By Judith Matz, LCSW
and Ellen Frankel, LCSW
As the holiday season
approaches, we think of celebrations with family
and friends, and of food! Whether it is turkey and
stuffing, pumpkin pies, potato latkes or Christmas
cookies, food is an integral part of the holiday
season. Yet for millions of Americans who worry
about their weight, anticipating this myriad of
delights creates great anxiety.
“How can I go to all of those parties and
not overeat?” or “Why do I get through
the whole evening without cheating and then find
myself overeating at home?” are two of the
common concerns expressed by dieters. While the
ability to avoid fattening foods often leads to
feelings of deprivation, indulging in these forbidden
foods usually leads to feelings of guilt and weight
gain, which interfere with the joy of the season.
Here are five ways to enjoy eating without worry:
1. End the
When you tell yourself that you can’t have
certain foods because they are “too fattening,”
you set yourself up to overeat those very foods.
It is human nature to want what we can’t have.
Eliminating “forbidden” foods in order
to lose weight for the holidays frequently leads
to overeating at parties and gatherings. One bite
of something “off limits” is often enough
to trigger the feeling that “now that I’ve
broken my diet, I might as well have everything.”
Or, you may control yourself at a party, only to
feel you deserve a reward for your “good behavior”
when you return home. Conversely, you may use the
New Year as a time to resolve to diet. Therefore,
there is a need to eat as much as possible prior
to January 1 in anticipation of the deprivation
that will soon occur. By incorporating all types
of foods into your diet throughout the year, you
can avoid the overeating and holiday weight gain
that results from deprivation.
an attuned eater
Attuned eaters use internal, physical cues to tell
them when, what and how much to eat. This way of
feeding yourself helps you to tune into hunger and
satiation, rather than eating something just because
it’s there. Becoming an attuned eater allows
you to feel in charge of your eating when you are
at holiday parties and celebrations.
There are three steps to attuned eating. First,
learn to recognize when you are physically hungry.
This requires tuning into your stomach and noticing
how it feels. Next, identify what your body craves
in response to your physical hunger. In order to
match your hunger with the food that will satisfy
you, have a variety of foods available and withhold
judgments about what you are supposed to eat. When
you are at a party, try to pick the food(s) that
comes closest to what your body craves.
Finally, pay attention to your fullness in order
to know how much to eat. If you begin with a sensation
of physical hunger, you will be able to identify
a feeling of satisfaction when you have eaten enough.
Honoring your hunger will keep you eating the right
amount for your body and prevent weight gain due
yourself that you can have it later
Who says you can’t make your sweet potato
time any time you want? If you believe that you
cannot have a special holiday food for another whole
year, you are likely to have it whether you are
really in the mood for it or not. Instead, promise
yourself that you can make turkey and mashed potatoes
any time of year, and that special desserts can
be baked or bought when you desire. Knowing that
these foods can be available to you will reduce
the need to eat something at a holiday celebration
you don’t really want at that moment.
Consider asking for the recipe or a doggie bag when
you are at a holiday event. This strategy stops
the worry that if you don’t eat a special
food immediately, such as the appetizing double
chocolate caramel brownies that Grandma makes once
a year, you won’t be able to have it again
until next year. When appropriate, you can say to
your hostess, “The brisket looks delicious,
but I’m not hungry right now. Would it be
OK if I took some of the leftovers home for later?”
Or, “This cake is fabulous. Can I have your
recipe?” People are usually flattered by your
desire for their food, and knowing you can eat that
food later decreases the need to overeat something
you are not hungry for.
4. Avoid becoming
It can be tempting to “save up” your
hunger for parties and special events. However,
when you go without food for a long period of time,
you become ravenous. At this stage of physical hunger,
you are likely to eat anything and everything in
sight, leading to that out of control feeling -
and weight gain.
Instead, eat in accordance with your physical hunger
throughout the day. If you want to ensure that you
have a good appetite when you arrive at an event,
try to eat enough to take the edge off your hunger
before you leave home, without becoming too full.
A piece of fruit, some crackers or cookies, or a
slice of cheese can help you to respond to your
hunger so that you do not walk into the party feeling
desperate to eat. Then, you will truly be able to
relax and to feed yourself exactly what you need!
compassionate with yourself
Just about everyone overeats sometime, especially
during the holiday season. If you yell at yourself
for your transgression, you are likely to create
anxiety, which fuels overeating and weight gain.
You are also likely to fall into the trap of telling
yourself that you might as well eat whatever you
want right now because as of tomorrow - or next
week or January 1 - you will have to restrict your
eating. This attitude will increase your sense of
guilt and feeling out of control, and guarantees
that you will eat more food than your body needs.
Instead, remain gentle with yourself. Attuned eaters
notice when they feel too full, and then naturally
wait for their next sign of physical hunger to eat
again. Acknowledge the discomfort you feel from
overeating, and promise yourself that you will do
your best to wait for the next cue of internal hunger
to let you know that it is time to eat again.
Focus on family and friends, rather than on food.
Although food is an integral part of holiday events,
the real purpose of getting together is to celebrate
with people who are important to you. Eat for satiation
and pleasure, and then turn your attention to connecting
with others, rather than continuing to eat. By learning
to feel in charge of your eating, you can break
the diet/binge cycle and prevent weight gain from
holiday overeating. Instead, as you greet the New
Year, enjoy the sense of calm and hope that comes
with this healthy attitude toward eating and weight.
(Judith Matz, LCSW and Ellen Frankel, LCSW are sisters,
therapists and co-authors of ‘The Diet Survivor’s
Handbook: 60 Lessons in Eating, Acceptance and Self-Care.’
Contact Information: Stacey J. Miller, Book Publicist,
S. J. Miller Communications, Randolph, MA http://www.bookpr.com,
mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org, telephone: 781-986-073)