Chinese New Year is coming.
There is only about three-and-a-half weeks between the recent New Year parties and Chinese New Year to diet and hit the gym to lose the extra kilos before the onslaught of celebratory eating starts again. After that, we have the rest of the year to live healthily and shed the flab.
The ideal thing of course is not to put on the extra weight in the first place, and in recent years, I have to put in place a strategy to deal with CNY excess. Some tactics came from an article on the Health Promotion Board website which I read a few years ago — yes, I can be that nerdy and I do at times read the Health Promotion Board website — while others are my own. I’ve used them to varying degrees of success. While it all ultimately hinges on self-control, these tricks do help one get past the temptations mindfully. Sharing the wisdom, so here goes…
1. Have breakfast before you go visiting. Nothing’s worse than temptation in the presence of an empty stomach.
2. Don’t look at the food. It’s that simple. Don’t look, and it’s not there. Really.
3. An extension of point #2, sit far away with your back to the food, and get talking to people. Isn’t it great to bond with that super-distant, semi-deaf aunt you see only once a year? She loves your company, and it’s impolite to leave the poor dear mid-conversation to stuff your face with love letters.
4. Plan what you will eat. If there are two places offering lunch on the same afternoon, for instance, decide in advance which you will take and which you will forsake. On the first day, I’ve always a choice between mind-blowing Teochew steamboat at a grand uncle’s place, or fabulous Nonya popiah at an aunt’s house. My choice is always the steamboat – simply because we visit only once a year.
5. Give it a number. If you are going to nibble, limit yourself to a specific number. Tell yourself you’ll eat only two pineapple tarts in this house, for instance, and that you’ll eat another two love-letters only at the next stop. Stick to the plan. Don’t veer off course.
6. Eat the oranges. They are everywhere, so reach for them instead. Once you’ve loaded up, you won’t be that tempted with the ‘bad snacks’. And they’ve got Vitamin C, too. Good stuff.
7. Drink water, or join the old ladies sipping Chinese tea. Lots of antioxidants, low on calories, good for the cheongsam.
8. Between a soda or wine, choose wine — or better yet, Champagne. Then make an exception if it’s the latter: forget about limiting yourself. Know when to load up on the good stuff. Some calories are worth it. Forsake all others.
9. If you’re going to indulge, enjoy the seasonal/festive treats, and skip the more ‘ordinary’ foods that you can get hold of any day of the year, like chicken wings, and spring rolls. If you’re going to treat yourself, make it worth the calories.
10. Remember the numbers. One pineapple tart is about 82 calories, or 10 minutes of jogging; 56 calories per love letter, and 157 calories per slice of kueh lapis. Yup, it’s a scary thought.
(Pineapple tart photo courtesy of Crystal Jade restaurant. Yums!)