Leave the Belly to Santa This Holiday Season: Tips to Avoid Overeating

Author: Meadowlands YMCA
Date Posted: Monday, November 20, 2017

how to avoid holiday binge eating
The holiday season is our favorite time of the year to gather, give back, and typically overeat to a regretful extent. I know what you’re thinking, “It’s the time of year when it’s okay to indulge a little!” A little treat now and then isn’t sending anyone over the deep end on their diet. However, problems arise when we overextend our appetites to ingest much more than our body needs.

Overeating has a harmful effect on the body's metabolism. In the February 5, 2010 issue of Cell, researchers at Harvard School of Public Health reported that overeating can destroy your body's regular metabolic response. Even short-term overeating has serious health effects, according to a 2009 Swedish study published in the journal Molecular Medicine where subjects in good health with lean body types were invited to consume high calorie diets for just four weeks. With their findings, researchers were able to link the overeating to the development of insulin resistance.

Beyond the science at hand, overeating simply causes you to feel yucky and uncomfortable afterwards. So, here are some tips to help you leave the holiday belly to Santa this year.

Control Your Portion & Control Your Waist Line

Portion control is vital to avoid overeating, especially during the holidays, know that you’ll have more opportunities to eat festive snacks and desserts. You don’t have to deprive yourself, just make plates with smaller portions. A helpful hack is to use a smaller plate. Studies from Cornel University have shown that this can reduce food intake by 20-25%, which is pretty good for such an easy thing to do!

Find the Fun in Fiber

Steer your buffet plate towards foods with higher fiber levels this holiday season to help you stay full for longer. Holiday staples like acorn squash, brussels sprouts, nuts, broccoli, apples, and sweet potatoes, are all rich in fiber. They’ll help to avoid overeating much more than other holiday items like meats, cheeses, mashed potatoes, and sweets. For appetizers, opt for the bowl of nuts, for entrees take an extra helping of brussels sprouts or broccoli instead of ham, and pick up a sweet potato pie for dessert rather than pumpkin.

Curb Your Need for Speed

Slow down. Enjoy each bite and put your fork down while chewing, then take a drink between each bite. This gives your body enough time to trigger your brain that you are satisfied, not necessarily full. The benefits of slow eating include better digestion, better hydration, easier weight loss or maintenance, and greater satisfaction with our meals. Meanwhile, eating quickly leads to poor digestion, increased weight gain, and reduced satisfaction from the meal. The message is as clear: slow down your eating and enjoy improved health and wellbeing this holiday season.

Planning & Preparation

Did you know that when you feel hungry, you’re often just thirsty? According to a study in Physiology & Behavior, 60% of the time people will eat instead of drink when their body is actually in need of a tall glass of water. Help your holiday habits by planning to stay well-hydrated throughout the day and especially before you head out to any holiday parties. Preparation is also key. Prepare some healthy snacks to munch on throughout the day. If you tend to get hungry between meals, and have a tempting box of seasonal pastries sitting on the counter at work, bring along a 200-calorie, whole grain, high-fiber snack. A little planning helps your heart, and your budget.

The holidays don’t have to be a gut-busting fiasco. Stick to your limits and leave the belly to Santa!


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