Doing the Holidays Without Overindulging

Posted at December 12, 2009 | Categories : Eating Disorder | 0 Comment

For many people, the holidays are something to “get through,” rather than enjoy. People backslide on their commitments to a healthy lifestyle by overindulging in eating, drinking and spending. New Year’s goes hand-in-glove with New Year’s resolutions, as people try to stop the downhill slide that happens over the holidays.

There are a few key factors that make holiday time a time for overindulgence:

People’s routines are disrupted
People are off work and relatives are in town. Your free time, when you would normally exercise and unwind, all but disappears, only to be replaced by shopping, group activities and parties. Your eating routine is disrupted as well, with more opportunities to eat unhealthy foods, especially desserts, in abundance.

Family gatherings can be stressful
Some people feel anxiety at the prospect of spending additional time with their family over the holidays. If you’ve experienced problems before at holiday gatherings, the negative memory of these times becomes as much of a tradition as the get-together itself.

Celebrations often involve alcohol
If you’re trying to stay away from alcohol, this becomes even more difficult due to holiday parties and gatherings. Walk in the door, and someone may put a drink in your hand, whether it’s wine, liquor, beer or even eggnog or punch spiked with alcohol. Resisting alcohol or knowing when to say “no” becomes a test of willpower, made even more difficult by the stresses triggered by the holidays. For those looking for an excuse to drink, holiday parties supply plentiful justification.

Overindulgence is expected
Stuffing yourself is in some ways a compliment to the chef — the food was too good to resist. If the chef spent hours laboring over the dinner, there is a certain expectation that the guests will eat the meal and imbibe in alcohol to celebrate with holiday cheer.

Gift giving can break your budget
Those after-Thanksgiving and pre-holiday sales are hard to resist. No surprise, since retailers are pushing sales even harder than usual during the holiday season. For many retailers, holiday sales represent 25% to 40% of their sales. The day after Thanksgiving, or Black Friday, considered the biggest shopping and sale day of the year, got its name because it’s when retailers go from being “in the red” to “in the black.” It’s also traditional for families to spend and overspend so that loved ones get everything on their wish lists, even if it means buying gifts on credit.

Coping With the Holidays
Here are some ideas for coping with the holidays, so they don’t become an excuse to overindulge:

Lower your expectations, lower your stress
How can you cope with holiday stresses? For one thing, lower your expectations. If you don’t expect your holiday dinner to be perfect, it will be less stressful. If you can laugh at whatever the family throws your way, you’ll be better off. If you haven’t had a stellar year, which is the case with many of us, and you’re dreading talking about it, don’t. Instead, think of something else to talk about that others can relate to (movies, for example) and run with that. Ask people about themselves, since it doesn’t have to be all about you. You may be pleasantly surprised to learn something new about family members once you treat them like acquaintances that you’d like to get to know better.

Maintain, don’t gain
Holiday weight gain can be exaggerated. According to a New England Journal of Medicine study, the average weight gain is only a pound from mid-November to mid-January. However, people who were already overweight tend to gain more. The real problem is that the weight is hard to take off. The gradual weight gain that we see over the years tends to be partially due to holiday weight gain. So that’s where that pound a year weight gain comes from! The holidays.

BYOB
Bring Your Own Bottle … of water! It’s much easier to circulate at a party without finding yourself automatically drinking whatever someone hands you if you already have a drink in your hand. So bring your quart-size water bottle with you. It will also help you stay hydrated and avoid empty calories.

Don’t feel obligated
Excuse yourself from gatherings where it’s going to be too hard to resist alcohol. You know which parties and people to avoid in order to stay sober. So “just say no” to the circumstances that will create a difficult atmosphere for you. Instead, spend the holidays with sober family and friends who can support you in your goal of not drinking.

Don’t go to a party starving and parched
Eat something sensible before you go, so you don’t overindulge in foods and drinks while you’re there.

Know thyself, and to thy own self be true
You know what your triggers are. Whether it’s stress or a weakness for auntie’s pie or being around heavy drinkers or watching a football game, you know what sets you off, so avoid it. You might try writing out how you’re going to cope to get it really clear as a commitment.

Set goals
If you don’t set goals, you have nothing to gauge your behavior by. Set reasonable goals so you have something to live up to. It’s too easy to forget unless you formalize it as a goal by writing it down and telling people, so they can support you in it. Being a designated driver is one way to set your goal ahead of time, but you must absolutely live up to it!

Set spending limits
To avoid overspending, draw names in your family for gift giving, so you don’t have to buy gifts for everyone, but everyone still gets a gift. Discuss with your family limiting the dollar amount per gift, so everyone’s in agreement ahead of time. Also, you can always make your gifts instead of buying them. It will be more meaningful.

Count
Count calories, cookies, chips and drinks and even the number of times you chew, so you’re conscious of how much is going in your mouth.

Don’t multi-task
Eating while reading or watching TV is a surefire way to overdo it. Enjoy what you’re eating or drinking more by being conscious of what you’re doing, one thing at a time. You’ll naturally slow down instead of wolfing down.

Bring the veggies
If you want to make sure there’s something at the party that won’t blow your diet, bring it. And while you’re out and about, don’t stop at the café and pick up a wonderful coffee specialty drink. It’s loaded with calories, sugar and fat.

Reset
If you do overdo it, figure out what triggered it, and make a commitment to not go there again, whether it’s partying with a certain crowd, baking desserts as an excuse to eat them or overdoing the holiday drinks. Skip it next time around and get back on track for the holidays.

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