I have always been a overeater at gatherings.
You invite me to a gathering, I’m gonna overeat there. With the family – overeat, with my coworkers – overeat, with complete strangers – overeat.
It’s like a gift. Put some food in front of me, I will eat until it’s gone. Even if that food tastes like dirty socks (like often at events).
It gets worse during the holidays or when I’m on vacation.
Last year I somehow managed to not overeat during Christmas, that’s why I call last Christmas – a Christmas miracle.
I plan to repeat this miracle this year, because I’m sick of losing weight to then put it on again in a few months, just because a holiday is coming up. I won’t be on a diet or anything. I’ll just keep eating healthy and I’ll try my best to not eat too much of anything that’s not healthy.
Let’s take a look how I will try to keep it together and why some of us overeat during the holidays or while we’re on vacation. Also let’s see if we can actually do something about it.
Why do we overeat during holidays or vacation & how to fix it
Reason #1: The Deadline
A while ago I went to Spain for ten days and came back with a huge belly. I didn’t get pregnant and grew a little fetus within 10 days there, I just ate a lot of stuff.
Like there’s no tomorrow.
“I wanna try this, this and this.”
I went pretty crazy.
The thought that I’m in Spain for just 10 days and I won’t be able to eat any of their traditional foods AGAIN IN MY LIFE, put a lot of pressure on my shoulders that were supposed to be relaxed during vacation.
Now why did I have to eat that much?
Because there was a deadline.
I knew I had only 10 days and I would not be able to eat those foods again, EVER (<- which btw is not true).
People get really efficient when there’s a deadline. Overeaters like myself are no exception to this rule. You go into survival mode and gather everything you can today, because the world is gonna fall apart tomorrow.
Christmas time – same thing. It’s only a few days when you’re allowed and supposed to enjoy everything you can, because afterwards it won’t be there, you won’t be with the people you love and you won’t be able to eat ever again.
Here’s how to fix this
- You don’t have to eat everything
Usually when I’m around food I want to try EVERYTHING. And by try I mean eat all of it. In reality there are only a few things I actually like and would therefore be worth actually eating.
For example in Spain, I ate a lot of things, but I liked about 50% of that I ate. If I had just tried the other foods and not eaten the whole thing, I would’ve saved me some extra pounds and stomach pain without missing out on that food.
Save your calories and stomach capacity on the things you know you actually love. Enjoy them. The things you want to try? Have just a nibble. If you like them, go ahead, if not…well you tried.
- Relax, it’s not the last time
Like in Spain, when I’m having a holiday dinner with my relatives, I go into a mode as if there won’t be any of “this” tomorrow.
I panick and go into a competition with the others around the table. Of course that competition is only for me and completely in my mind, but still…it counts as it makes me super efficient.
The same with events or all-you-can-eat-buffet. I always eat like there won’t be any of this tomorrow. But is it really the last time I will ever have this food?
Doubt it. In fact it has never happened to me.
Within a few weeks I would eat the same thing somewhere, somehow. There are very few things that you can’t find, make or get the recipe for these days.
So relax, have some of your favorite things and know you can have it tomorrow again. If you want. Don’t stress out and actually enjoy what you’re eating and the fact you’re with the people you love at that very moment.
Reason #2: It’s There
The reason why I usually overeat on things that I don’t really like? It’s not because there won’t be any of this tomorrow. It’s because it’s there.
It’s there, sitting in front of me and starring deeply into my eyes. Can’t say no to that. Even if it’s something I actually hate, chances are if there’s a bowl of food in front of me, I will eat.
How to fix this
The one way to not eat food just because it’s there, is to keep yourself occupied with other things, to be active. And of course to avoid being around that food. For example when you’re talking to someone, instead of sitting together and talking in front of a box of donuts, go out for a walk together.
At an event don’t just guard the buffet, go and actually talk to others. This is something I definitely should learn, because I really like my buffet and I sometimes find people at events annoying. But sometimes I like to dance and actually take a look around, if the location is interesting.
Reason #3 Hate To Be The Party Pooper
We’re constantly under pressure about the choices we make. If it’s not food, it’s about smoking, drinking, our job, our friends… Seems like we’re always doing something wrong.
And we feel guilty about it.
Then holidays come – and it should all be forgotten all of a sudden.
Everything is allowed for everyone.
But the truth is, it’s not just allowed, it’s like we’re pressured to fall back into our bad habits. We’re pressured to “feel good”.
You don’t want to ruin your family’s holiday by talking or even thinking about how many calories a piece of chocolate cake has, do you?
So you try to fit in and do what you’re supposed to do on this special occasion – stuff your face with everything that crosses your plate. “Be good to yourself.”
On the other hand you know that this “special occasion” will be over in a few days, but you’ll have to start from scratch again. If you can, because it’s not easy.
How to fix this
I’ve found that when it comes to family, there’s no point in explaining why you eat or don’t eat something.
You do it and that’s it. Everyone’s got their own philosophy on food these days – eat whatever you want, eat only lean meats, eat only vegetables, eat only carbs…someone will always try to convince you, you need to do it like them.
Solution: just eat what you want mindfully and in moderation. Have some of the things you really love, and don’t feel guilty about it.
If you really want some chocolate cake – eat it. If you’ve had enough chocolate cake, stop eating. Usually one piece is enough after all.
This way you won’t be ruining the party for everyone else and you would be having something you really want.
Reason #4: We’re Actually Physically Bored
We can’t wait to be on holidays. Just can’t. We’re sick of our jobs, our surroundings, anything we do DAILY…When holidays come we can do whatever we want with our time. But then let’s face it, if you haven’t thoroughly planned a very active vacation – you end up eating somewhere with someone all the time.
The reality is – if you’re not active, holidays could be very boring. It’s a time when you don’t really get to decide what you want to do, because you’re all gonna do it “Together”. So you need an activity that you all have in common.
It turns out one of the few things we all have in common is eating. So we don’t really think of anything else we could do together. Of course – if eating is the only thing you all enjoy, you’ll overeat.
How to fix this
- Instead of being lazy and bored I now like being active with my family – we could go ice skating, hiking, whatever…something that will keep us all active. Then later when you have a meal together you won’t even want to overeat. And even if you do, it’s kinda ok, because you would’ve been active all day long.
- Get involved and involve others in creating the menu. When I’m invited somewhere, where I don’t have to move my finger I eat far more than somewhere where I actually cook. I somehow focus more on whether others are happy with the food or not. If everyone is involved – you’ll actually be sharing food and not just eating mindlessly something that one person made on her/his own (which btw is pretty unfair).
And as a bonus – being active and doing things together other than just eating, creates more memories. So instead of rewarding yourself by being bored and lazy – reward yourself by experiencing something new, creative and more exciting.
Reason #5: Not many healthy options
The food we overeat on during vacation or holidays is never a salad. Or a smoothie. There are just not many healthy foods around during the holidays. That makes it easier to consume more calories, even if you just eat in moderation. Even if you just try a little bit of everything, you might end up full before you’ve actually even eaten a real meal.
How to fix it
Remember how I told you last Christmas I didn’t overeat. Well it was because I created a healthy menu with lots of salads and healthy dips. I got everyone involved and we had a hike that day. It was all delicious and I still feel like I ate a lot. But it was all things I really loved and things that were good for us. It was a great day and the best thing was I didn’t need hours to prepare the dinner. I had some things like quinoa and the dessert already prepared and I made everything else fresh.
- If you can’t make the whole menu yourself – maybe prepare a little part of it – like a salad you really love, humus or other dips, a healthier cake – just take part.
- Make sure you drink water instead of sugary drinks. Also make vegetables the main part of your plate – doesn’t matter if they’re in a dip, salad or with rice.
- Be mindful and actually taste your food. If you indulge in anything that is not healthy – make sure you’re aware and ok with that – no need to feel guilty.
Now instead of just reading the bullet points here and not doing anything about it, I need you to actually do something about it. From all of the reasons why we overeat I believe the biggest change would be being active, instead of only gathering only to eat and talk. While eating mindfully at dinner might not be easy, staying active during the day is something you can actually control.
So what I’m asking you to do is this: Create a list of 3 activities you’d want to do or 3 places you would want to visit with your family during the holidays. The activity doesn’t need to be a marathon and the places don’t need to be far away – even a nice park where you can walk will be good. And of course the activity can’t include visiting a restaurant or watching TV.
Then suggest this to your family – if not all of them, maybe some family members would like to join you. You’ll be surprised how bored people are from doing the same thing every year. Have your plan, prepare some healthy meals and eat only when you’re actually hungry and only things you actually like.