This is probably one of my favorite fat loss topics to talk about since it seems to rear its ugly head around about this time each and every single freaking year. Come summertime, come barbeques.
And come fat accumulation, especially around the waistline!
Just about all of our fat loss clients ask us how they can avoid undoing all their hard-earned results during the inevitable torrent of weekend BBQ bashes without being a party pooper.
Well, their wishes (and yours) are my command.
Here’s a condensed list of my top suggestions to clients on how they can avoid a serious case of the Summertime Blues from backyard BBQ fat gain:
(i) Don’t drink your calories
The number one source of excess calories from BBQ bashes unquestionably comes from the consumption of calorie-containing fluids (soda, fruit juices, beer, mixed drinks), because it’s so easy to consume vast quantities of calories without even realizing it!
First off, it’s hot, and you’re thirsty.
Second, the primary source of calories in these drinks is carbohydrates (simple sugars, to boot), so they raise your insulin level, making you even more hungry and thirsty and ultimately causing you to consume more food and drink than you normally would.
Third, generally speaking, calorie-containing drinks (due to the sugars they contain) are mighty tasty, so you drink more than you normally would.
(I have a friend from college who can polish off an entire case of Snapple ice teas in the course of an afternoon BBQ).
Stick to water, flavored with some lemon or lime if you like, or carbonated (i.e., seltzer, Perrier). Mike is partial to the bubbly, calorie-free water’s such as La Croix.
Choose your own favorite option – non-caloric, please.
(ii) Use Mike’s green apple trick
Mike wrote about this strategy in our book, The Dirty Little Book of Dieting, and reflected on its great success in this article, but it bears repeating (because it works).
Simply eat one medium or two small green apples prior to heading out for the BBQ and you’ll be less tempted to binge on the offerings.
Why? And for heaven’s sake, why green apples?
No complex cellular mechanism behind this one, I’m afraid – by not arriving at the BBQ famished, your reptilian hindbrain is less likely to be overwhelmed by the smells and sights of the delicious food laid out before your eyes.
Simply put, you’ll eat less because you’re not as hungry. Green apples work best for this particular brand of “pre-gaming” because:
They contain pectin, which was shown to act as a natural appetite suppressant (in a study from the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition).
They are full of fiber, which also contributes to your sense of fullness, as well as attenuating insulin levels.
They contain fewer calories than red apples (ha!).
Mike tells me grapefruit works just as well (because the essential oil in grapefruit rind also acts as an appetite suppressant, even if you just smell it), but I don’t like grapefruit, so we’ll just ignore him.
(iii) Pretend you’re a caveman
Ok, let’s all agree NOT to make any Geico jokes or references. Wait, did I mess that one up already?
Pretending you’re a caveman means that you’d eat only what a caveman would have – namely, leafy vegetables, water, fruit, and meat.
Cavemen didn’t eat bread or other grain sources, as the invent of milling and baking was a few years off yet, and your body can’t digest or use unprocessed grains (ever try chewing on a piece of raw rice? I wouldn’t recommend starting now if you haven’t).
Cavemen also didn’t drink beer (not invented yet), eat ice cream (ditto), French fries (raw potatoes will kill you), or pasta salad (Marco Polo wouldn’t sail to the East for a few thousand years yet).
If I were to lay it out for you in a list, it would look something like this:
So, to recap: Eat meat, leaves, berries, and drink water. Yes, cooked meat – and you don’t have to hunt for and kill it yourself.
(iv) Avoid the snack table like the plague
If a food is in your vicinity, you will eventually eat it. I’m afraid we’ll have to make the snack table off limits, then. The lone exception: veggie platter or fruit bowl.
(v) Use sniper tactics
How does a sniper take down his quarry? One at a time.
Use this same strategy when eating from the grill. Resist the temptation to fill up your plate with 2 burgers, 4 hot dogs, 3 wings, etc.
Take one burger. Don’t take another piece of food until you finish it. You’re allowed only one thing at a time.
By dragging out the time it takes you to eat, your stomach has time to signal to your brain that you’re full (it’s estimated that it takes a full 20 minutes for this signal to trigger satiety).
Taking more time to eat will result in you eating less.
(vi) Take a cue from Bugs Bunny
Divide up your food the same way Bugs Bunny divvies up the share of ill-gotten loot:
“One for you, one for me. Two for you, one, two, three for me…”
In other words, for each “bad food” you eat, eat an equal volume of “good food.” Stack the deck in favor of the good food.
You eat a burger. (“One for you”)
You then eat a plateful of salad. (“One for me”)
You decide to have a few barbeque ribs (“Two for you”)
You chase it with another plateful of salad, a slice of watermelon, and a few baby carrots from the crudite plate. (“One, two, three for me”)
…if you can even get that far.
Of course, it’s pretty obvious what’s going on here – instead of indulging in all of your calorie dilution for weight loss “forbidden foods,” you’re limiting the damage done by including fruits and berries, vegetables, and other high nutrient, low calorie fare – a concept called “calorie dilution.”
Of course, just about all these strategies assume that there are healthier options available. If you or your host’s menus consist solely of “Burgers, Buns, and Beer”, then allow me to facetiously add bonus Strategy #7 to the list:
(vii) Call up The Pump, Josie’s, Eva’s, (local NYC health food joints) or health food store of your choosing, and get an express delivery. And remember to plan better next time.
Seriously though, we can appreciate the importance of treating yourself once in awhile. Aren’t you allowed to be human?
Shouldn’t you be allowed to enjoy yourself once in awhile? Of course.
But we’ve got a job to do here – to get and keep you mean and lean!
And I think you’ll agree with me that looking and feeling great is worth forsaking a burger or beer for.