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9 Tips for Controlling Holiday Binge Eating


How often have we arrived at holiday parties stressed-out, shopped-out, and worn-out? Is it any wonder we say “To hell with my health” and “Let me at that buffet bar”?

This year, take the edge off. We’ll show you how. Not only will you better master those buffets, you’ll end up much happier the following morning – and all through the holiday season. The truth is that you can control holiday binge eating habits. We hope the following will help:

Here are 9 tips for controlling holiday binges and stress-busting success. 

1. Stay In Shape Emotionally

We talk a lot at Pritikin about staying in shape physically. During the holidays, it’s especially critical to keep yourself in good emotional shape, too. All the extra activity – decorating, shopping, card writing – can take its toll, leaving you exhausted, which increases stress, creating a vicious cycle.

Ward off stress and fatigue by 1) getting a good night’s sleep, and 2) sticking to your exercise routine. Get in at least 30 minutes of fitness each day – even if it’s broken up into 10-minute increments. At the mall, for example, do a few “laps” before starting to make your purchases. (In your walk, you may even spot better deals.)

You’ll be amazed at how good sleep and exercise can improve not only your energy but your mood.

2. Take Time Outs

Carve out at least 15 minutes every day just for you. Take a walk after dinner and enjoy the winter stars. Book 15-minute chair massages for your back, neck, and shoulders. Or just shut the door to your bedroom or office, turn on soothing music, breath deeply, and restore your inner calm. You’ll emerge refreshed enough to handle the challenges of your Yuletide days.

3. Cut Back On the Booze

We all know family tensions can escalate during the holidays, especially if you’re living in close quarters for several days – and drinking too much.

To help keep your alcohol – and temper – in control at parties, sip your drink, don’t gulp it. And after one glass of alcohol, drink glasses of sparkling water with lemon or lime. In fact, chum up with the bartender at the beginning of the party. Tell him, “As soon as you see me heading your way, please mix me up another club soda with lemon.” Tip him well.

Drinking less alcohol also means you’re less likely to over-indulge on the wrong foods.

4. Say “No” Graciously But Firmly

How happier and calmer we’d all be if we realized that there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to do all we intend to over the holidays.

Prioritize your “to do” list. Buying gifts for the grandkids may be #1, but be sure to put the nice-but-not-really-necessary items way down the list. (If the outdoor holiday lights don’t get strung, well, so be it). Get to the bottom of the list if you have time. If you don’t, don’t sweat it.

5. Have a Game Plan Before You Arrive At Holiday Parties

Call your host and ask, “What are you serving?” Then, map out your entire culinary game plan – from appetizers to desserts. It’s far better to make these decisions at home, when you’re calm and rationale and not experiencing the stress of unhealthy temptations.

Prep yourself with positive self-talk, such as:

  • “This could be a tough situation, but I have a plan and I can handle it.”
  • “I’m going to the party to celebrate the holidays with friends and family, and this, not food, is the reason for this party.”
  • “I may be tempted, but that’s natural. I’ll just practice some relaxing breaths, surround myself with good company and laughter, and wait for the urge to pass (because it will pass).”

Before leaving for the party, make yourself a healthy, filling snack, like nonfat yogurt and a banana, or a bowl of hearty soup. It’ll curb your appetite, which means you’re less prone to plow your way through the buffet table.

6. Keep Up Your Inner Pep Talk At the Party

There’s no better way to increase your feelings of confidence and control. Tell yourself:

  • “I can handle this. I have a plan, and I’m in control.”
  • “I’m here to celebrate a special occasion, not a special binge. I’m going to find a really good friend – someone who always makes me laugh. That’s far more fun than eating a cheese cube.”
  • “I’ll enjoy everything else, too – the music, the decorations, the hugs, and all the kids and grandkids. If I binged at the buffet and started feeling stuffed and lethargic, I’d miss out on all these amazing moments.”

If there are infants in the room, offer to hold them. It’s hard to go back for seconds when you’re cuddling a baby. (Plus, the cuddling is much more fun than the extra food you didn’t really need or want.)

Or get out on the dance floor. You’re burning calories and staying away from the food. A win win!

If you need to, escape for a mini-relaxation. Find an empty room, sit down, close your eyes, and take 10 deep long diaphragmatic (from the belly) breaths. This brief relaxation builds in a pause. A pause gives you time to take charge. Remember, urges will pass.

7. Cope With Feelings Of Being Overwhelmed

If you start to lose control:

Have a back-up plan. For example, if you find that your eating is out of control during the cocktail hour, promise to eat low-calorie-dense selections at dinner, like big green salads and roasted vegetables.

Stay focused on the present. Don’t “fortune-tell” (Don’t tell yourself, “I’ll never get back on track with my eating plan.”) Of course you will. Tomorrow is a new day.

See strong temptations as a signal to problem-solve. If you see a waiter coming your way with a tray of your favorite hors d’oeuvres, look for someone you’d like to talk to who’s across the room. Or head for the bar for another soda and lemon, or a tangy Virgin Mary. You can also silently review your reasons for eating healthfully (e.g., “I really want to keep my diabetes under control”).

8. Evaluate

As soon as you have time, review the evening.

Think about what you learned that can help you do better next time.

Recognize even small successes. Perhaps you had dessert, but only tasted a few bites. That’s terrific! Praise yourself for trying. Be proud that you’re conscious of your eating behavior, and working on improving it.

If you had a rough time, forgive yourself. Use positive, rational self-talk such

  • “It didn’t work. That’s okay. I’ll get better.”
  • “What did I learn? I can use that to make progress and problem solve.”
  • “Great. I got through it. I wanted three slices of cheesecake, but I ate just one. Next time, I’ll do even better.”

And if you scored a home run, enjoy it!

  • “I handled it well.”
  • “Wait till I tell my best friends and family.”

9. Reshape Your Mind, And Your Eating Behavior Will Follow

Always remember that everything begins in the mind. Planning and rehearsing your behavior for challenging events is a sure way to increase your feelings of control and calm.



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