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I can’t believe I ate the whole thing – How to handle overindulgence

I’m on a nutrition team that writes about how to prevent holiday weight gain. Now, I’m here to tell you what to do when you did it anyway. We all overeat at times, especially on holidays. The difference between the occasional holiday blow-out by someone with a healthy relationship to food and those who do struggle is what Dr. Michelle May calls the “eat-repent-repeat” cycle.

You know this well. “I blew it. Nothing I can do now. Might as well enjoy more of this pie/turkey/dressing/cheese and start my diet again on Monday.” Regret, remorse, guilt…….we feel this at times of indulgences. So how can we up our game, stop punishing ourselves for overeating, and get on with life?

Mindfulness. Jon Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as paying particular attention, on purpose, to what is happening right now. Without judgment. Just as it is. Doing this, you focus on the pleasure of the nourishment. Taste, texture, aroma become more important than how much can I eat of this decadent dessert.

Remember that Thanksgiving-full feeling? Your belly is bulging, your waistband constricting your breath, you might even feel the pain of heartburn and indigestion. The mere thought of an after-dinner walk is quite disconcerting. Focus on these feelings when temptation strikes again. You’re awareness will cue you in to enjoy the flavor not the fullness.

Food is abundant. There is always more. Give yourself permission to eat whatever you want. When you want another piece of pie or a chocolate cupcake, remind yourself you can have it all if that’s what you really want. It sort of takes the fun out and mindful eating is easier.

Dive into the teachable moments. Part of the challenge is figuring out the multitude of reasons you eat. It’s ‘time’ to eat, it’s there, I’m bored, I’ve worked hard and I deserve it. So what if this was a holiday? You can have turkey and dressing any day of the week! You can make pumpkin pie any weekend. So what? It’s really not that special.

Eat when hungry, stop when full. Begin to notice when you’re really hungry. As you eat, start to notice sensations of fullness. Stop when your body is satisfied and sated. It’s totally not against the law to skip a snack or meal if you’re truly not hungry.

Avoid purging. Don’t beat yourself up on the elliptical when you overeat. Exercise for fun instead. Move around as you like. Enjoy movement. Try yoga, an outdoor walk, playing frisbee with the kids. Move for fun!

Lastly, all these ideas are for life. Not just Thanksgiving, Hanukah, Christmas, New Year’s. It’s for every day. Of. The. Week.

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