Binge Eating During the Holidays


Whether the holiday season is a time of joy and fun or a time of stress, worry, and depression, it may be easy to fall into binge-eating habits. Constant parties and gatherings – each with an endless supply of goodies – crammed in between work/school, family obligations, and shopping may be fun and stressful simultaneously, leading to poor food choices. Poor eating choices may just add to the stress though. Excessive eating may lead to a variety of painful consequences, the least unpleasant of which may be abdominal discomfort for several hours. Individuals with conditions such as GERD or diabetes may be fortunate enough to only experience additional short-term discomfort, or may do serious damage to their bodies.

Unfortunately, controlling binge eating during the holidays is rarely as simple as “Just have some self control!” Conversely, this demeaning advice may lead to more intense feelings of regret and shame, which may worsen the downward binge-eating spiral. Fortunately, there are more plausible things that an individual can do that may help control bingeing.

  • Discuss concerns with family and friends – Positive family and friends make the best support systems. Make them aware of your concerns about falling into poor habits, and ask them to help you avoid triggers. If your requests are met with resistance and negativity, you may wish to limit your time with these individuals during the holiday season.

  • Create an eating plan – You cannot control what foods you will come across at parties in the homes of others’ or at potlucks. You can, however, control what foods you purchase for your own home. Plan your meals ahead of time. Make a grocery list and stick to it. Limit portion sizes when attending troublesome parties. It is okay to refuse seconds and you can be polite to your hosts without sampling every edible item. Determine what works for you to stop eating when you’re full. This may be having items in your hands so you can’t grab junk food to snack on, stationing yourself on the opposite side of the room from the snack table, or even leaving the dinner party before the dessert comes out.

  • Eat before going out – If you don’t arrive at the party with an empty stomach, you may be less likely to linger at the snack table.

  • Don’t deprive yourself – If you love ginger cookies, have one. Avoiding every goodie you see will jackhammer away at your will, making self control seem impossible. Indulging every once in awhile is fine, just make it a treat and not the norm.

  • Eat slowly – If you take time to savor and thoroughly chew your food, your body has a better chance of sending the “full” signal to your brain before you’ve had a chance to overindulge.

  • Take it easy on the alcohol – Alcoholic beverages may contain an astonishing number of calories. Intoxication also lowers inhibitions and increases appetite, leading people to be more likely to overeat. Drinking in moderation is fine, but after a 350-calorie cup of eggnog, it may be wise to switch to non-alcoholic beverages.


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