Is This Normal? Overeating During the Holidays

Written by: Ann O'Neill

Tight jeans?

Feeling obliged to accept a serving of Aunt Hattie’s tri-colored marshmallow salad, so you don’t hurt her feelings?

Grazing during meal preparation to the extent you’re not hungry for the meal itself but…you eat the meal any way?

The holidays are upon us.  How do you celebrate the holidays without packing on 10, 20 pounds of comfort and joy?  It’s not easy.

Food represents culture, heritage, family traditions, religious celebrations, and yes, comfort and joy.  What foods do you turn to when you are sick?  When you smell a turkey roasting in the oven, what emotions come to mind?  Do you still have an affection for your favorite candy as a kid?  What kind of cake do you have on your birthday?  Food carries powerful associations that stay with us for years.  Food can remind us of people we love and closeness with friends and family.  You can separate all the wonderful things food means to you from its caloric and nutritional values, but I’m not sure I’d want to.

However, there’s no denying that with more celebrating comes more eating.  And usually the “more eating” doesn’t include multiple servings of raw vegetables.  You want to celebrate the deliciousness of the holidays, yet you don’t want to have to buy new jeans in January.  Is there anything to help avoid the January Jeans?

I don’t advocate dieting to lose weight unless you have a medical condition.  Diets rarely work and don’t address the underlying issues for overeating.  I advocate for creating your own boundaries with food.  No one person has your history, your tastes, and your associations with food.  You know what foods you love and what foods you hate.  So, I can recommend some boundaries, but my experiences tell me that everyone must define her/his own.  Try these out and see which ones work for you.  If none work, keep trying.

  • Commit to define your own eating experiences.
  • Eliminate empty calories from your diet.  Empty calories are foods that you won’t miss when you take them away.  Can you eat your salads without croutons?  If so, great.  If not, keep the croutons and keep looking for empty calories.
  • Keep foods you can’t resist out of your home and your workspace.  Don’t buy them “just for the kids.”  The kids can live a fine life without the presence of your trigger foods.
  • Eat only what you like.  Don’t feel obliged to take food because it’s offered to you, because your Aunt Hattie is a nice gal, or because it’s there.
  • Stop eating when you’re full (whether you’re at the counter top or at the table). You don’t have to eat a meal because everyone else is.  Sit down and enjoy the conversation.
  • If you overindulge, move on.
  • Exercise.  Nothing new here, but if you make exercise as routine as brushing your teeth, it helps to feel better about almost anything.

Celebrating the holidays with special foods is normal.  Redefining your relationship with these special foods, so you feel powerful and in charge is good health.

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