How to Avoid Overeating During the Holidays

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. But let’s face it. While November and December are full of good cheer, they are also a time when the limits of our clothing seams are pushed.

Joseph Skelton, MD, pediatrician and director of Brenner FIT at Wake Forest Baptist, offers these tips on how to enjoy the holidays and not gorge ourselves too much.

Don't Deprive Yourself

It is a special time with special foods and family around to enjoy them, but not to the point of being sick.

Plan Ahead

Know that you are going to have special foods and schedule them in. If you are having a big holiday dinner, then eat lighter for breakfast and lunch, or focus on higher-fiber fruits and vegetables. Limit those big meals to one a day. Don't have Grandma's special pancake for breakfast on the same day as the Thanksgiving turkey. Save it for later in the week.

Our Stomachs Don’t Tell Us We Are Hungry, Our Minds Do

It often takes upwards of six to eight hours before our stomachs start to rumble and tell us we are hungry and need to eat. This is called “tummy hungry.” This is when our bodies are overdue for food and are telling us that.

Most of our hunger comes from thinking about food, smelling food, seeing food, or being reminded it is time to eat. This sets our minds on food and we convince ourselves we are hungry and it’s time to eat. Most children interpret this signal from our brains as hunger when it is really just a desire to eat tasty food. This is called “yummy hungry.”

This is why we can often overeat during holidays, because even though we aren't really hungry and just need more energy, we think about, see or smell food and want to eat.

So next time this occurs, ask yourself, “Am I yummy hungry or am I tummy hungry?” If it is “yummy hungry,” have a bite or two of your favorite food to satisfy that craving, then walk away.

Wait on Seconds

It often takes our bodies 20 minutes or more to fill up. Unfortunately, we will eat to the point of fullness, only to have the real feeling of full kick in later. By that time, we are overfull.

Take your time at meals. Sit, talk and take a break. Give time for your body to fill up before getting seconds.