Thanksgiving is a time when most of us overeat. It’s just what we do on this holiday, right? We eat until we’re stuffed, and then when a little room opens up again in the old digestive tract, we fill it back up immediately. Hours later, we do it all over again. Snack, overeat, repeat. It’s okay–we’re giving thanks for the abundance of food on our tables and family and friends in our home. Even if it leaves us a bit uncomfortable.
And then, there are the leftovers. Some of us will continue to eat abundantly for a few more days. The truth is, a few days of overeating isn’t going to hurt us or pack on too many pounds. The bigger issue is that often our overeating at Thanksgiving is the start of a pattern for the entire holiday season to come. Whether it kick-starts an old habit of over-indulgence or triggers a compulsive food addiction, you may want to nip your overeating in the bud early this year.
Try these 10 strategies to curtail your holiday overeating:
1) Have a plan. Which foods are you truly longing for this year? This includes munchibles, main entrees and desserts. Make sure those will be the ones on your plate. Which foods can you take a pass on? Remind yourself that we live in America where there are 24 hour food stores. There is no shortage of food to eat. And if your mind kicks up “But this is homemade and I won’t be able to get it again until next year, and Granny, who makes it may not be around then…” take a SERVING SIZE of it home with you. Problem solved.
2) Stay conscious. Once you arrive, remind yourself of your plan. If you didn’t plan to munch endlessly, don’t! Keep reminding yourself of what your food plan is throughout the afternoon or evening. Yes, this means having lots of inner conversations. Try to stay connected to yourself and your goals in this way. Remember how good it feels when you stick to your goals.
3) Don’t arrive ravenous. It’s always best when heading out to places where there will be an abundance of delectable foods to make sure that you are not super hungry. Your willingness to stick to your plan goes right out the window when your blood sugar plummets. Even just a piece of fruit or a handful of nuts before will tide you over nicely.
4) Stick to one plate. Your stomach is the size of your fist. One level plate, and I don’t mean a jumbo, will satisfy your natural hunger. DO NOT GO BACK FOR SECONDS, unless you feel true physical hunger. Pay attention to your fullness signals. Be sure to add lots of nutrient-dense green veggies onto your plate–this will help fill you up and curb wayward cravings.
5) Stick to three bites of rich desserts. When you have just a few bites of a rich dessert, you get all of the mouth pleasure and little of the body imbalance caused by all the sugar, fat and salt. This way, you can still eye a delicious dessert, stick to a total of three bites and feel proud of yourself.
6) Move your body. Even when the day is busy and there is little time for formal exercise, you can still get some movement by parking your car farther away, choosing stairs versus elevator, playing with small children and animals or taking a before meal or after meal walk with family and friends. Just look for small ways to stay active.
7) Don’t be concerned with weight loss. At this time of year, it’s probably best to set your goal to maintain your weight and not gain any weight. If you lose weight from staying connected to yourself in these ways, that will be a plus. The skills you are learning regarding holiday eating will keep you in good stead during all festive occasions.
8) Focus on the joy of the gathering. It’s easy to get food-focused at holiday gatherings. But by following the one-plate suggestion, you’ll have plenty of emotional and physical energy available to en-joy friends and family.
9) Stay mindful of unpleasant emotions surfacing and plan to attend to them later. Unfortunately, not all holiday gatherings are full of good cheer. Sometimes we are around difficult family members. We may be spending holidays with people we don’t know well. Whatever the circumstances, give yourself the gift of taking a little time to be mindful of the feelings coming up. I always like to journal when unpleasant emotions are surfacing–it helps me stay connected to myself and gives me the opportunity to access my inner nurturing voice.
10) Carve out some quality alone time. We all need time to decompress and fill back up. Even an hour off by yourself can help you stay connected and reduce any tendency to overeat to “come down” from it all.
Make this the year that you interrupt the urge to overeat at holiday meals, and give thanks to yourself for your willingness to be uncomfortable while you try on new behaviors. Peace and blessings this holiday season.
Posted by Julie M. Simon, MA, MBA, MFT., psychotherapist, life coach, certified personal trainer, speaker , founder of The 12 Week Emotional Eating Recovery Coaching Program and author of The Emotional Eater’s Repair Manual and When Food Is Comfort. If you have a question or topic you would like to see addressed in this blog, go to https: //www.overeatingrecovery.com.
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