8 Tips To Avoid Overeating During The Holidays

“I’ll just skip dessert.” 

Was what I would tell myself foolishly as I saddled up to the dinner table, enticed by all the delicious, decadent dishes and rich foods. I actually thought that my willpower had a chance.

The smells penetrated by nose — the sweet aroma filling the kitchen from hours of turkey roasting in the oven, the cinnamon and nutmeg from fresh baked pumpkin pie, and the peppery buttery goodness of creamy mashed potatoes. My senses were heightened and my stomach was growling. I had a serious love affair with sugar.

people sitting beside table
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Yet, I actually thought that my willpower had a chance!

A little of this and a little of that become second helpings of a lot of this and a lot of that. My stomach full and my pant’s button cutting into my skin, surely I was satisfied and I could victoriously push myself away from that dinner table.

Can you believe that I actually STILL thought that my willpower had a chance?!

And then the dreaded words of defeat were uttered. “Who is ready for dessert.”

As my salivary glands started to go into overdrive and my thoughts intermingled with bites of pumpkin pie deliciousness, I knew that my willpower had no chance.

Whomp, whomp!

Willpower has no chance against your stronger emotional senses. Smells and feelings and family connections and the flooding of hormonal functions that all of this creates puts a big, fat piece of pumpkin pie on your willpower so that you can not even see it wiggling underneath or hear it calling for help.

But there are specific little actions you can take to better stronghold your willpower and keep your emotions and hormones from grabbing the steering wheel and driving off the cliff into a sugar coma. Here are 8 served up just for you!


  1. Sneak in a workout before your meal. Outside of off-setting some of those extra calories, a few other things are happening in the background. First, you are releasing the feel good hormones into the brain that naturally come from exercise. Since typically overeating is associated with stress, exercise can help to calm the stress and relax your body, decreasing the release of ghrelin, the appetite inducing hormone. If you are exercising, it can also mean that you have a health goal in mind and you are more prone to choosing healthier options.
  2. Remember, size matters. Choosing smaller plates and bigger forks trick the brain into thinking you are getting more food or that your portion size is bigger than what it actually is. According to an article published by NCBI in 2013, smaller plates means you could eat up to 45% less food simply because you can not pile as much food onto a smaller plate.
  3. Pause, then reach for seconds. No one says you can’t fill up your plate a second time if you really want to. But wait at least 20 minutes. It takes about that long for partially digested food to reach the small intestine and trigger the release of hormones that signal feelings of fullness. If you still really want seconds, then go for it — Eat.
  4. Be a positive pusher. You can make all the right choices, but there are still those folks that push you to eat more or to try that dish. Instead of getting flustered, ultimately giving into temptation, emphasize how good you feel right now and that you feel fully satisfied. Not only will this help grandma to put away the ladle, but it will also help you to connect your brain into your stomach and body cues — decreasing your chance of mindlessly overeating.
  5. Plan ahead. Remember last week’s article about planning ahead by bringing a healthy meal? Here is your chance! Eat that dish first or give yourself a hefty helping to offset your hunger before you dive into more decedent treats.
  6. Eat slowly and mindfully. The first two bites of your food are the most flavorful and delicious. Be hyper-focused to those first two bites because they can dictate how your brain tunes into the rest of the meal and how satisfied you may feel. Pay attention to the smell, the taste, the texture, the temperature, and any other sensation that pops up. It also takes 15-20 minutes for the brain to signal to the stomach that you are full. If you are not careful, you could pack in a lot of extra food during that time.
  7. Guzzle up water. Drinking water hydrates the body, which signals the brain that you may not be as hungry as you thought you were. Not only for the brain power, but it also fills up the stomach. I do recommend drinking 16 ounces of water before your meal, but refrain from drinking water during your meal, unless you really have to. That can inhibit your digestion.
  8. If you plan to drink alcohol, make it a post-game event. Speaking of staying hydrated, make sure you are drinking water between any alcoholic beverages. Hydrating is key, but it will also slow you down between drinks. Remember, alcohol can sabotage your self control and fool you into thinking you still have room in your stomach for a few more slices of pie.

What is your favorite tip above? Tell me in the comments below!

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