Why Do We Overeat During The Holidays?

The holiday season is a time that most people put on the unwanted pounds. For most, there are parties, events and celebrations and they mostly all involve drinking and eating. With holiday treats like food and alcohol everywhere, it’s easy to fall into overeating when everyone is partaking together. In addition, because the main holiday seasons are during the winter months, specifically December when it’s often coldest out, people naturally find solace in eating or gorging in an attempt to “stay warm.” Unfortunately, this misconception isn’t true; overeating will not keep increase our body temperature, it will actually work to make us more tired, more lethargic, and will cause us to gain unwanted holiday weight.

In truth, when we eat and drink to excess, we shock our system and put a lot of stress on our bodies. Our digestive system, our arteries and heart for example, all have to work harder to continually digest and process everything we eat. This is also largely to the type of food we tend to eat during the holiday season. Most often, it is carbohydrates, salts, sugars and alcohol. A glass of delicious rum and eggnog, a few beer here and there, lattes, desserts and rich calorie meals will all show up on your waistline, depending on you choose to celebrate and what you choose to consume. Without sounding like a spoil sport or the Christmas Grinch, my aim is that this article will bring light to some of the choices we unconsciously make over the holiday season when it comes to food and drink. Every little piece of pie, drink, or treat you eat will contribute to a different picture of what you will experience in your health and appearance after the holidays; a picture that most of us don’t often like!

So why don’t we change what that picture looks like and still enjoy our celebrations, the holiday seasons and time with family and friends? The truth is, we don’t need to eat chicken and vegetables only, or “diet” during the holiday periods to enjoy a healthy life. Neither should you have guilt when enjoying yourself either! I don’t subscribe to the idea of feeling guilty to achieve better goals, better health and fitness or wellness, because I strongly believe it never works. However, I do teach and believe in the understanding of awareness in relation to our bodies, and the consciousness of how our minds send messages through our emotions and environment. To put it simply: We often do not eat because we need to, we eat because we want to. This is particularly true in developing countries, where I have noticed that our eating is not based on need, but rather on want. In less developed countries, it is a not difficult to understand why they better see that food is primarily for sustenance and survival. It is no stretch to see then, that in areas where people have more, their attitude to food completely changes and becomes based on wants. It is common for us to begin eating “just because.” It is no longer about staying alive.

When the element of eating for survival is no longer there, food becomes a tool used by our emotions. I’m sure you’ve all heard the term “eating your feelings,” which can be all over the place most of the time! When are sad, we eat. When we are happy, we eat. When we are tired, we eat, and the examples go on. Personally, I believe our emotions take a lot more energy to process than we realize. Based on my own personal experiments and natural observations of clients over many years, I would even say I believe we use double the energy when we have emotional starvation, when compared with natural hunger. We become exhausted and often eat more or lie down. To comfort ourselves, we look for carbohydrate-rich foods as a default; this is because it makes us feel “better,” when in actuality, it doesn’t. It makes us more tired, and puts additional stress on our bodies.

So what can be do to create a healthier culture around eating during the holiday season? I believe we need to bring more awareness to our emotions at most times during our days, and use them as a guide to explain why we are overeating. This practice can help us decide whether we really need that extra piece of carrot cake we were offered, or whether we are prone to eating out of a feeling of obligation, pressure or want. Learning and pre-empting our reactions to food based on how we are feeling, is key to not over-doing it during the holiday season. Avoid guilting yourself if you do overeat or indulge; this actually makes the emotional component worse! If you do feel guilt, use your internal dialogue to give your body an alternative or a trade-off next time. Think of it like this: You found a great car and you are really excited about it, but if you show that too much, the sales person may see that and take advantage of you. So you control the excitement, and negotiate properly and calmly. Think of that sale like your body; once you master this way of thinking, diets will be a thing of the past and you will have more freedom and understanding of yourself in relation to food, especially during celebrations and holidays!

In closing, I’ve listed a few additional things to keep in mind during the holidays. Use these tips to enjoy a happy and healthy holiday season!

  1. Not all foods will work for you. Try not to eat all that you see or are offered, and don’t buy into pressure. If you do feel pressured, you can say things like “Thank you, but I am already working my way through all these delicious goodies!”
  2. Before eating, take two minutes to ask yourself, “Do I need this, or do I just want this?” If you do just want it, earn it. Go to the gym the next day or exercise at home; that’s the no guilt trade-off with your body.
  3. Avoid going out when you’re hungry. Eat something light before you go to a party or function.
  4. Try not to stay too close to the food table; go look at other things in the room! No, not just the cakes!
  5. Some drinks are overly rich and fattening, for example, eggnog! If you must have some, water is going to be your best friend. For every glass, drink two glasses of water afterward.

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