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Avoiding Binge-Fest 2010

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Originally posted on Your Bella Life.

The holidays are supposed to be a time of joy and togetherness, but for a lot of us, they also inspire emotions of panic and dread at the impending doom of weight gain and food obsession.

But wouldn’t it great if you could spend the coming weeks thinking more about the thrill of giving and less about the size of your thighs?

In this article I am going to walk you through understanding WHY holiday food seems so much more addicting than any other time of year, and how to eliminate the urge to eat everything in sight.

Understand where your cravings come from:

Obviously, we all need to eat plenty every day to keep ourselves physically nourished. But see if you can distinguish between the times you’re eating for physical nourishment, and the times you’re eating foremotional nourishment.

A lot of time, when we get the uncontrollable urge to snack, we are not actually hungry.   So before you dive into that bowl of red and green m&ms, identify why you want to nibble.

Next time you are at a holiday party or dinner, and find yourself wanting to consume everything in site, consider the following reasons why you may want a third helping of latkes or a fifth Christmas cookie.

* The holiday party you are attending makes you nervous. Maybe you are expecting your ex to walk through the door any moment, or you don’t know anyone but the hostess who is busy chatting with all of her guests.  Being nervous makes you feel uneasy, ungrounded and creates a hollow pit in your stomach.  To get rid of this uncomfortable feeling – you eat.  Focusing on the tastes and textures of foods temporarily distracts us, but when you stop nibbling, the nervousness is still there.  Instead of reaching for every hors d’oeuvre that passes you, try to sit with your nerves, get acquainted with that pit in your stomach and trust it will fade in time.  The perfect way to avoid nervous eating is to strike up a conversation with another person who is standing alone.

* The food feels “special” because you only get to eat it one time a year. I refer to this as the “Last Supper Mentality”, the idea that the opportunity to eat this type of cookie is so rare, that you must eat as much as you can before the opportunity is gone.  The reality is that there is ALWAYS an opportunity to eat your favorite foods.  You can ask the hostess for the recipe, or see where it was purchased.  Promise yourself that if you want to eat another cookie tomorrow that you will go out and find the best cookie on the city. Bottom line: if you truly understand that food is plentiful, holiday treats will lose their allure.

* Holiday food is packed with sugar, and sugar is addicting. Think about it- it is a lot easier to stop eating apple slices than it is Christmas cookies.  Why is this?  It actually goes a lot deeper than just the cookies tasting better.  When you eat refined sugar, your body produces an abundance of insulin in an attempt to regulate your blood sugar levels.  What happens is that the abrupt insulin spike actually causes your blood sugar levels to drop below normal, causing you to want more sugar.  So what to do?  Obviously the best strategy is to avoid sugar, but that is nearly impossible over the holidays.  So next time you eat a cookie, have a piece of fruit when you crave your next sweet to regulate your blood sugar levels more effectively.  The addiction can last a few days after consuming a lot of sugar, so be prepared.

* We fall into old habits. New York is a very high-energy city.  You are constantly working, meeting friends, going to the gym, attending events…  there is almost no time to eat.  But when you go home to your parents’ house in the ‘burbs, the pace dramatically changes.  You start to fall into old habits that you had in high school, or that you developed during the many holiday weekends you had at home.  You may sit and talk for hours over a huge cheese spread or have pancakes for breakfast every morning.  Even though working out five days a week in New York City is effortless, the idea of going for a 3 mile run through your hometown can be a huge challenge.  You have unlearned so many of these habits in your daily life, but when you return home, you fall back into old patterns.  Ask yourself what drives you to eat differently at home, maybe have a conversation with your Mom about helping with the cooking and adding some healthy dishes to your meal.  Get the whole family to exercise together.  Start to redefine your habits at home, so that next year things are that much easier.

* Stress plays a huge role in weight gain. When you are stressed, you have increased levels of the hormone cortisol, which causes you to retain fat in your abdomen.

There are so many things that stress you out…

  • Your mother is grilling you about finding a man
  • You don’t like the dress you are wearing
  • You have three parties to go to tonight
  • You really wish your boyfriend wouldn’t wear that stupid Christmas sweater to every party
  • You have to get up at 6am tomorrow to finish a project at work and it is already midnight
  • Your mother-in-law keeps insisting that she should stay at your house for the Holidays instead of the hotel down the street.
  • You haven’t worked out for a week (because you have been going to so many parties) and your tummy is starting to bulge

Find ways to reduce your stress.  Breathe, go for a short walk, meditate for five minutes.  Visualize the stress melting away.  Do what works for you.  Holding onto your stress is a choice, let it go!  When you can learn to let go of stress, you let go of excess weight.

Understanding where cravings come from can have a very powerful effect on your ability to make healthy choices through the holidays.  When you can celebrate by focusing on your health and well-being, your energy will be higher, your mood better, your mental-clarity improved and there is a good chance you can even lose weight over the next few weeks.  Can you imagine how amazing it would be to wake up feeling fabulous on January 1st?  That is really the best gift you can receive this season.


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