Ten Tips to Avoid Holiday Overindulgence


For many, the holidays are a time to unwind, visit with family and friends, and enjoy a bit of time away from the demands of the daily grind. But the holiday season is also the time of year where temptations to overindulge in food and spirits abound. That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the holidays without overdoing it. Here are ten simple tips to help arm you for the holidays so you can face those never-ending temptations head-on and come out on the other side feeling great about the decisions you made.

  1. Make time for exercise. A workout, even if it’s a quick one, will help relieve holiday stress and ward off potential holiday weight gain. And, it doesn’t take long to break a sweat and get your heart rate up, nor do you need fancy equipment or even a gym. Need ideas? Here are seven different quick workout options that are sure to rev that metabolism of yours and leave you feeling like you can face anything the holidays will throw at you.
  2. Don’t “save” yourself for that holiday meal. If you arrive at the dinner table ravenous after a day of fasting, you’re more likely to overindulge than if you arrive with a reasonable appetite. Instead, be sure to have a wholesome breakfast and lunch with plenty of protein and good fats to satisfy you and to help stabilize your blood sugar throughout the day. Then when it comes time for the big holiday dinner, you won’t feel starved and as if you’ve been deprived all day, thus making it easier for you to make sound food decisions and achieve satiety without overdoing it.
  3. Plan a high-intensity workout before the big holiday meal. Aim it to end it as close to mealtime as possible. This will allow you to use the food you consume during the meal as part of your recovery protocol. 
  4. In the one or two hours after intense exercise, our bodies are more sensitive to the hormone insulin, which helps transport glucose to our depleted muscles. That means the carbohydrates found in starchy holiday dishes such as yams, sweet potatoes, and mashed potatoes, or the sugars found in cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie can actually serve to replenish glycogen levels. And the protein you'll get from a holiday turkey or roast will help repair your damaged muscle tissue. Now, this doesn’t mean that exercising prior to a large meal can completely offset the effects of overindulging, so you’ll still need to be mindful of portion sizes and the actual items you choose to eat. But, at the very least, you can use a pre-meal workout to make the best out of a situation where it’s likely you’ll be eating more than you typically would on a non-holiday.
  5. Slow down, and eat just until you’re satisfied.  It takes at least 20 minutes for our brains to signal that we're full, which means a slower eater will generally reach satiety with less food than someone who races through the meal. Further, when looking at brain chemicals signaling pleasure, scientists have found that we receive less pleasure the more we eat of a food. So, instead of feeling like you need to quickly polish off every last bite of that second helping, try taking small portions, slowly savoring every bite, and stopping once you’re satisfied, but not stuffed. With this approach, you’ll leave the table feeling good knowing that you didn’t over-do it, and you won’t have to make the dreaded switch to the post-meal elastic waistband pants.
  6. Eat before you go. If you’re planning to attend a holiday party where you know there will be temptations to overindulge in food and alcohol, try having a meal before leaving for the party. With your appetite curbed, you will be less tempted to overindulge in food and spirits at the party.
  7. Be careful with beverages, alcoholic or otherwise. Alcohol can lessen inhibitions and induce overeating. And, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages are often full of sugar. Opt instead to sip on water with lemon and challenge yourself to drink two glasses of water for every alcoholic or non-water beverage you consume. The fullness you feel from drinking the water may be enough to discourage you from drinking an excessive amount of other beverages. 
  8. If you overeat at one meal, go light on the next. Just because you overindulged a bit does not mean you can’t recover from it with some sound decisions going forward. Simply move on and scale back how much you eat at the next meal. 
  9. Take the focus off of food. Turn holiday gatherings that would otherwise be focused on candy- and cookie-making activities into events centered on non-edible projects like making wreaths and decorations. Similarly, plan group activities with family and friends that aren’t all about eating. For example, get a group together to serve a holiday meal to the community, play games, or go on a walking tour of decorated homes.
  10. Bring your own healthy dish to a holiday gathering. This will ensure you have at least one option to choose from that won’t make you feel like you overindulged. And you may even inspire others to make healthier choices at the buffet table!
  11. Have a buddy system. Enlist a friend or relative to be your accountability partner at holiday gatherings. Ask that person to help you stay on track and to remind you of your goals when you’re having a weak moment. Having a support system has been shown to be a key factor in the success of those who’ve made lasting lifestyle changes, so lean on your buddy to help you make good decisions that will leave you feeling great the next day and well after the holidays are over.

So, there you have it.  Follow these tips this holiday season, and you’re certain to start the New Year feeling great about yourself and the decisions you made!

What are your biggest challenges concerning food and drink during the holidays?