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Published on December 06, 2017

woman eating Christmas cookie

5 ways to over-indulge during the holidays

The holidays are a wonderful time of the year. Food, family, togetherness, Christmas lights – could it get any better?

But for many people who are trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle, the holidays can incite a lot of anxiety. Temptations are everywhere – around every corner at work, set out banquet-style at parties, and at the four different family get-togethers that you go to for each holiday. So what can you do?!

There are many common ways people try to compensate for their unhealthy holiday behaviors, but these strategies often end up backfiring in the long-run. If you have tried any of these, you might consider trying something else instead.

  1. Skip meals the day of a holiday celebration to "save your calories" for the feast you'll eat that night. This often ends up backfiring because when you walk into a party starving, it usually leads to over-eating a lot of calorie-dense foods. Instead, eat regular, balanced meals throughout the day of a party, and treat a party spread like you would any other meal – you should arrive with no more than a moderate level of hunger. Honor your fullness cues while you're there. When you're no longer hungry, stop eating.
  2. Have no fruits or vegetables in the spread. If the closest thing to fruits and vegetables in your holiday spread is cranberry sauce and green bean casserole, maybe it's time to add more fruits and vegetables to the table. It's easy to give the recommendation to "fill your plate up with fruits and veggies" but if there is no fruit and veggie platter, that will be really difficult! If there aren't often fruits and veggies at your holiday gatherings, take it upon yourself to bring them and make sure you have some.
  3. Use the biggest plate. If there is an option to choose a smaller-sized plate, choose the smaller-sized plate! Having a smaller plate has been known to decrease portions and make it more difficult to over-indulge.
  4. Stand by the food table to socialize. Go to the food table only with the explicit purpose of grabbing more food. If you stand by the food table to socialize (or do anything else), this increases the likelihood that you'll be tempted to mindlessly pick at it. This mindlessness is where the calories can really add up.
  5. Worry about everyone else's feelings. You are not responsible for making sure Aunt Carol doesn't feel bad if you don't take a piece of that pie you don't even like. Do not feel obligated to try everything. Pick only the things you will truly get enjoyment from. Eating something because you are worried about hurting someone's feelings is not a good reason to eat something.

The holidays can be a stressful time for a variety of reasons, but don't make the stress worse by feelings of guilt or anxiety over eating. If you do over-indulge, make peace with that decision and move on. The only thing you can do about it now is to try and do better next time!

Love + Medicine

Every day, Gundersen Health System delivers great medicine plus a little something extra—we call it Love + Medicine.

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