Friends having Christmas dinner at home.

Keep Yourself on Track: Avoid Overeating This Holiday Season

Overeating doesn’t have to be a part of your holiday season. Give yourself the gift of health and wellness this year!

‘Tis the season for sweet treats, holiday cookies and stuffed bellies! Between work gatherings, holiday celebrations and big family meals, the holidays can feel like an endless stream of desserts, appetizers and way too many calories.

With all the delicious holiday foods at our fingertips, it can be hard not to overindulge. But overeating can make it difficult to manage your weight and keep on track with your health and wellness goals. Check out the tips below to find ways to enjoy your holiday favorites while making sure you don’t overdo it.

10 Tips to Help You Avoid Overeating This Holiday Season

  1. Don’t skip meals. When you skip meals, you’re more likely to overeat later in the day, especially when you’re staring down delicious holiday foods. Make a point to eat a healthy breakfast each morning. A breakfast that combines fiber and protein can help you stay full longer and give you the energy you need to get through the chaotic holiday season. Check out Jumpstart Your Day With a Healthy Breakfast for some healthy, filling breakfast recipes.
  2. Slow down. It can take 20 minutes or longer for your stomach to let your brain know that it’s full. Take slow, purposeful bites, pausing in between, so you can recognize when you’ve eaten enough. Before you have seconds (or thirds), give yourself a few minutes to see if you’re really still hungry.
  3. Focus on other things. If your focus at every holiday gathering is food, you’re more likely to overeat. Make a point to find other ways to fill your time – connect with others, help serve or clean up, or try to get everyone outside for a walk or a game.
  4. Friends taking a walk after eating dinner.Make time for activity throughout the holiday season. Keeping up with physical activity can help your body deal with some of the excess eating over the holidays. Try to build activity into each of your days and look for ways to add a little bit extra here and there – taking a walk after a big meal or parking farther away from a store or restaurant.
  5. Make a plan. It helps to think about your food choices before you dig in. If you’re going to want a slice of pie, think about what you can pass over earlier in the meal. If your family only makes certain dishes around the holidays, plan to eat those and maybe skip some common items like chips or store-bought cookies. If you’re worried there’s not going to be any healthy options, bring a healthy dish with you.
  6. Use a plate. If you stand in front of the chips and dip or a dish full of chocolates, you may not have any idea how much you’ve actually eaten until you start to feel bloated or full. Make a plate with a small portion of what you want so you’re aware of how much you’re eating.
  7. Keep a food journal. Over the holidays, it can be especially hard to keep track of everything we’re eating. If you write it down, you can see how much you’re eating, and it may prevent you from overdoing it. A food journal may help you notice patterns too – maybe you’re overeating on days when you skip breakfast or when you didn’t get enough sleep the night before. You could use a notebook, download a food tracker app onto your phone or use a printable sheet like this food diary from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). If you have a My HealtheVet account, you can access a food journal in the same place where you manage your health records.   
  8. Stay hydrated. Drinking enough water throughout the day and during a meal can help you regulate your eating. Water can help fill you up without any additional calories and help you flush toxins and get rid of waste in your body – important when your eating habits might be a little different than normal.
  9. Don’t worry too much. The holidays can bring a lot of different emotions, so worrying or stressing yourself out about overeating isn’t helpful on top of everything else. If you overindulge one day or have a huge meal, don’t get discouraged. You can wake up with a fresh start tomorrow.
  10. Practice self-care. We often overeat when we’re stressed or dealing with difficult emotions. Make sure you’re mentally feeling your best during the holidays so you’ll be less likely to turn to food for comfort. Get enough rest, find time to relax and do things you enjoy. Even meditating for a few minutes when you wake up can help you manage your emotions. Check out Manage Your Holiday Stress: Try These Relaxation Techniques for more ways to relax this holiday season.

Overeating doesn’t have to be a part of your holiday season. Give yourself the gift of health and wellness this year!

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