How can I avoid binge eating during the holiday season?

Dr. Suzanne R. Steinbaum, DO
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

To avoid overindulging during the holiday season, try mapping out your holiday season in very specific terms. Strategize and decide:

  • Where you are going to go
  • Whom you are going to see
  • What you are going to eat
  • How much you are going to drink
  • When you are going to exercise
  • How you plan to manage your stress (because there will be stress, even if you love the holiday season)

Spelling these things out clearly and then following through with your plan can keep things from going awry, heading off regret and guilt come New Year’s Day.

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Mrs. Marjorie Nolan Cohn
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

Try following these tips to avoid binging throughout the holiday season.

  • Don't go to a party hungry. Eat a light snack before going out.
  • Choose only the foods you really want and keep the portions small.
  • Make a conscious choice to limit high fat items. Fill up on lower calorie, nutrient dense foods such as fruits, veggies, lean meats and whole grain breads.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • When you arrive at a party, avoid rushing to the food. Go enjoy some conversation with friends and family first.
  • Eat slowly and enjoy each mouthful.
  • Hold your glass in the hand that you normally eat with to make finger foods less accessible.
  • Contrast flavors, textures and temperatures for more satisfaction in your eating.
  • Avoid grazing while. Little nibbles can really add up!
  • Be physically active every day. Take a walk after a meal if you can.
Ms. Vandana  R. Sheth
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

Tips to avoid binge eating during the holiday season:

  • Plan ahead.
  • Avoid skipping meals.
  • Practice portion control.
  • Savor your food at meals.
  • Focus on quality time spent with family/friends rather than on the meals.
  • Enjoy all foods in moderation.

One of the hardest things to control is those holiday cravings. Let's face it, the food is so good and, like most people, once you have one taste you come back for more. However, what people don't realize is how many calories are associated with the foods we like on the holidays. One way to hold yourself off from the binge is set goals for yourself on what you are going to eat and how much. Another simple way to not eat too much is drink lots of water which will help fill you up and you won't crave so much. Remember just like any other day it is all about moderation and just don't over do it.

Judith Beck, PhD
Psychiatrist (Therapist)

Remember that your body doesn't know it's a holiday! It will process food in exactly the same way as any other day during the year.

Make a pledge to eat all of your food--all of it!--slowly so you can enjoy every bite. It's easy to binge if you eat quickly and try not to notice what you're eating. So eat everything sitting down, slowly, and mindfully. 

Don't eat when you're upset. You will not be able to enjoy your food. Instead, do a planned activity. Your distress will pass whether or not you eat. But if you do binge, you'll have two problems. The one that got you upset in the first place and now you'll feel upset that you binged.

Plan in advance to have one moderate indulgence every day. Limit your intake of alcohol and junk food to just one time during the day (preferably the evening, so you have something to look forward to all day).Imagine in detail how you will feel when you get on the scale in January if you have binged. Then imagine how terrific you will feel if you haven't binged.

Watch out for your sabotaging thinking: "I shouldn't have eaten that. Oh, well, I might as well eat whatever I want for the rest of the day and start again tomorrow." Answer back those thoughts, by considering the following analogy: If you made a mistake and went through a red light and got a ticket, would you think to yourself, "Oh, no! I shouldn't have done that. Oh, well, I might as well continue to drive through red lights for the rest of the day and start again tomorrow?" Of course not! You'd never compound one mistake with another--unless you're trying to give yourself permission to binge. The truth is, if you eat some holiday cookies that contain 250 calories, it won't even show up on the scale by the end of the week. But if you use one mistake to justify eating 2,000 calories, it will show up on the scale tomorrow!

The first thing is try not to "save calories" by skipping meals. This may cause you to become overly hungry and eat more than you typically do. It could even lead to binge eating. Use a smaller plate and eat smaller portions. This helps tremendously, knowing you will be enjoying some of your favorite holiday treats. The key is not to torture yourself. Don't restrict eating regular meals so that you can have a treat.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.