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holiday eating sensory overload

Giving in to sensory overload. Photo Henley Design Studio on Unsplash

Food is everywhere. You can almost taste the bread as it cooks in the oven. When you go to the kitchen table you’re accosted by a beautiful array of greens, reds and blues in the form of cookies, mints and cakes. All calling out to you, “Eat me.”

Ah, the joys of holiday eating.

You want to dig in, but where do you even start? Messages are bombarding you, “If only I tried that one, that would be enough.”  Then, “No, no, I mustn’t.” And again, “This other would be a safe choice.”

Or maybe you’ve given up and told yourself, “I’m going to eat whatever I feel like.”

The hardest place to be, is when you’re not at home and in front of you all sorts of luscious goodies that tease you to eat them. Two days ago, that happened to me. I was at a gathering and an array of baked goods flooded the table. Right away the frosted sugar cookies disappeared, I didn’t even have a chance to be tempted. But there were other goodies to try.

I made a decision beforehand that I could have 3 small cookies or the equivalent.  And I stuck to that. What helped is that I didn’t hang out at the table and I didn’t go there at the beginning when the choice was overwhelming.

Holiday eating choices.

Tempting holiday eating choices. Photo Wesley Caribe on Unsplash

Here’s a plan for your holiday eating: 7 tips to NOT blow your diet.

1. Stick to 3 set mealtimes.

Having meals at regular times helps you not over eat. It also helps you stop snacking. Our bodies like routine.

2. No snacking.

Another name for snacking is grazing. Cows and sheep graze. You can see them out in the fields, heads down and their mouths chomping on the grass for hours on end. Do you really need to be snacking? (Apart from illness, diabetes etc)

A question to ask yourself Is the hunger you feel in between meals really hunger?

Another question to ask, do you really need to lay out food in between meals and when watching TV or playing board games? Try doing those things without any food and see what happens.

3. Plan what you will eat the night before.

Deciding the night before what I will eat has made a big difference in the choices I make in the present moment.

 When you don’t have a plan it’s easy to make wrong choices. For example, you get home late from work and you’re starving. If you don’t have a plan of what to eat you probably will stop for fast food on the way home.  I know if I’m really hungry and haven’t decided what to do beforehand I always go for the choice that’s smothered in cheese and sour cream with a side of French fries.

4. Be flexible with your choices.

Life happens and sometimes what you planned to eat won’t work out. For example, someone in the family ate what you were going to eat, or you forgot about the electricity being out for the day in the neighborhood and you can’t use the stove.

Have a plan B. Ask yourself, “What can I do that is closest to my plan?”

5. Have a set meal plan for when you’re not at home.

The biggest slip ups happen when your routine is messed up and holiday time is full of those.

You can’t control what others have made, but you have the choice of what you will put into your mouth.  For me, my plan is to eat only what I can fit on the plate easily, with lots of vegetables, some protein and some carbs. And I don’t take seconds.

The real test comes to dessert. There are desserts that I can easily say no to. During this holiday time I’m allowing myself to try one desert that is homemade. I’m saying no to store bought processed desserts.  (I’m still waffling on my no sugar decision from earlier but overall, I want to keep it)

6. Things to do when the temptation to snack is strong.

-Move away from the snacks or ask for them to be taken away

-Help with clean up.

-Go for a walk with someone you haven’t spent time with yet.

-Go to another room and talk to someone.

-Volunteer to go for a store run or some other errand.

-Tell someone that you’re struggling.

7.  What to do if you blow it.

First of all, you’re ok. This doesn’t mean you might as well give up.  Tell yourself this, “I blew it. But now I won’t.”

Go find someone you trust and who has similar health goals to talk about this.

Pick up where you left off and continue with your plan.

Following the 7 tips is a sure way to answer your burning question of how do you eat right during the holidays. But there are three funny tips for holiday eating that confronted me and require no planning.


Funny holiday eating tips:

  1. Bump the table as you get up, causing it to move which in turn knocks over the glass that was brimming with apple juice right on to the Christmas dessert. The dessert becomes a soggy mess and not something you want to eat.
  2. Forget to set the timer when baking the cookies and you only notice when a burnt smell fills the house. Result: less cookies to eat.
  3. Leave the luscious cinnamon rolls to cool on the counter at a distance that is well away from the edge. You’re sure there’s no way the dog can reach them.  Turns out you’re wrong.

Holiday eating with intention.

Those three extra tips helped me by default but the key to holiday eating is to eat with intention. The seven tips give you a plan so that when you are faced with temptation you won’t cave in. And the tips are about facing social situations where temptation is fierce.  What can help you even more is to plan what you will eat the day before (tip 3). I made a Daily Menu Planner sheet with a Portion Control template in a PDF file.  These two simple documents make you pay attention to what you eat and help you stick to your food choices. Click the button below to get a downloadable copy.

Holiday eating. Default mode

Stop default mode. Choose what you eat. Photo-Life is Fantastic on Unsplash

I know that planning out my meals and controlling my portions at mealtimes helped me during this holiday season. I can’t say I was perfect. I ate some cookies. But I stuck to my plan. And the best thing is, I haven’t gained any weight.

Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson talks about no snacking and planning out your meals the day before you eat them, in her book Brightline Eating: The Science of Living Happy, Thin & Free. If you’re interested in finding out more about the science behind this, why don’t you check out her book here. *affiliate link

The bottom line is, if you plan out what you eat like the seven tips suggest, you’ll have the tools to face any gathering where there’s lots of delicious food and eat only what you decided to eat.