Wait, Don’t Eat That!
How to Avoid Overeating during the Holidays
by Andrea Boeshaar
My husband and I were invited to my brother’s home for Thanksgiving. When we walked in, hors d’oeuvres lay on nearly all tabletops. One of my nieces made a 3-cheese shrimp dip that was gooey and delicious, poured over a plate of small rectangular crackers. While I visited with my brother’s girlfriend who painstakingly prepared German potato dumplings, I munched on my favorite thing in the world: Brie cheese smeared on crackers. Scrumptious. When dinner was served at 6:00 p.m., guests went through a makeshift buffet line and filled their plates. There were two containers of stuffing (one with onions and one without); potato dumplings and mashed potatoes; gravy; a tossed lettuce salad with caramelized walnuts and blue cheese, covered with a delicious dressing; cranberry sauce; any leftover hors d’oeuvres; and turkey, of course. My sister baked three different kinds of pie for dessert, and I sampled each one. It was a feast—and I feasted. I still felt full two days later!
I overate, and while I thoroughly enjoyed it along with the company, I didn’t feel good. I felt, well, gluttonous. As I’m watching my weight, I watched the scale’s number go up, up, up.
So how to avoid overeating when the Christmas holiday rolls around?
I did some research and found there are five foundational ways to avoid overeating.
First, for family dinners and likewise, elect someone to be in charge of the menu. This can be done easily with a group email or an online Google document that can be accessed by everyone. Create categories, like cold salads, hot salads, stuffing, rolls, etc. For those guests who don’t use the computer, and if appropriate, give them a call and ask them if they’d like to bring something specific.
Second, don’t go to the party or gathering hungry. I hear my coworkers talk about going without breakfast and lunch because they’re saving their appetites for when they get to the party or family gathering. Unfortunately, such “saving” can make you over-hungry and then it’s easy to over indulge.
Next, cut down on the hors d’oeuvres. Again, the menu will help. Of course, there will always be someone who brings unexpected appetizers. Serve them with a smile. However, the more that can be planned for, the better.
Fourth, and if possible, eat your family dinner earlier in the day. A study done by Scientists at Pennington Biomedical Research Center found that people who ate between the hours of 8 a.m. and 2 p.m., followed by an 18 hour fast, burned more fat than those people who ate between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. In addition, those people who participated in the study and who ate between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. kept their appetite levels more even throughout the day than those who did not. Read more about this study by clicking here.
Finally, exercise! It’s so easy to forego your gym time during the busy holidays—and I’m writing from experience here.
According to the New York Times, the average person gains somewhere between 7 to 10 pounds between Thanksgiving Day and the Christmas holiday. One researcher stated, “The holiday season doesn’t represent one day of overeating. You have this period that extends through the new year where there’s more alcohol, more snacks, more finger foods and appetizers that are energy dense.”
Unfortunately, packing on those pounds is easy, but taking them back off can take weeks—sometimes even months. I’m a member of WW.com (formally Weight Watchers) and one article suggests two steps that its members can follow to keep from packing on the pounds over the holidays. The article is not available to the public, so if you’re not a member, you may want to step on the scale now and keep track of your weight on your own.
Pick a realistic goal for this time of year. “If you’ve been dropping, say, 1 pound per week [on the WW plan] aim for half a pound—or simply try to maintain your current weight until January.”
Be mindful about holiday spreads. “Skip over the food and drinks you can have year-round (e.g. your favorite cheese and crackers, etc.) and instead go for seasonal specialties. You’ll narrow down your options without sucking the fun out of the festivities.”
The WW advice is right-on. Many of the munchies I indulged in on Thanksgiving Day I can make at home on any day. Had I read that article, or this one, I may have not been as stuffed as the plump, roasted turkey when dinnertime rolled around.
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