Here Are Some of the Best Ways to Avoid Holiday Overeating
’Tis the season for overeating.
Indeed, research shows that people tend to gain more weight from overeating during the holidays than at any other time of the year.
If you consider the unique conditions holiday time creates, it’s easy to see why.
On the one hand, sugary treats, processed, and rich foods are overflowing at workplaces, gatherings, and celebratory events. On the other, many people struggle with loneliness, feelings of loss, low mood, and feelings of anxiousness during this period.
Food temptations can be incredibly strong for people needing comfort.
Combine that with the stress that accompanies family dynamics, end-of-year work deadlines, shopping, spending and money worries, travel, disrupted routines, and fewer hours of sleep – and you have a perfect storm to fuel overeating behavior.
Without a plan or strategy in place, the risk of overeating is high.
The good news is that you can learn how to stop overeating or at least reduce it. It all starts with a willingness to take simple (yet not always easy), preventive actions to care for yourself during this time of year.
Below are tips to help you do just that!
6 Simple Tips to Help You Minimize Holiday Overeating
- Guard Your Sleep
Staying regulated with 7-9 hours of restful sleep each night is essential over the holidays. With adequate sleep, your brain works better, you can handle stress and emotions better, and you can exercise good judgment when it comes to your food choices.
Inadequate sleep lowers blood flow to your brain. Blood flow is critically important to the optimal function of your brain’s prefrontal cortex (controls executive function, impulse control, and judgment), limbic system (emotional centers), and reward pathways.
In fact, brain imaging research has shown that sleep deprivation can impact the healthy function of these areas of the brain, resulting in an increase of impulsive and irrational behavior, as well as poor judgment.
Poor sleep can also disrupt the hormonal balance that controls hunger and satiety. Consequently, overtired people tend to overeat. Ensuring you get plenty of restful sleep is a great way to protect against overeating.
- Keep Your Stress Levels Down
Excessive stress can fuel overeating. When you’re in a constant state of worry or fear, your body’s fight or flight stress response remains engaged and stress hormones stay elevated. Sustained levels of stress hormones can impact the kinds of foods you crave.
Animal research indicates that physical and emotional stress are associated with increased intake of high fat, high sugar, and salty foods. An American Psychological Association report appears to confirm this notion, revealing that stress eating is very common, especially among women.
This holiday, do all you can to ensure your stress levels don’t get too high. Here are several ways to cut stress:
- Schedule, do, and buy less.
- Ask for help if you’re overwhelmed.
- Do one task at a time.
- Prioritize time to do things that relax and calm you (like a walk in nature, yoga, meditation, reading a book, or taking a candlelit bubble bath, etc.).
- Exercise can both reduce stress and increase feel-good neurohormones, which can help boost your mood.
- Maintain Social Connections
Loneliness and isolation can drive overeating, and it’s all too common this time of year. Instead of excess food, feed yourself meaningful, sustaining social connections.
Research indicates that social support has a “protective effect” against emotionally driven overeating and overall emotional health, particularly for women.
If you’re lonely, call someone who knows and loves you or spend time with someone who makes you feel good. If you have a counselor, therapist, or spiritual advisor, reach out to them for support.
Additionally, be of service to others. It may help lift your mood. Call or visit a loved one in your life to cheer their spirit. Volunteer at a soup kitchen or wherever there’s a need.
- Limit, Avoid, or Substitute Addictive Foods
Here’s the difficult truth about holiday eating. The high-fat, sugary, processed, and high refined carbohydrate foods that are everywhere are the very foods that tend to activate the addiction centers of your brain, research indicates. That means eating them can cause you to want more and make moderate eating more difficult.
Make a plan for how to deal with these foods when you encounter them.
For instance, when candy and goodies are abundant at work, are you going to enjoy a limited amount, avoid them altogether, or eat a healthy and delicious treat or snack that you bring instead?
Work it out. You may need the support of a friend, nutritionist, or mental health professional to discuss your game plan.
- Eat Slowly and Mindfully
When it’s time to eat, slow down, take a breath, and be present.
Researchers have found that people who eat more slowly have a lower body mass index and eat smaller meals in general. It’s believed that when you slow the eating process down, it gives your brain more time to register when you’ve had enough food.
Be conscious about the food you consume and take time, without distractions, to enjoy and savor the flavors and textures of your meals. This is a practice of intuitive eating and has been shown to reduce overeating.
- Feed Yourself Well
Another way to regulate yourself and minimize overeating is to feed your body balanced meals and snacks all season long and even before or after attending a gathering where a large meal is served.
Don’t starve yourself before a holiday meal as it will only increase the likelihood of overeating. Instead, eat a moderate and well-structured breakfast, lunch, or snack beforehand to ensure your blood sugar levels are balanced. This will allow your brain to function better, reduce cravings, and help you make sound food choices.
As much as possible, choose quality protein, fiber-rich vegetables, whole grains, berries and other low glycemic-index fruits, and healthy fats for your meals and snacks. These foods are nourishing for your brain and body, satiating, and promote stable blood sugar. At holiday gatherings, serve yourself or consume these healthy foods first before having less-healthy options. In fact, offer to bring a healthy appetizer, side dish, or dessert to ensure you have some healthy options.
Try to avoid or minimize eating empty calories that are high in sugar or refined carbohydrates and have little to no fiber or nutrients. They can affect your mood, energy levels, and lead you to feel hungrier sooner, often craving more refined carbs, which may lead to overeating.
Be thoughtful about what you drink as well. It’s important to hydrate your body during the holidays. Thirst can masquerade as hunger. Drink plenty of water and minimize sugary beverages and alcohol. They both can spike your blood sugar. Alcohol can also affect your judgment and impulse control.
Enjoy Your Holiday
The holidays are challenging on so many fronts. Be kind to yourself if you aren’t perfect. Simply pick up any of these tips at any time to have a better day. If you find that your eating is out of control, don’t hesitate to reach out for professional help.
The BrainMD Team wishes you and yours a safe, healthy, and happy Holiday Season!
At BrainMD, we’re dedicated to providing the highest purity nutrients to improve your physical health and overall well-being. For more information about our full list of brain healthy supplements, please visit us at BrainMD.
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