, or half an hour, or more!" Honeycutt says. "Nourishing your relationships with the people you love can be even more satisfying than nourishing your body."

Limit yourself to one plate—but make it one GREAT plate. Making healthy choices is not just about what you eat, but also how much you eat. (Honeycutt challenges you to research recommended portion sizes for your favorite foods. You'll probably be shocked!) Learning how to limit your portions (especially at a party where unhealthy foods are so plentiful) is essential to maintaining a healthy weight. A good first step is resolving to eat only one plate of food—but make that one plate count.

"Scope out the entire buffet line before going through it, and put only the dishes you really want to eat on your plate," Honeycutt recommends. "If you're still hungry later on, you can always make yourself something at home. When you feel lean and refreshed the next morning, rather than bloated and groggy, you'll be glad you stopped before dipping seconds or thirds."

Take your time and savor the flavor. It's a natural inclination to eat quickly when you're hungry—and that impulse is heightened when you're in a party atmosphere with other fun activities you'd like to participate in. But Honeycutt reminds that it takes around 15 to 20 minutes for the brain to realize that the stomach is full—so enjoy your meal slowly.

"Taking the time to savor your food lets you realize when you've had enough, and it also enhances the entire experience," he comments. "You'll be surprised at how much more you enjoy eating when you take it slowly."

Give the veggie tray a fair shake. As Honeycutt has mentioned, you don't have to limit yourself to carrot sticks and cucumbers, but if you do spot fruits or veggies among the cookies, chips, and finger sandwiches, put a few of these healthier options on your plate. They'll fill up space that (be honest) would otherwise be piled up with high-calorie fare.

"It's okay to partake in some of the more decadent offerings available—it is a party, after all—but do your best to find a healthy balance," he advises. "Good health is about doing the right thing most of the time."

Don't let what you drink derail you either. Whether it's alcohol or sugary soft drinks—or worse, alcohol and sugary soft drinks—what you drink at a party can sabotage a healthy diet just as quickly as what you eat. Everyone knows that sodas are packed with sugar and can wreak havoc on teeth and waistlines alike, Honeycutt says, but sometimes we tend to conveniently forget that alcohol can also be a major culprit in weight gain.

"Alcohol contains lots of empty calories, slows down the metabolism, and can weaken inhibition, which can then lead to overeating (and possibly some other embarrassing behaviors)," he reminds. "Since you're at a party, you may not want to go the teetotaler route—and that's fine!—but does every drink have to be a beer? I suggest replacing at least every other drink with water. This strategy will keep you hydrated and save you the many unwanted side effects of alcohol."

Use the buddy system. As with many things in life, making healthy choices is easier when you don't have to go it alone. Ask a friend or spouse to help you stay on track if your willpower starts to waver.

"If you can convince someone else to party healthy with you, you won't feel like you're the only one missing out—and the two of you can remind one another of why you want to make smart choices," Honeycutt comments. "Remember, it's not about deprivation—it's about making healthy decisions you can maintain for life."

If, despite your best intentions, you still lose control, cut yourself some slack. If you do happen to overeat, remember that it's not the end of the world. One mistake won't ruin a healthy lifestyle unless you allow it to. (Just don't do it at every gathering this summer.)

"Everyone slips up from time to time," Honeycutt confirms. "Whatever the circumstances are, it's important to understand that tomorrow really is another day. You can't change the past, but you have full control over the future—so when you've slipped up, direct your mental energy to planning your next meal or workout instead of dwelling on your mistakes. Be as kind to yourself as you would be to your best friend. Encourage the most important person in your life...YOU!"

"Pick one or two of these strategies to focus on—or go to your Memorial Day celebration armed with all of them," Honeycutt concludes. "Once you realize that sticking to healthy behaviors isn't the massive lifestyle change you imagine it to be, getting lean will become second nature. With a few simple changes, you can have a happier, healthier Memorial Day—and overall lifestyle."

About the Author:

Warren Honeycutt is the author of Get Lean for Life: 7 Keys to Lasting Weight Loss. An expert in weight loss, fitness, and nutrition, he is a championship bodybuilder who has been a Southern Classic Physique Champion, two-time Mr. Tennessee, and six-time Mr. America finalist. Now, at age 62, he enjoys perfect health without any prescription medications and a physique that is the envy of most 25-year-olds.

Along with his partner, Soraya Bittencourt, Honeycutt is the cofounder of Get Honeycutt, Inc. This company supports Get Lean, a comprehensive weight loss and fitness program featuring personalized fitness routines, menus designed by registered dietitians, instructional videos, and motivational support.

A popular speaker on fitness and nutrition topics, Honeycutt's expertise has been featured by NBC, CBS, ABC, LifeExtension, A Second Look at Sports, LiveStrong, Live Relentless, and more.

To learn more, please visit www.getlean.guru.