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5 Tips to Avoid Overeating this Holiday Season (and What to Do if You Do)

emotional eating Dec 01, 2021
overeating on holiday season

It’s that time of the year again. The leaves are falling off the trees, the days are getting colder, and the grocery stores are overflowing with our favourite Christmas foods.

While the holidays are an exciting time for most, others may feel some anxiety about the abundance of food gifts and treats that will be on display in every store, office and household over the coming weeks.

It wasn’t all that long ago that I’d spend the whole month of December obsessing over every single excess calorie that crossed my lips, worrying that the constant stream of Christmas parties and events would end up undoing all my hard work.

If you too are worried about overeating during the festive season, these 5 tips will help you enjoy the holidays without worrying about food and weight.

1. Let go of diet rules

I used to be a master at setting myself up for failure during the holiday season.

I’d be so worried about gaining weight that I’d concoct elaborate plans of skipping meals and doubling my workouts to “earn” a few treats at night.

I’d head into the Christmas parties with an empty stomach and a long list of forbidden foods I promised myself I wouldn’t touch, only to break those rules the minute the appetisers came out.

I’d think to myself: “Well, I’ve already fcked up my diet for today, so I might as well enjoy myself a little!”

After that, all bets were off. Until the next morning, when I’d feel so overwhelmed by shame and guilt at the thought of how much I’d eaten the night before that I’d promptly start skipping meals again — a cycle I’d repeat as many times as there were Christmas parties.

Geneen Roth once famously said: “For every diet, there’s an equal and opposite binge.”

Even though we think we’ll have more control over food by adhering to strict diets and food rules, dieting only ever sets us up to lose control the moment our willpower wavers. To avoid setting yourself up for failure this year, start by letting go of the dieting rules and restrictions.

After all, you can’t break the rules (and rebel against them) if there aren’t any rules to break in the first place.

2. Trust your body

I know the most avid dieters amongst us will start to panic at the idea of not having any food rules to abide by.

“I can’t do that! I’ll end up overeating!”
“How will I know when to stop eating so I don’t gain weight?!”

Here’s the thing: we don’t actually need calorie counters or food rules to keep us in check. Our body does this naturally — if we’re willing to listen.

If you look at most “normal” eaters, you’ll see that none of them follow diets or food rules. Instead, they listen to their body’s natural hunger and fullness cues.

They expect to eat a bit more during the holidays, and don’t make themselves feel bad about that. They don’t feel like they have to skip meals after eating a big meal, or count their calories so they can make up for it later in the gym. They listen to their bodies, and when they overeat, they just wait until they’re hungry again before they eat their next meal.

When we started dieting, we learned to stop listening to our body’s innate wisdom and stopped trusting ourselves when it came to food. Learning to rebuild this trust is the secret to getting through the holiday season with ease.

3. Enjoy eating your favourite foods

I used to spend so much time worrying about what I should or shouldn’t eat that when the time came to sit down at the table, I’d feel so anxious and guilty about my food choices that I didn’t actually get to enjoy the experience.

I’d scoff my food down in a hurry, hoping that no one was watching me eat. Before I knew it dinner was over, and even though I felt physically stuffed, I’d still leave the table feeling unsatiated and hungry for more.

When I started to heal my relationship with food, I consciously shifted my focus away from thinking about food, towards actively enjoying the eating experience. I’d give myself full permission to eat the foods that I wanted to eat and to enjoy eating them, without worry or guilt.

Our bodies are designed to get pleasure from eating food. Hence, when we’re present with our food and enjoy the experience, our minds and bodies can actually register the food we’ve eaten — leaving us feeling satiated and satisfied.

As counterintuitive as it may sound, when you give yourself permission to enjoy eating your favourite foods, you’ll often end up eating less, because you’ll feel full more quickly.

4. Don’t be afraid to say no

Enjoying your favourite foods also means saying no to those foods you don’t enjoy eating.

We often feel obliged to eat things just because someone went through the effort of baking or buying it, but then end up regretting it later. This holiday season, give yourself permission to only eat the things you truly want to eat and say no to the rest.

If one of your colleagues offers you her freshly baked mince pies, but you’re still full from lunch or simply don’t fancy them, don’t be afraid to say no! Often a simple compliment is enough to make their day e.g. “They smell delicious but I’m still so full from lunch. Thank you for the offer, I really appreciate you getting into the Christmas spirit!”

5. Be kind to yourself

“There’s no such thing as failure, you either get the result you wanted or the lesson you needed.”

Ever since healing my relationship with food, that’s the philosophy that I live by.

I still overeat at times or eat foods that don’t necessarily serve my body, but I no longer beat myself up over it. Each of those experiences just teach me a little bit more about myself and my body, so I can take better care of myself next time.

Whether you end up overeating or not this holiday season, it really doesn’t matter. You’ll either feel great, or you’ll learn something new about yourself so you can try something different next time. Either way, it’s a win-win.

So go easy on yourself. After all, ’tis the season to be jolly!

If you’d like some extra support throughout the holidays so you can enjoy the festive season without worrying about food and weight,
join our free support group here.