It’s challenging for most of us to stay on a healthy eating plan during this time of year. It seems everywhere we go, someone is offering us something delectable. At the office, the parties and even the malls, goodies abound. Add to the easily available abundance of yummy foods the stress and busyness of the season and you have a recipe for emotional eating.
For some of us, the overeating begins with Thanksgiving, setting a pattern for the entire holiday season to come. The truth is, a few days here and there of overeating isn’t going to hurt us or pack on too many pounds. The bigger issue is that this time of year often kick-starts an old habit of over-indulgence or triggers a compulsive food addiction lasting well into the new year.
This year, nip your overeating in the bud early. Try the following 10 strategies to curtail your holiday indulgences:
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. Try to add some wholesome plant foods like veggies and yams on your plate as well–the fiber will help you feel full and more satisfied. 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 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 willpower 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.
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 and fat. This way, you can still eye a delicious dessert or two, 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. And exercise boosts the feel-good brain chemical ser0tonin which helps reduce refined carbohydrate cravings.
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. The truth is that 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 situation, give yourself the gift of taking a little time to be mindful about 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. If you have a question or topic you would like to see addressed in this blog, go to http: //www.overeatingrecovery.com.