The Skinny on What’s Behind Holiday Overeating

101613-HolidayOvereatCalorie overload seems to begin with Halloween and end with that last glass of champagne on New Years Day. Check out this new strategy that might help you survive at least some of those holiday food temptations.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the holidays. What I hate is all the food temptations that are everywhere once they begin. I had hoped that skinny jeans would fall out of fashion this season, but unfortunately that never occurred, so I had to abandon that idea for battling the bulge! If we intend to have a little breathing room left in those jeans after the holidays are over, it can help if we first understand what's behind our emotions when it comes to holiday eating patterns.

Don’t Confuse Emotions with Hunger

The holidays have us all mixed up on this front, because holiday food is often tied very closely to emotional memories and not necessarily to how hungry we are. So many foods that go along with the holidays are traditional and they trigger an emotional response in us which causes us to feel a certain way when we eat these foods. If we can learn to understand and recognize that often we are eating based on emotional responses and not necessarily because we are truly hungry, this can go a a long way towards helping us avoid eating that entire tray of homemade English Toffee that our favorite Aunt Caroline made for us.

Establish a New Mindset to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

This one sounds simpler than it really is, because it’s really a two part process and it does involve some mindful and deliberate effort on your part. In some ways it might even resemble decision making methods that you already utilize when you set out to make a new purchase or consider a job change. Step One involves setting down a sort of mental checklist for yourself where you make a list of all the reasons why it is important to you to maintain or lose weight. Step Two is you essentially make a imaginary deal with yourself to stick to all those reasons that you’ve set out on your list. These positive reinforcement “self-talks” should be read at the start of each day and re-re-read right before you attend a holiday party or any holiday event where food and drinks will be served.

While this may sound like a silly idea and you have doubts about it’s effectiveness, give it a try and you might be surprised at how using this method might eventually permanently change the way your brain thinks about food. Don’t demand perfection of yourself, just reward yourself for small changes as you move through this process. Eventually you may even find yourself feeling good about turning down food that’s full of empty calories and returning home after a party without feeling bloated and remorseful about an evening spent eating totally out of control.

Learn to Say No without Feeling Guilty

This last one is more subtle than the first two, because it has to do with outside forces who may unintentionally try to derail your new mindset. For example, if you sit next to a co-worker who brings a new plate of holiday cookies to the office each week and you don’t want to hurt their feelings by not eating them. Or if you’re at a holiday party and friends try to imply that you’re boring because you won’t drink two or three cocktails or glasses of wine.

For these situations, adopt the “less is more” strategy by politely refusing the food or drinks that are being pushed at you unknowingly by friends, family or co-workers. Don’t feel like you always need to supply a detailed explanation as to why you are declining to overdo it at the buffet. Avoid mentioning the word “diet” since that word will often call more attention to you and make the situation even worse. Unfortunately when it comes to overeating, misery seems to feel better if they have company!

If the pressure persists, you can always grab a sparkling mineral water with lime from the bartender so you’ll have something in your hand to placate the troops. If you stand firm, people will eventually relax and take their focus off you. You might even inspire them to do the same for themselves once they understand that it’s possible to have a good time without always overindulging and having to feel disappointed in yourself the next day.