Mind Over Platter: How To Eat Your Best During Any Festive Season

Overeating is a common lament during any festive or holiday season. Here are six sustainable eating habits to help you battle the bloat. (Image by Luisa Brimble)

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Now, first things first. I can safely tell you that everyone — EVERYONE — on team Zafigo is all about eating. Much like any other Malaysian, really. This feature does not encourage unhealthy eating habits, but rather, better ways to enjoy all the delicious spreads that any festive season in our multi-cultural country (that celebrates everything) will present. After all, it’s also safe to say that no one likes the discomfort that comes with overeating (or heartburn).

So, here are some tips on how to enjoy all the festive treats — from Chinese New Year biscuits to Hari Raya rendangs, Deepavali mutton curry, and Christmas roasts — without going overboard. These are sustainable eating habits that can even be applied beyond the festive seasons. Your tummy will thank you later.

1. Use a smaller plate

Image by Rajat Sarki

This is a handy tip if you’re gathering with friends or family over a buffet-style meal. With so many dishes to choose from, we’ll likely be on a mission to try a bit of everything. While this may work for a small spread at someone’s open house, it definitely won’t work in a hotel buffet setting.

Filling up a smaller plate with food also gives you the illusion of eating more. All your brain sees is a full plate of food or a plate of food that you’ve finished. The bottom line is that you’ll fill up for sure.

This same small plate rule applies when you’re at someone’s home as it’ll help you with the next point…

2. More meals, smaller portions

Image by Fahad Ibrahimzade

Many local festive seasons see many open houses invitations. My personal record is 12 houses in a day, but I’m sure you get the idea of how crazy — and crazy full — one can get. It’s also not polite to decline having a bite when visiting someone’s home. So what do you do?

Well, for starters, you could always incorporate the smaller plate rule, especially if you know you’ve got several houses to visit. But also limit yourself to a single plate at each pitstop. Perhaps ask the host which of the dishes they’ve got out is the family speciality and focus on devouring just that.

It’ll also help to try and space out your visits. That way, you can have more meals with smaller portions and essentially spend the entire day eating without actually feeling sick to your stomach.

3. Go body-con

Image by Priscilla Du Preez

Okay, we know what you’re thinking. Who in their right mind would wear a body-con dress or outfit when they know they’re going to be eating heaps? But hear us out.

If you wear something fitted to an event, you’ll subconsciously be more mindful of what you eat. Think about it — you wouldn’t want to look or feel bloated in your ensemble and may even feel a bit more self-conscious. So, you’ll get to eat, but chances are much higher that you won’t overeat.

4. Maintain your usual workout routine

Image by Ketut Subiyanto

Research has shown that exercising can help you make better food choices. Although the reason why this is so hasn’t been determined, other studies suggest that working out can alter the brain’s function, urging you to eat more healthfully.

So as tempting as it may be to skip the sweat sessions and also take a holiday from your usual workout schedule, try to maintain some form of exercise. If you don’t already exercise regularly, it’s never too late to start. Even a simple routine three times a week will do — like these quick no-equipment home workouts.

5. Get enough sleep

Image by Miriam Alonso

There’s a clear connection between diet, sleep, and exercise. And anyone trying to shed the kilos has better results when they get good sleep. We know, we know. Festivities are usually accompanied by late nights and perhaps even a weekend-long bender, but you can still get enough good sleep so long as you plan your days better.

For instance, if you know you need to be up early the next day, try to cap the partying until 12am or 2am at most (please still do have fun). Ideally, don’t schedule anything important the next day so you can rest enough and rest well.

What does all this have to do with eating, you ask? Well, studies also show that sleeping can reduce overeating. Perhaps because you wake up more refreshed and energised.

6. Ask yourself: Will I really eat that?

Image by Asiya Kiev

Finally, this is probably the most obvious point. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and excited about all the drool-worthy food laid out before you, so before you put something on your plate, ask yourself: Will I really eat that?

If the answer’s yes, ask yourself how much of that you’ll eat. Food wastage can be such a huge problem during the festive season, and asking ourselves this will help us not be a part of the problem. You’ll also be less likely to overeat when you’re mindful about what you choose to put on your plate.

There you have it. Just a few pointers that will let you feast on all the festive food you could want while still being mindful of your consumption. Hooray for sustainable eating habits!

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Going by the nickname Kuzai, the Kelantan native has spent 15 years in the wonderful world of publishing, formerly managing the beauty sections of glossies including ELLE and Harper’s BAZAAR. Now, Kuzai is the Editor of Zafigo. The wannabe runner is also mom to a feisty toddler, suffers from constant wanderlust, and really just works to eat, travel, and shop.