It’s that time of year again when parties and treats abound! Many of us who already struggle with overeating find it even more difficult to resist temptation during the holidays. What’s a person to do?! Well, there are actually some ways to healthfully navigate this tempting time of year. Let’s look at some helpful tips to stop overeating during the holidays.
1. Change Your Mindset
First, we need to adjust the way we think about food. We do this by renewing our minds and confronting any lies we believe that make us overeat. When we overindulge (or with any bad habit, really), there’s usually something going on in our minds that is creating that intense desire to overeat.
For example, we may think, I’ve waited all year for this [insert special food]. We begin to anticipate all of the goodies that we don’t regularly eat during the rest of the year. When we start to fixate on our favorite holiday foods – without trying to stem the tide of these thoughts – the desire for them just grows bigger. And that often leads to overeating.
Many of us also have a strong association between eating and holiday festivities. It’s almost as if – in our minds – every party or event is primarily centered around what we plan to be eating. It’s often our first thought! We have to learn to focus on the people and fun at the events to begin to decrease the allure of indulgent eating. If we focus on the food, we’re setting ourselves up for failure.
Another lie we believe is I only get this food at this time of year, so I better eat up while I can. Here’s the truth: almost of all of our favorite foods can be made at any time of the year if we are able to bake it ourselves. We just don’t usually think of making it during other seasons. Telling ourselves, I can make this any day I want, will help us avoid the frenzy to eat all of it at once.
We may also think, This is so delicious, I need to eat more! The truth is, the actual taste of the food diminishes for us when we eat too much of it. It’s actually more tasty if we eat a small or just regular amount! We can eat slowly and savor every bite.
2. Get Things Done Early
Another reason we overeat is to avoid doing the things we don’t feel like doing. This happens throughout the year, but even more so on the holidays because we often have more on our plates at that time of the year. The more we work on overcoming procrastination, the less likely we’ll be to overeat. One way to overcome procrastination is to make a list of your top three things to get done each day.
Don’t put things on the list that you’ll do anyway. Put things on the list that you hate doing and know you’ll procrastinate. Get those things done first and you’ll be less likely to overeat during the day. If you struggle with procrastination, here’s a podcast episode that will help: The Dream Planning Podcast – How to Overcome Procrastination with Barb Raveling and Polly Payne.
3. Go to God for Help with Negative Emotions
Often we turn to food, not God, for help with life. Something is going badly and all we want to do is eat. Drown our sorrows in that yummy bowl of ice cream. The more we go to God for help, though, the less we’ll feel like overeating. He’ll help us see life from His perspective, and give us strength and comfort. Eating on the other hand, will only give us immediate relief. It’s a temporary fix that leaves us with a life of consequences.
In my experience, it’s far better if I go to God early. When I first start feeling upset. If I wait until later in the day–when that small emotion has become an overwhelming emotion–it’s hard to let go of it. On those days, you often just have to wait until the next day to feel better.
If you’d like some tools for dealing with negative emotions, check out the Renew Your Mind tab at the top of this website or the Live in Peace tab. If you’re reading this on a mobile device, you can find those tabs by clicking on the menu at the top of this post.
4. Go for Quality, Not Quantity
When I was in high school, my mom encouraged me to buy fewer clothes but higher quality clothes. This was back in the days when there weren’t a lot of discount stores around. Because of this philosophy, I missed out on some fun clothes. But what I gained was an uncluttered closet. Most of us would be better off if we had less belongings. Less to take care of, less to clean, and less to clutter up our lives.
Most of us would also be better off if we had less food! What would happen if you started thinking about quality, not quantity, in the food department? I’m not talking about being a spoiled person (I’ll only eat food if it’s high quality!). I’m talking about a philosophy. To enjoy each and every bite of any food you eat, but to stop before you reach the food equivalent of an overflowing closet that adds stress to your life.
If you’d like to give this a try, you could say a little prayer before each meal. Ask God to help you dwell on the good and be thankful. Then praise Him for each and every bite. Let each meal be a time of fellowship with God and with the people with whom you’re sharing the meal.
5. Hold Weight Loss with Open Hands
Focusing on weight loss often leads to overeating. It seems counterintuitive–shouldn’t I eat less if I’m trying to lose weight?–but here’s what happens: every time we break our boundaries and eat too much, we go on a binge. Why? Because we’ve already broken our boundaries and this is a brilliant opportunity to eat more before we get serious again tomorrow. If we instead just focus on developing healthy habits–like following our boundaries, for example–we’ll be less likely to overindulge.
Does that mean we can’t try to lose weight? No, we can still do that if we want. We just need to remember to hold weight loss itself with open hands.
6. Give Yourself Grace
In some ways, this tip is tied to the last tip. If we’re holding weight loss with open hands–not feeling like we need to be skinny to be acceptable–we’ll be far more likely to give ourselves grace. We beat ourselves up when we feel like total failures. But if life isn’t about being skinny (which it’s not), then we’re not failures if we’re not skinny!
If you’re tempted to beat yourself up after eating too much at a holiday party, come home and do the self-condemnation questions or the regret questions from my I Deserve a Donut app as soon as possible. This will help you avoid that late night binge session. Usually, we haven’t even “messed up” as bad as we think we did. We just ate more than usual. It’s the late night binge sessions that really contribute to our weight gain.
7. Take Practical Steps to Stop Overeating
We’ll be far less likely to overeat if we take some practical steps before we’re in a tempting situation. Here are some practical steps you can take to stop overeating before you ever start.
- Don’t keep your favorite treats in the house.
- When baking, make smaller amounts, or freeze some of it.
- Make sure you’re not completely famished when attending a holiday event where there will be lots of tempting foods.
- Renew your mind before every holiday eating opportunity.
- Do a Bible study like Taste for Truth or Freedom from Emotional Eating to better prepare your mindset.
- Create a simple plan (like a specific menu) for the days following an event so that you can more quickly get back on track.
I hope these tips have been helpful. We talk about some other things on the podcast to help stop overeating. In fact, you could listen to the podcast on the way to an event where you’ll be tempted to overeat! Click on the links below to listen to the podcast.
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