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Overcoming overeating during the holidays (and beyond)
How many times have you “saved up” your hunger all week, because you knew that on Friday you were going to be having a party with some delicious food there? How often have you gorged yourself all weekend, telling yourself that as long as you were good during the week, you could eat anything you wanted on the weekend? If any of this sounded familiar to you, chances are, you know now that it is not a healthy approach to food.
According to Judith Matz and Ellen Frankel, authors of The Diet Survivors, “The diet mindset is so pervasive, that it's really hard to break out of it, especially during the holiday season when diet talk is everywhere. We'd like to offer some gentle reminders that can help you navigate the holiday season. We hope they will support you on your journey, but if they feel like more of the holiday tips that just fuel anxiety, feel free to skip them.”
Remind yourself that you can have it later
Who says you can't make your sweet potato time any time you want? If you believe that you cannot have a special holiday food for another whole year, you are likely to have it whether you are really in the mood for it or not.
Instead, promise yourself that you can make turkey and mashed potatoes any time of year, and that special dessert can be baked or bought when you desire. Knowing that these foods can be available to you will reduce the need to eat something at a holiday celebration you don't really want at that moment.
Consider asking for the recipe or a doggie bag when you are at a holiday event. This strategy stops the worry that if you don't eat a special food immediately, such as the appetizing double chocolate caramel brownies that grandma makes once a year, you won't be able to have it again until next year.
When appropriate, you can say to your hostess, “The brisket looks delicious, but I'm not hungry right now. Would it be okay if I took some of the leftovers home for later?” or, “This cake is fabulous. Can I have your recipe?” People are usually flattered by your desire for their food, and knowing you can eat that food later decreases the need to overeat something you are not hungry for.
Avoid becoming too hungry
It can be tempting to “save up” your hunger for parties and special events. However, when you go without food for along period of time, you become ravenous. At this stage of physical hunger, you are likely to eat anything and everything in sight, leading to a feeling of being out of control.
Instead, eat in accordance with your physical hunger throughout the day. If you want to ensure that you have a good appetite when you arrive at an event, try to eat enough to take the edge off your hunger before you leave home, without becoming too full.
A piece of fruit, some crackers or cookies, or a slice of cheese can help you to respond to your hunger so that you do not walk into the party feeling desperate to eat. Then, you will truly be able to relax and to feed yourself exactly what you need.
Stay compassionate with yourself
Just about everyone overeats sometime, especially during the holiday season. If you yell at yourself for your transgression, you are likely to create anxiety, which fuels overeating. You are also likely to fall into the trap of telling yourself that you might as well eat whatever you want right now, because as of tomorrow- or next week or January 1- you will have to restrict your eating.
This attitude will increase your sense of guilt and feeling out of control, and guarantees that you will eat more food than you body needs.
Instead, remain gentle with yourself. Attuned eaters notice when they feel too full, and then naturally wait for their next sign of physical hunger to eat again. Acknowledge the discomfort you feel from overeating, and promise yourself that you will do your best to wait for the next cue for internal hunger to let you know that it is time to eat again.
Finally, we'd like to wish all of our weightless readers an abundant and peaceful holiday season. The key is to ultimately honor our hunger, our health and ourselves. Remember that you deserve to taste your food, to enjoy it and to have a fantastic guilt-free holiday.