Finding 'enough': 6 ways you can tame holiday overeating

Holiday weight gain - Thanksgiving platterHoliday weight gain - Thanksgiving platterWhen we say "good-bye" to healthy eating on Thanksgiving, the feeling afterwards can be terrible if we overdo it. Holidays are meant to be fun - and this includes food. But how to feast while also honoring our needs for health, energy, vitality and beauty? Here's how I plan to make it through this Thanksgiving without feeling deprived or counting calories:

It starts with finding "enough." It's easy to get into the trap of, "It's the holidays, I can eat whatever I want!" This is all or nothing thinking, overdoing it now and then "punishing" yourself with a diet in January. On the other hand, feeling deprived - not allowing yourself to enjoy special holiday foods - is one of the reasons we end up overeating. (Read how to end emotional eating).

Find that sweet spot where you feel treated - maybe it's your mother in law's famous mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie - and then stop. Enjoy what feels good without overdoing it. This is healthy indulgence. How you feel (anxious versus relaxed; deprived versus nourished) can make all the difference.

Let's explore these 6 ways to make it work:

1. Relax your anxiety about holiday eating.

500 extra calories of potatoes and stuffing is not going to harm your body. What harms your body is anxiety about those extra calories. Scientists even have a name for this: pleasure anxiety.

When we label foods as good or bad, we feel bad when we eat "bad" foods. Then every time we eat a slice of pie or a hunk of bread, we feel guilty. According to Marc David, author of The Slow Down Diet, this anxiety about eating treat foods puts our bodies in a stressful state, translating into weight gain. By contrast, when you relax and enjoy your food without guilt, you put your body into a state of optimal digestion - instead of sending your treat foods straight to your hips.

2. Listen to your body.

Part of the reason we feel guilty for eating pleasurable foods is that we overeat them. Don't throw all your limits out the window. Honor the subtle difference between healthy and unhealthy indulgence: when the extra bite of pie makes you feel overstuffed, or when an extra serving makes you sleepy and groggy.

Listen to your body: it will tell you when you've had enough. Your mind, however, we tell you to keep eating. Separate the two by feeling your hunger or growing fullness instead of listening to your mind's desire for more.

3. Savor your food.

When we shovel our food down without tasting it, our brain interprets this as, "I haven't been fed." It will continue to seek out food so that it feels full and nourished - leading you to overeat. Changing this behavior isn't a question of willpower, but of awareness, nutritionist Marc David says.

Slow down. Savoring your food will make you satisfied with less. Get out of your thoughts - anxieties not only about food but also about the family dynamics that pop up during the holidays. Pay attention to the taste, texture, and aroma of your food. When you're eating, focus on eating.

4. The leftovers will still be there...

Part of the appeal of holidays is that we eat special foods that we reserve for this time of year. This can lead to feelings of scarcity, where we hoard the turkey, sweet potatoes, and apple pie because they only come around once every 12 months.

As Scarlett O' Hara said, "Tomorrow is another day." Instead of doing your feasting all in one day, spread it out over the course of the holidays. Save the leftovers and have turkey again the day after Thanksgiving. Having your favorites more than once quiets feelings of, "I have to have it all right now."

5. Leave the kitchen.

When you're surrounded by temptation, it's helpful to get away from the food. Go outside. Instead of watching football, play a pick up game in the backyard. Go on a walk after the big meal - take a plate of turkey to an elderly neighbor or take the leftover pie to the local fire station.

These activities get you moving, help your digestion, and change the day's focus from being solely about the food.


6. Focus on things besides food.

We use food to connect with our friends and family and to celebrate. But there are a million other ways to create a holiday spirit that don't involve eating. Create a ritual of sharing what you're thankful for. Play board or card games. Watch a holiday movie. Look through old family photo albums with grandma. Help wash the dishes and bond with your aunts in the kitchen. Create those feelings of love and connection without focusing on the food.

You can avoid overeating during the holidays. Focus on slowing down, listening to your body and enjoying your food.

I'm going to visualize waking up Friday morning feeling great: and use that desire as something to hook onto during the holiday, to keep focused on what I want to be, how I want to feel, and how I want to treat your body. Join me?


About the author: Karly Randolph-Pitman's books and programs help women learn how to stop overeating, control sugar cravings, and create a positive body image with self-care. An active forum helps women make it through the holidays with a proven program and mutual support.

[photo credit: Getty Images]