7 Ways to Avoid Weight Gain from Holiday Binge Eating

One of the best things about the holidays for millions of people is the food. There are dozens of Christmas and holiday dishes, like cookies, cakes, pies, and sides, that we generally only have once a year.

Key takeaways:
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    About 63 percent of Americans deal with fear of holiday binge eating, or “food guilt.”
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    Planning ahead, drinking enough water, and lowering stress are all ways to avoid holiday binge eating.
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    Studies show most Americans gain less weight during the holidays than they think they will.

Along with all the excitement, many people worry about holiday binge eating. It’s also called “food guilt” and a survey found that 63 percent of people struggle with it every holiday season.

Still, over half of Americans say they’ll break their diet during the holidays, and most people expect to gain no less than 8 pounds.

It's a good thing there are ways to deal with binge eating during the holidays. With the right preparation and care, you can avoid overeating and holiday weight gain.

Here are 7 useful tips for dealing with holiday binge eating:

1. Manage stress

Stress during the holiday season is not uncommon. In fact, the majority of Americans report feeling stressed when celebrating the holidays.

It makes sense. There are many things about Christmas and other winter holidays that can lead to stress and anxiety, like gift shopping, seasonal depression.

Not only can high stress levels lead to weight gain, they can also cause binge eating. High stress, or high cortisol levels, has been shown to make people want to overeat, usually comfort and junk foods that are high in fat.

Since many of us are surrounded by more sweet and fatty foods during the holidays, it's much easier to turn to those foods for comfort.

Self-care activities like yoga, calming hobbies, and spending time with loved ones can help you feel less stressed. Spending less time on social media can also lead to lower anxiety. You might even want to download free mindfulness apps like Calm that offer short, guided meditations.

2. Drink more water

Sometimes, when you think you might be hungry, you may simply need water. Not drinking enough water has some alarming side effects:

  • Low energy;
  • Brain fog;
  • Moodiness and irritability;
  • Slowed metabolism;
  • Headaches;
  • Weight gain;
  • Possible overeating.

To avoid holiday binge eating along with many of the other side effects, make sure you stay hydrated.

About 8 ounces of water a day is fine. However, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) recommends about 12 to 15 cups of water a day.

3. Try new and updated recipes

Holiday dishes tend to be very high in fat and sugar. They can leave you feeling heavy and tired rather than energized, especially if you overeat. But here are some ways to alter your recipes to make them healthier:

  • Use non-dairy milks and creams for certain desserts.
  • Go for natural sugars like honey, maple syrup, and agave over processed sugar when you can.
  • Use greek yogurt instead of cream cheese, sour cream, or mayo.
  • Try baking instead of frying foods, when possible.
  • Have more vegetable sides this year.

You can also search for healthier recipes online or find healthy holiday cookbooks to bring new recipes to your family gatherings.

4. Plan ahead

Avoiding all of the festive food temptations is one of the most difficult parts of not binge eating during the holidays. The best way to counter this is by planning ahead.

Call ahead to see what foods your family and friends may be sharing. You can even offer to bring some of your own dishes and desserts. These recipes can be an easy and useful way to opt for healthier options.

5. Have healthy snacks

Whether at work, with friends, or at home, there is usually a large supply of unhealthy snacks available during the holidays. With so many temptations, it can be difficult not to start holiday binge eating.

One way to break this habit is to make or buy healthier snacks you can enjoy. Try getting rid of unhealthy snacks around the house. When you’re out, you can bring healthy snacks with you. Don’t forget, fruits and vegetables can be tasty snacks that don’t have a lot of calories.

Healthy snacking can help you eat in moderation. It can also keep you from being too hungry when it's time for holiday meals. This will make you less likely to overeat.

6. Avoid liquid calories

Just like unhealthy snacks, unhealthy drinks can cause surprising weight gain. Sodas, alcoholic beverages, and high-calorie coffee drinks are easy to find during the holiday season. There’s nothing wrong with having a drink, but make sure to drink in moderation.

If you're going to drink alcohol this year, it's important to know that it can make you hungrier. Going in with this knowledge can help you be mindful of your drink and food intake.

7. Have a support system

Avoiding binge eating during the holidays doesn’t have to be a lonely process. A recent study even showed that using a “buddy system,” or having a strong support system on your health journey, can help you stay on track.

There’s no better time to lean on family and friends than the holidays.

Share with loved ones that you want to make healthier choices this holiday season. They may even want to join you!

Can I prevent gaining weight during the holidays?

Most Americans expect to gain weight during the holiday season. However, holiday weight gain is a lot less common than most of us think.

Studies show that the average American gains no more than around a pound during the holidays. This shows us that stress around holiday binge eating and overeating is more about the pressures of holiday food temptations than about actual weight gain.

It's fine to eat the holiday foods you look forward to every year. Helpful tools like eating in moderation, enjoying healthy snacks, staying hydrated, and portion control can help you have a fun, healthy time during the holidays.

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