Just Say No to Overeating During the Holidays

by Taylor Smith, CHOP5 Wellness Blogger

As fall comes around, many of us tend to get excited for the approaching holidays. However, many people also tend to feel anxiety around the holidays. One factor in the holidays that influence people’s anxiety is the delicious food that comes along with it. Personally, I have experienced extreme stress at holiday outings/dinners and even days leading up to it due to the worry of overeating or eating “unhealthy” foods. But I am happy to inform you that it is possible to enjoy the holidays and the traditional food, while maintaining your health goals and progress. So, continue reading for tips that you can implement into your life next holiday season!

Your Eyes Are Bigger Than Your Stomach:

  • Remember that your eyes tend to be bigger than your stomach. Since it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to send a signal to your stomach to let you know that you are full, you should wait a little bit after you finish your plate to see how you feel. Then you can ask yourself if you are still hungry and need more food or if you are satisfied?
  • Eat slowly/do not inhale food to ensure that your stomach has an appropriate amount of time to recognize if it’s full by:
    • Chewing fully
    • Drinking water often as you consume your meal
    • Breathing fully/taking deep breaths between bites
    • Putting your fork down every few bites
    • Take quick breaks between a few bites/have a conversation with those around you while your fork is down
    • Limit distractions (like TV or scrolling on your phone) so you do not keep eating out of instinct without tuning into your body’s fullness/hunger cues

Be Mindful of How You Actually Feel:

  • Take a moment to think about if the next plate of food you want to get will either satisfy you or make you feel uncomfortably full
  • Are you actually hungry or do you just want it? If you just want it, will your future self be okay with that decision or feel regret?
  • Are you eating out of habit/eating the next plate simply because you usually tend to get seconds or because others around you are? You need to listen to your body and do what aligns with your wants and needs, as well as health intentions
  • Are you emotionally eating due to boredom, sadness, happiness, excitement, anger, anxiety, stress, etc.?

Reflect On Past Experiences:

  • Think about past experiences when you overate and how that made you feel. Do you want to feel that way again or learn from your mistakes?
  • Think about how you will feel physically if you consume more food/a certain food:
    • Will it cause your stomach to hurt?
    • Can your stomach digest this food well?
    • How will it affect your mood and actions?
    • How will it affect the rest of your day or your plans for the next day?
  • Think about how you will feel mentally if you consume more food/a certain food:
    • Will you regret your actions or negatively obsess over them to the point of not being present?
    • Will you feel guilty/ashamed after?
    • Will it affect your mental well-being, like poor body image or thoughts of food restriction or purging? Ask yourself what you want and why?

Do Not Put So Much Pressure On Holidays:

If you are like me, on the holidays you may tend to think “I only get certain special food during the holidays like stuffing on Thanksgiving or grandma’s famous Christmas cookies, so I have to eat a lot of it because it’s delicious and it only comes once a year”. This mindset is not the way to go as it encourages an unhealthy relationship around food and the holidays. Instead of overeating during the holidays, I have two recommendations:

  • Make whatever special “holiday food” you like on other days throughout the year so you know that you can have that food again, whenever you want, and thus do not feel the urge to binge on it during the holidays. For example, I eat stuffing, biscuits and sweet potato casserole on random days that are not Thanksgiving, so when Thanksgiving comes around, I do not feel the need to eat as much of it as I can.
  • Have different foods throughout the day, instead of cramming all of your favorite foods onto your plate during one meal. For example, on Christmas Eve I eat some of my favorite side dishes during lunch so I can enjoy different food options at dinner, without overstuffing myself. Be smart about how you approach your holidays!

Do You For You:

  • You cannot care what people/family/friends think of you if you do not eat or try a food that they do or offer you.
  • Be content in knowing that you are doing what is best for you because you are listening to how your body feels. No one needs an explanation, nor do they need to understand your decisions.

Words to Remember at the End of the Day:

Please always be kind to yourself. If you make mistakes/have regrets, you must accept them and understand that all you can do is learn from them and use the experience to make better choices that serve your needs going forward.

I hope these tips to not overeat during the holidays make you feel more at ease when the holidays approach! Having a plan and tips to remember when you need it is critical in ensuring you make the most of the holidays, while still living the lifestyle you desire. Holidays and health/wellness can exist if you want it to!