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How to Avoid Holiday Overeating


Thanksgiving has to be the biggest overeating day in the United States. Our custom is to prepare a turkey with all the trimmings, and the trimmings often include lots of high-glycemic foods such as mashed potatoes, stuffing, and bread. Plus, our informal custom is to have candy, cheese and crackers, and cookies available all day long. Even just a taste of each of the trimmings can leave a person well above 5 on the hunger scale.

After we learned to hate the feeling of being really full, we devised a Thanksgiving eating strategy. It's pretty simple:

  1. Make sure that you are at 0 on the hunger scale before you sit down to dinner. This might mean passing up the appetizers and treats scattered around the house. Save those treats for later or the next day.

  2. Only put on your plate modest portions of the foods you like the very best. (Perhaps you prefer dark meat, cranberry sauce, and dressing. Yes, this is an unbalanced meal, but just on this day you can afford it.)

  3. Save room for dessert if you like the dessert. In other words, pumpkin pie is great only if you like it.

  4. Don't worry about hurting anyone's feelings if you don't eat food they prepared. If the person insists you take some, put the food on your plate, eat one bite, and as you eat, hide the rest under something else!

  5. Say a blessing. After all, this is Thanksgiving.

  6. Eat slowly and try to make this meal last at least 30 minutes. Many families, when they finally sit down to eat their feast, gulp it down, sometimes in order to not miss the next football game. Bad idea.

  7. Eat 0-5.

  8. Don't go back for seconds unless your hunger number is below 5. The leftovers can be eaten the next day and even the day after that … and the day after that … and so on.

  9. Have a conversation plan. Perhaps everyone at the table can say what he or she gives thanks for. Make it a fun, upbeat, and bonding time.

Be sure to focus your energy on the purpose of the celebration and the togetherness of family and friends. Let the food be a part of the celebration, not the purpose of the celebration.

Happy Holidays … Really

You can breeze through the holiday season, that time between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day, and even lose weight or stay at your ideal size. And while you breeze through, you can still enjoy the special foods and treats of the season.

Sound too good to be true? It is possible. Other people do it. Basically, successful holiday eaters, whether they consciously know it or not, eat from 0-5. So can you, but it takes some planning. You are presented with so many opportunities to eat fabulous foods—family parties, office parties, office treats, cocktail parties, open houses, cookie exchanges, and so on. You could go through the holidays without ever feeling a simple hunger pang.

Don't be discouraged. Here are some helpful hints to get you through the season smiling:


Since the holidays occur during the dark time of the year in the northern hemisphere, when the sun rises late and sets early, some people get the blues from sunlight deprivation. Make sure that you get out in the sunshine if you can or use a light box as a source of mood-lifting, full-spectrum light.

  • Always start eating at 0.

  • Go easy on the alcohol. Drinking alcohol can impair your ability to feel your stomach's hunger number. Alcoholic beverages increase your body's production of the stress hormone, cortisol, which causes abdominal weight gain.

  • Take small tastes of food rather than real portions at parties.

  • Make sure that you get at least 15 grams of protein at meals. The protein can come in the form of hors d'oeuvres, such as shrimp on toothpicks or bacon-wrapped liver.

  • Don't taste or eat everything offered. Party foods are not precious rarities. You'll have other opportunities to eat them.

  • Focus on enjoying the people, the conversation, and the ambience. After all, you're at a party.

  • Make the party and the people more important than the food.

  • If you have multiple parties on the same day, you might want to eat only to a hunger number of 2 or 3 at each party so that you can sample food at each event.

  • Always, always stop eating at or below 5 on the hunger scale.

  • Maintain your exercise program throughout the holidays.

  • Spend time remembering the true meaning of the holidays.


Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Healthy Weight Loss © 2005 by Lucy Beale and Sandy G. Couvillon. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.

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