Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Celebrating Special Occasions While Sticking To Your Low-Carb Weight Loss Goals

Though special occasions are often reserved as perfect times to let loose and indulge a little, it would appear that I have a dilemma - a good kind of dilemma. Special occasions come too frequently!

Using a fairly loose definition, see how many special occasions fit into a year for our family:

  • Celebrating local relatives' birthdays, including my own family's birthdays: 10 parties/year
  • Celebrating the birthday parties of my daughters' friends, and local family friends: 10 parties/year (at least!)
  • Celebrating New Year's, the Super Bowl, Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day, Easter, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas Eve/Christmas Day: 12 parties/year
  • Anniversaries, Mother's Day, Father's Day: 6 get-togethers/year

I could go on and on tallying up the ways that we could celebrate, but guess what? The above alone adds up to 38 parties or get-togethers in a year. If I were to take each of these special events as license to exercise my 80/20 rule...well...I'd be doing so approximately 3 out of every month's 4 weeks throughout the year!

Here I want to emphasize that without a doubt it is a wonderful thing - an enormous blessing - to be able to rejoice in so many milestones and special occasions. The excuse to gather and celebrate with friends and family is priceless.

However...none of these celebrations come without lots. and. lots. of. FOOD. Deary me - the cakes, the cookies, the sweets! Of course many do also come with delicious primal / paleo-friendly party fare like steaks (grilled in the summer, yum!), nuts, veggie trays, and so on.

But here's the reality for me (and I'm betting for many of you!): My body reacts to sugar like a recreational drug user suddenly encountering another high. Simply put: I cannot eat such a significant amount of cake and ice cream (or pie, or crumble, get the idea) on average three times per month. What's the big deal? some might rightly ask; It's such a small proportion of your overall food intake, and you can be disciplined the rest of the time.

Well, yes, and no. Objectively, it is a relatively small amount, having a carb spike once per week or so. But there are reverberations from that one sugary indulgence. For one, I personally cannot indulge in much of something so sweet and not immediately develop immense sugar cravings that will last for days afterward. Also, horking down a bunch of sugar can compromise my immune system for more than 24 hours. And, folks? I have a four-year-old in preschool, who also accompanies her one-year-old sister to the church nursery every Sunday. In other words, our household has regular and persistent pathogen exposure. I need every bit of immune strength I can muster, because if there's anything worse than a household of sick kids, it's a household with sick kids and a sick mom, amirite?

So here's how I tend to handle celebratory occasions:
  • Skip it. Simple - enjoy other foods present (and if you're low-carbing, go for cheese, nuts, coffee with half & half, etc.), or fast altogether.

  • Enjoy a very small amount. If you consider this an occasion worth the cheat, eat one or two bites, very slowly, and then back away from the cake. I probably personally wouldn't do this with a gluten-based cake (wouldn't want to risk the digestive reaction) unless social circumstances all but dictated it, but I did it this way at my daughter's 4th birthday party -- she had a gluten-free marshmallow cake that we had special-ordered.

  • Offer to make or buy a treat to bring. You could dig into any of the myriad paleo / primal friendly dessert recipes on the blogosphere. Most of them may not be low-carb, but you know what the ingredients are and can indulge knowing that you won't suffer as huge of a blood sugar surge that a trans-fat-iced Costco cake would give you. Even better? Bring some very dark chocolate, or a bowl of fresh berries and some unsweetened (or stevia-sweetened) whipped cream - all delicious and fairly low-carb!

How do you deal with your frequent special occasions while keeping on track for your weight loss goals?


  1. Great advice and it's true about celebrating all.the.time...especially this time of year. :)

  2. yes, i agree - with so many parties, avoiding the sweet stuff is the best option altogether! i find that because everyone else is having loads, it's such a temptation to follow their pattern.

    the other thing is that in the summer months it's good to host a BBQ - with lots of meat and grilled veggies and salads - it's a format that most people can relate too, and means that you won't be tempted by anything 'bad', because you made it all and you know it's good for you!

  3. We don't really celebrate much. My daughter's birthday will probably be about it. If we go somewhere for some sort of party we typically skip the dessert and eat what we can.

    Recently, my daughter had her first birthday party. She had some cupcake (well, maybe a tablespoon of frosting) and I had a cupcake. I didn't feel any changes or spikes, no cravings afterward, etc.

    I should add though, I am not on this diet to lose weight. I'm on this diet because it's just part of our lifestyle. So I figure that a cupcake a year isn't really going to kill me. ;)


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